Ripe age to run: 85-year-old set for annual Squaw Valley climb
At 85, Del Wichelman’s wiry runner’s legs help support his claim to nearly 31,000 miles logged since 1980.
“That’s 123 percent of the Earth’s circumference,” he says. “I kept the miles honest lest I’d pay for it in competition.”
Wichelman remains adamant about keeping track. He estimates he runs 100 to 125 miles a month, although lately he’s backed off a tad.
“I run every other day religiously, rain or shine,” says Wichelman, who lives in the Oakland Hills but frequents the Tahoe area during the summer months to visit family ” and log more miles on local trails.
On Monday he ran seven miles, two days earlier he put in 10 1/2.
Come Saturday at 9 a.m., Wichelman can be found trotting up a formidable mountain toward High Camp, his chiseled legs churning as he plugs away at the punishing 2,000-foot climb in 3.6 miles. Smoke from wildfires is all that stands in his way.
“I’m looking forward to the run, but not if it’s smoky,” Wichelman says of the 28th annual Squaw Mountain Run. “If (the air) is like (Sunday) I don’t think I’ll do it. I don’t think it would be good for me.”
For the third straight year, Wichelman says, he will be the oldest runner to compete in the Squaw Mountain Run, which begins at the 6,200-foot base of the resort and tops out at 8,200 feet.
“I don’t intend to beat anybody. I’m just going to keep running,” he says of his race strategy.
In years past, however, Wichelman has beat plenty of runners to the top. Last year he placed 296th in a field of 517 runners ” and walkers ” with a time of 1 hour, 3 minutes. The overall winner, Galen Burrell of San Francisco, finished in 29:33. In 2006, Wichelman placed 203rd with a time of 1:06:19.
While the seasoned runner enjoys any chance he gets to add miles to his log, he concedes that the best part of the Squaw Mountain Run is finishing.
“By the time you get to the top you’re glad it’s over,” Wichelman says. … “You don’t realize what elevation you’ve accomplished until you go back down in the tram. Then it’s kind of hard to believe.”
Wichelman will not likely participate again.
“Probably not,” he says when asked. “I just ran seven miles this morning, and I got to thinking, this was much easier when I turned 84 than 85.”
The 28th Annual Squaw Mountain Run will be held Saturday starting at 9 a.m. A fundraiser for the Auburn Ski Club Junior Nordic Ski Teams and the Tahoe Forest Hospital Cancer Center, the event starts at the base of Squaw Valley USA and sends participants up the 3.6-mile mountain run to High Camp, where awards, raffle, music refreshments and beer will be provided. Participants can run or take a more leisurely pace and hike or Nordic walk, using poles. For the less energetic, let the cable car do the work before taking part in a three-mile flower walk.
Register online via http://www.active.com or go to http://www.squawmountainrun.com and download and mail in a registration form. Participants may also stop by Squaw on Friday between 4-7 p.m. or sign up the day-of between 7-8 a.m. Cost before 7 a.m. Friday is $30 for adults and $15 for runners 21 of younger. Race-day registration is $40 for adults and $25 for those 21 and younger.