Delta State President William N. LaForge (in white jacket) leads an early morning run during his inauguration ceremonies in 2013.
Off the heels of Health and Wellness Week at Delta State University, President William N. LaForge reached a major fitness milestone — surpassing 75,000 lifetime running miles.
The total eclipses a little more than three trips around the Earth’s circumference. And the president shows no signs of hanging up his shoes soon. He can still be spotted early mornings on campus racking up the miles.
“At first glance, running the equivalent of three times around the globe sounds daunting, even bizarre,” said LaForge. “But when you break it down over 41 years of running, it’s a bit more comprehensible — a little more than 1,800 miles a year. I hit the 75,000 mark this fall.”
LaForge began running seriously in the mid-1970s, but it was not with the intention of accumulating such high mileage. The running started when he moved to the Washington, D.C. area for his political career.
The so-called “running boom” was underway after elite runners like Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter captured the attention of Americans with their stellar performances in the Olympics and Boston Marathon. LaForge said he just got caught up in the running movement.
“The miles just accumulated as I trained and raced,” he said. “I’ve kept a log since 1978, so I know where and how much I ran each day for four decades. Recently, my daughter Caroline and I were trying to recall what year our family took a certain trip. All I had to do was to consult my running log for the answer.”
In his peak racing years, LaForge sometimes ran more than 3,000 miles annually, with the highest total of 3,300. Occasionally, he would put in 80-100 mile weeks in training leading up to a marathon. His marathon personal best of 2 hours and 40 minutes was set at the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans in 1982.
And his commitment to running has allowed LaForge to test his physical fitness around the globe. A few of his favorite runs include the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in China, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Marrakesh, Bermuda, Moscow, Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak, Berlin, the Golden Gate Bridge, Baghdad, along the Seine in Paris, and all around the trails and parks of Washington, D.C.
“At 67, I don’t race any longer, but I still run everyday, wherever I happen to be — just not as fast or far,” said LaForge. “The exceptions have been times when I was ill or under doctor’s orders to refrain. I had a couple of streaks when I went eight years without missing a day. Since the late 1970s, I’ve missed only 159 days running.”
Remaining physically active has always been at LaForge’s forefront.
“Early on, I bought into the idea of a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “Running is convenient, efficient and rewarding in many ways. It’s a great physical activity, and it also serves to clear your mind and make your day more productive. It’s good for the body and the mind, and provides both energy and relaxation.”
And LaForge believes it’s important for everyone, including college students, to include these health and wellness factors in their daily lives.
“College is a great time to establish healthy life-long interests and habits,” said LaForge. “Whether it’s intercollegiate sports, intramurals, occasional gym or pool workouts, or casual walks around campus and town — I encourage all students to make time for an activity of their liking.
“Running happens to be one activity I enjoy. It’s not for everyone, but there is a healthy lifestyle fitness or recreational activity to suit everyone’s interest and need. Staying active, including frequent aerobic activity, is a key to a healthy life, especially as one ages. And it is a priority that can and should start early in life. College is a great time to make the commitment. Even a small investment of time and effort to exercise can yield great dividends over a lifetime.”
LaForge continues to show his dedication as a runner and as the tireless leader of Delta State University.
“Friends have sometimes joked that I’ll go the distance or the extra mile,” he said. “Perhaps I owe that to running.”