More than seven years ago, at age 70, Ken Neufeld got a late start at long-distance running. But he has made up for lost time. Now 78 years old, he has run more than 40 half marathons. A member of Willow Avenue Mennonite Church in Clovis, Calif., Ken is a successful realtor in the Fresno market, but is known in the Mennonite Brethren family as an insightful stewardship leader, serving 26 years with the MB Foundation board as well as many terms in his local church and Pacific District Conference stewardship boards.
How did you get your start in running?
Some younger friends of mine were participating in a monthly fun run where runners would find raffle tickets hidden around a local shopping mall. I joined them for the comradery and the exercise and discovered I could do this, and it could be fun. From there I started doing 5K [about 3-mile] runs.
How did you move to half marathons [about 13 miles]?
I never did serious training, just doing several 5K’s a month. One time, I was picking up my 5K runner’s bib the day before a race and my friends said, “Why aren’t you doing a half marathon like we are?” So, I went and traded in my 5K bib for a half marathon. The next day I ran and ended up being third in my age group.
What interesting places have you run?
The furthest I’ve gone was a 5K on the Big Island in Hawaii. One of the more difficult ones was on the San Pedro Dam in California, with part of the run actually climbing up the wall of the dam. You’re almost running on all fours. And getting down isn’t much easier.
How is the competition?
You just compete against people in your age group. My fastest half marathon was two hours and 29 minutes back in 2016. Three or four years ago I did very well in my age group; now I might get third once in a while. One time I got first, but I was the only entry in my age group. It felt awkward, but the man giving out the awards said I shouldn’t feel bad—the rest of my age group was sitting on the couch.
How much longer will you keep running?
At 78, I’m usually on the old end of the oldest category, but some big races have a category for 80 and over. I’d like to run in that category.
Kathy Heinrichs Wiest is a freelance writer who loves the smell of whole wheat bread in the oven, the feel of an orange being plucked from the tree and the view from her front porch in Kingsburg, California. On Sunday mornings you’ll find her in the fourth pew from the front on the left at Kingsburg MB Church, moved by the hymns and praise songs and inspired by the stories of God at work locally and around the world. She and her husband, Steve, own Dovetail Remodeling. They have two grown daughters, one son-in-law and a precious granddaughter.