By Mike Tymn
Fremont, who at 91 holds the pending American and world marathon records for the 90-94 age group with a 6:35:47, says,
Sure, training is important, but when you get to be my age, you’re not going to be able to train at all unless your body holds up. I simply cannot overemphasize the importance of the plant-based diet to my performance.”
Freemont opted for plant-based nutrition outlined in The Cancer Prevention Diet, by Michio Kushi, after he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 69. Doctors gave him three months to live if he did not have the tumour removed. “The tumour shrank over the next two years and finally I killed it by diet alone,” he says, although he did have surgery in 1994 to remove what was left of the defeated tumor.
“No meat, no dairy products, no toxins,” Fremont explains of his diet.
He eats primarily vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts, as well as soups of all kinds. He adds that he takes no supplements or medication, except for some Vitamin D in the winter. He stresses that in the 20 years he has been eating this way, he has not had a single cold or sickness of any kind. At 1.62m, he maintains 56kg, the same as his wrestling weight during his years at Yale University.
Fremont took up running in 1958 following the death of his first wife, Jacqueline. Left with three young children to raise while working as a mechanical engineer, he found running a valuable stress reliever. He didn’t, however, enter a race until 1970 and didn’t post his best times until after turning 60 in 1982. “I qualified for Boston in 1971, but I really wasn’t competitive before turning 60,” he explains. “I always thought of myself as more of a tennis player and skier than a runner, but I became a little more serious after turning 60.”
A typical week of training in preparation for a big race calls for an average of 56km, most of it on trails, and 14km of canoeing. “I’m really not into speed or keeping track of the pace or my heart rate,” he says. “I just go out and do it. Sometimes I’ll stop and talk to people.” He estimates that his training effort is between 80 and 90 percent of his expected race pace, which is about 15 minutes a mile in the marathon. He figures he can do an all-out mile in about 10 minutes.
Fremont has been competing in canoe races since 1963, some taking as long as 12.5 hours. He usually paddles 5km a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, running on other days. “I know that some personal trainers will say that a focus on two sports harms performance in both, but I think it is beneficial for older athletes who need more rest and more general conditioning,” he says. On his canoing days he also does as many as 400 push-ups, usually in sets of 50, but he says he can do as many as 100 at a time.
Fremont feels that he could take around 30 minutes off his marathon time if he point in it when he is the only person in his age class. “I’ve got other activities,” he says. Those activities include environmental work focused on restoring, maintaining and improving Ohio’s rivers and streams.
“It takes me twice as long now to run a marathon as it did when I was 60,” Fremont laments with a shrug, referring to a 3:20 effort 30 years ago, “but I’m not running to set records. I do it for health, for fun, for companionship. It’s a lifetime habit. The thought that one might set a new world or American record is motivating, although not necessarily admirable. There’s not that much competition in my age group, and it’s just a matter of time before someone like John Keston or Ed Whitlock beats these primitive times of mine.”
Fifth and fourth weeks before setting the American record in the half marathon at the Little Miami Half Marathon on Aug. 19, 2012
Sunday: 8km on trail
Monday: 5km canoeing, 400 push-ups
Tuesday: 12km on trail
Wednesday: 5km canoeing, 100 push-ups
Thursday: 16km on trail
Friday: 5km canoeing, 300 push-ups
Sunday: 23km on trail
Monday: 5km canoeing
Tuesday: 5 miles on trails
Wednesday: 5km canoeing
Thursday: 16km on trail
Friday: 5km canoeing, 305 push-ups
Saturday: 32km on trail
HALF MARATHON: 2:56:26 (pending AR)
MARATHON: 6:35:47 (pending AR, WR)