Devout runner and prof talks to Florida Track Club

David Horton, a runner that specialized in events longer than 26.2 miles, speaks at the UF department of orthopedics in Gainesville on Friday.

Brett Le Blanc / Correspondent
Published: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.

David Horton started running for the same reasons many people start: to lose weight and get fit.


Tips for beginning runners

Suggestions from exercise physiology professor and runner David Horton:
-Do it on a consistent basis 5-6 times a week.
-Stay off concrete sidewalks and find trails.
-Set a goal.
-Find people to run with and make it fun.

But he’s done what few people have ever done: complete 160 “ultra-running” events (races longer than a marathon), of which he has won 40.

The 64-year-old has run 113,000 miles since he started running 37 years ago, prompted by his exercise physiology professor, who told Horton, then a Ph.D. student, that he ought to practice what he was going to preach as a professional.

Horton was transmitting a similar message to Florida Track Club members on Friday night at the University of Florida’s Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation.

Mary Andrews, a track club member, invited Horton. She was one of his students at Liberty University in Virginia, where Horton teaches exercise science.

“He’s the kind of professor you want to do well for because you don’t want to disappoint him,” said Andrews, who attended Horton’s talk on Friday and compared it to his lectures.

Friday night, Horton delivered a lecture dubbed “Lessons Learned from 100,000 Miles of Running.” The list of 22 lessons included old adages such as “This too shall pass,” and “One day at a time” to Bible verses that have also kept Horton on the road when times were tough.

Horton described moments of drinking out of a cattle trough and overcoming shin splints by running through them — 100 miles through them.

“You can do more than you think you can,” is one of his resounding principles.

He said he lives by his hard work ethic, which he got growing up on a farm in Arkansas where his family didn’t have running water until he was 10 years old.

“I know a lot of runners who are more talented than I am, but I’ve done more,” he said, adding “I’m rich in experiences.”

Horton doesn’t have a gym membership, and he never runs with music. He loves to run to go places and see new things. One of his favorite experiences was running the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail through California, Oregon and Washington.

“It gives me chills,” he said, as he showed a clip of a documentary called “Runner” that includes parts of his run on the trail, known as PCT. He went through 10 pairs of shoes and took only one day off — to eat. Horton said that he eats a lot of carbohydrates before running, and after a long race — ice cream, or a really greasy cheeseburger. “How good does grease taste after a long run,” he said.

In the film, Horton is crying as he completes the PCT — living proof that running produces blood, sweat and tears.

“I’ve been in places where I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” he said, adding that his most sobering running experience was surrendering — “having to let them find me” on the first day of a race where the temperature was 110 degrees.

For Matt Carrillo, the president of the Florida Track Club, Horton’s messages were both humbling and uplifting.

“It makes me feel really under-accomplished knowing what he’s done,” Carrillo said, adding that his favorite message from Horton was “One of the greatest pleasures in life is doing what people say you can’t do.”

Carrillo’s own biggest feat so far is the completion of the Iron Man Triathlon.

Horton joined the track club’s traditional 6 a.m. Saturday morning run — biking instead of running. A knee injury forced Horton to hang up his running shoes three years ago, so he’s turned to biking at the moment, but is determined to hit the road again someday.

He said that you’re never too old to start running — and that you know you’ve become a runner when you haven’t run for a few days and feel guilty about it.

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