Runner completes 11 straight years of participation in the nation’s most prestigious race
A Malibu man set a record this year as the oldest participant in the 2023 Boston Marathon held April 17. Tyson Park, 81, also earned kudos by placing second in his age bracket of male runners 80-years plus.
The event, the world’s oldest annual marathon, is considered one of the most prestigious races in the world. The Boston Marathon attracts elite athletes from around the globe to run its challenging course covering 26.2 miles. This year solemnly marked the 10th anniversary of the domestic terrorist bombing that killed three and injured scores of others, many of whom lost limbs.
Park was there that fateful day running his first Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, when two bombs exploded near the finish line. The 40-year Malibu resident would have been near the blasts had it not been for an injury suffered earlier in the day. Running barefoot Park cut his unprotected foot on glass, but that mishap possibly saved his life as the injury delayed his cross to the finish line. Park was 70 at the time, which was a feat in itself because one must qualify to run the Boston Marathon at a fast-paced 4 hours and 20 minutes in that age group. He had only just taken up running two years earlier at age 68.
That was when Park completely overhauled his lifestyle. After retiring from a long career as a Los Angeles County district attorney he was overweight and out of shape.
As he put it, “I had to retire. My overall health was so bad.” He found it hard to walk and drive at that time. Looking to improve his health, the now nearly 82-year-old took up running, barefoot. He described his running style as different from another well-known Malibu barefoot runner, the late Alberto Perusset, who took an endurance approach while Park aims for speed. However, after racing barefoot competitively for seven years Park now wears running shoes.
“It’s not a smart thing to do,” the runner said with a laugh about not having on shoes when running. When asked if his time improved wearing footwear he emphatically answered, “Of course!”
After daily 10-mile training sessions near his home in the Santa Monica Mountains his feet took a beating on the asphalt roads. It got painful, not to mention blistering hot in summer. But he still said, “I love Malibu. It’s a great place to live.”
On his road to a healthier lifestyle, Park said he researched diets and fitness. Along with discovering running he took up intermittent fasting. Park eats only one meal a day and calls it “a benefit. It’s incredible. You sleep well. You feel good.” He runs on an empty stomach which he calls “key” and then savors his daily afternoon meal. And there are certain foods he’s eliminated.
“Sugar and junk food are the biggest enemy,” said Park who also eschews alcohol. “It’s toxic, you know?”
“I’m not the only one though,” Park said of his intermittent fasting, citing Twitter founder Jack Dorsey who also follows this regimen. “It’s so beneficial for your body,” according to Park and recent studies supporting his claim. Park’s daily fast lasts 20 hours.
This year’s Boston Marathon included only four men and two women 80 and older. Park made the fast-qualifying time of 4:50 hours for Boston with a 2022 Los Angeles Marathon first-place finish in his age group of 4:44. He clocked in April 17 this year at 5:04. At Boston in 2021, Park placed first against 19 in his age bracket. “
You wouldn’t believe there are so many great older runners,” he said.
While the senior trains solo, he revels watching his fellow competitors cross the finish line.
“The purpose of life is happiness,” he said. “I want to run with nice people. At the Boston finish line there are so many people, they worked so hard to get there. They’re so joyful, so happy. When you see happy people you just get more happy. It’s like a big festival. Life is a big experience. Our consciousness is an accumulation of our experience.”
And running can at times be painful, but the philosopher countered, “Without pain how can you know joy?”
In only 13 years of running Park has completed 39 marathons, 15 without shoes. Park is training now to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon, which would be his 12th in a row.
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Tyson Park of Malibu is shown running the Boston Marathon in bare feet in 2018. Park ran in his 11th consecutive Boston Marathon on April 17, although now he does the marathon in running shoes. Contributed Photo