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East County Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch couple still on amazing run

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Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

On their quiet corner of the Country Club of Lakewood Ranch, Jerry and Carolyn Pujol could watch the world as it passes.

Their home is at the end of a cul-de-sac, and they have a sitting room that overlooks a lake and a path that attracts joggers and walkers.

Every 10 minutes or so, another person ambles past, dressed in designer workout clothes. Drinking ice tea, you can lift your glass and watch them disappear into the distance.

At 85, nobody would blame Jerry if he spent most of the day enjoying the view. Carolyn, at 75, could do the same. 

But they choose not to just watch.

Spending just an hour with the delightful couple would provide all the explanation needed.

Excuse me, Bruce Springsteen, but they were born to run.

Or bike, or ski or hit tennis balls, or walk briskly.

As the calendar turned into a new year, I was looking for an inspirational subject, something to get a reader off the couch.

It didn’t take me long to find not one, but two.

I thought this was going to turn into a story about Jerry, who in December at Dunedin High School won two silver medals in the 85-89 age group for the 100- and 200-meter runs and a bronze in the 50 at the Florida State Senior Games.

Five years ago, the East County Observer did a story about Jerry after he won the 5K at the same event. Then, he was a spry 80.

Now he wanted something new, so he turned into a sprinter. 

This isn’t, however, going to be a story about how easy it is to stay active in those golden, or silver or bronze, years.

Jerry admits he needs to look out his window to see all the other folks, including Carolyn, going about the chore of staying fit.

When it finally comes time to hit the road for his 2-mile run, he said he tries not to think about it.

“Everything aches,” he said.

Most of us would complain, if not stop working out, but Jerry has to face his wife of 32 years.

Jerry was 52 when he met Carolyn, and admittedly, his breathing problems stunted his desire to work out.

Carolyn, who had run five Boston Marathons by the time they had met in 1986, would have none of it.

“He used to give me excuses,” she said. “I’m not going for a run because ...”

Carolyn didn’t nag Jerry, but she just kept setting a good example with her own workouts. Jerry knew the right course of action.

He started running.

“I was internally crying,” he said.

It wasn’t long afterward, his breathing problems were gone.

Now Jerry sets an example himself, and he offers tips to those watching “Bonanza” reruns.

“Put away the reasons and excuses,” he said. “Get that first foot out the door. Then pace yourself and go from there.”

Jerry and Carolyn continue go gradually forward. “As I grow older, I do it because I can,” Jerry said. “Most of my friends can’t.”

Carolyn has been told by her doctors not to run anymore, but she walks 4 miles briskly three times a week and works out in a gym three times weekly with Jerry.

She was first introduced to a fitness gym many years ago, and she remembered the contract she signed, which said she needed to be between the ages of 18 and 80.

“At the time I thought, ‘You have to stop when you’re 80?’ This is essential to my being.”

After fighting through breast cancer in 2014 and surviving 35 radiation treatments, Carolyn continues to be a participant instead of a spectator, even if she did find out “we are human.”

Her inspiration guides Jerry, who admits, “I am thinking about running the quarter mile.”

I might just buy some running shoes.

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