Paul Spangler

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Dr. Paul E. Spangler (March 18, 1899 – March 29, 1994) was a retired U.S. Navy surgeon, who took up the sport of running at the age of 67.

Early life[edit]

Spangler was born on March 18, 1899,[1][2] in Oregon. He graduated from the University of Oregon and the Harvard Medical School. He joined the Navy for World War II. He was Chief of Surgery at the naval hospital near Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He retired from the Navy in 1959, then joined the charitable hospital ship SS Hope as its chief medical officer. He later moved to San Luis Obispo, California, and took the job as Chief Surgeon at the nearby California Men's Colony prison which he held for ten years until he "was retired" in 1969 "because he was too old."[3]

Running career[edit]

Spangler was chairman of his chapter of the American Heart Association.[4] As a result of this, he felt that merely being a weekend athlete was not adequate to stave off heart disease.

Spangler was well into his running program in 1975 when the Corona Del Mar Track Club held a meet in San Luis Obispo. He entered the mile, 2 mile and 3 mile. After running the mile he went home to rest. When he returned to the track, he was informed he had broken the world record. And "the bug hit him."[3]

In his late 70's his training schedule was a ten mile run at 5:30 a.m., six days a week.[3]

Spangler currently holds the American record for 90-year-olds in every metric distance race between 800 metres and 10,000 metres, including the 5,000 metre racewalk, with all records set in 1989[5] He also holds the 85-year-old record for 3,000 metres.[6] He completed the New York Marathon later in 1989[4] and continued to train with the goal of competing at age 100.[7]

In his 28 year running career, Spangler claimed 85 national age group records at various distances.[4] He was a pioneer into the limits of Senior athletics by frequently being the oldest competitor.[8] paving the way for successors into the upper age brackets.

He died shortly after turning 95 while doing one of his regular 7 mile training runs.[4]

"That's the way to go! Doing what he loved most."


50 Plus Fitness, now called the Lifelong Fitness Alliance, a Senior Heath organization, hosts an annual 8 kilometre run for Seniors at Stanford University named in Spangler's honor.[9][10]

USA Track & Field (USATF) named its annual award for the outstanding Masters Long Distance Running athlete after Spangler.[11]

Spangler was elected into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame in its second year, 1997.[12]


  1. ^ Paul E. Spangler, Running USA [dead link]
  2. ^ "Paul E. Spangler". Retrieved 2013-11-06. 
  3. ^ a b c USMITT Sept. 1976 P13
  4. ^ a b c d e Thomas Jr., Robert McG. (14 April 1994). "Dr. Paul E. Spangler, 95, Dies; Took Up Fitness Running at 67". The New York Times; Obituaries. Retrieved 2013-11-06. 
  5. ^ "American Masters 90-94 Outdoor Track & Field Records". USA Track & Field (USATF). 09/03/2012. Retrieved 2012-11-05.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ "American Masters 85-89 Outdoor Track & Field Records". USA Track & Field (USATF). 09/03/2012. Retrieved 2012-11-05.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ a b Higdon, Hal. "Reflections on a space disaster". Runner's World. 
  8. ^ The History of Veteran Athletics, World Masters Athletics, retrieved 2012-11-05 
  9. ^ "Paul Spangler Fifty Plus 8K, All Ages 8K, 5K Competitive Race/Walk, 4/2 mile Fitness Walk". Stanford University: Active Network, Inc. 12 March 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 
  10. ^ 24th Annual Fitness Weekend: DARE TO BE FIT (registration form) (PDF), On Your Marks, 9–11 March 2007, retrieved 2012-11-05 
  11. ^ "Annual Awards - Paul Spangler Award". USA Track & Field (USATF). Retrieved 2012-11-05. This award is presented to the out standing [sic] Masters Long Distance Running athlete in the oldest age category. 
  12. ^ "USATF Masters Hall of Fame". USA Track & Field (USATF). Retrieved 2012-11-05.