At first glance, Al Emma seems like a regular guy, until you look around his Pennsylvania apartment and notice the display racks crowded with marathon medals. Al earned these medals by running 151 marathons, starting at age 40 and, at 77 years old, he continues to do so. In the year 2017, he set a goal to run 28 marathons. Except…Al didn’t run 28 marathons in 2017. He ran 29.
On a weekday morning, around 5:00am, you’ll find Al on an elliptical at his health club near Exton, Pennsylvania. By 7:00am, he’ll be home, having showered, read the Philadelphia Inquirer, and eaten his typical breakfast of oatmeal. This is his usual routine, except on Monday mornings, when he volunteers at the West Chester Food cupboard.
Now retired, Al made his living as a builder- developer. In the summer of 1980, when he was 40, Al began jogging with his brother- in-law on a cross-country family road trip. He completed his first marathon that same year. In Atlantic City in 1986, he completed his fastest marathon to date, clocking in at 4:15:54. Al has finished marathons in all 50 US states and all 10 Canadian provinces.
Over the years, Al has connected with other runners who run just as many races as he does, sometimes even more. However, few of his fellow marathoners are over 77 years old.
Al is also an avid biker, having finished 100 Century Rides (bike rides of 100 miles or more) in every US state and Canadian province. In 2014, when he was 74, Al completed a cross-country bicycle ride, riding 3,872 miles in 52 days. He started in San Francisco, California, and finished in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
With all these achievements, and all these medals, I bet you’re itching to know: what exactly is Al Emma’s secret? What crazy diet does this impressive athlete follow? What magic supplements does he take?
Al reports that he eats oatmeal for breakfast, incorporates some fruits and vegetables into his diet, loves pizza, and limits his intake of red meat, except when he indulges in some ribs every three weeks or so. He also claims to have a sweet tooth. He makes sure to hit the gym four days out of the week, logging 30 minutes to an hour on the elliptical during each visit.
Oh, and he runs a marathon every other week. Al has a great foundation that he attributes to his consistency; he’s already in shape for his next marathon because of the last one he ran two weeks beforehand.
Al’s tips for healthy living are simple enough for anyone to follow. “Drink in moderation, eat in moderation, don’t smoke, and do aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a week, three times a week.” For Al, moderation is key.
“My life is not running or bicycling. My relationships with others, like my significant other, family, and friends are my main concern.” Out of his 151 marathons, his favorite was the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2015, where his family came along to cheer him on and celebrate his 100th marathon.
Al’s goal was never to be the fastest or the best, but to reach his own personal goals with consistency, without pushing himself to the point of injury. As for his future goals, Al wants to run 33 marathons every year for the next three years, so he can hit 250 by the time he turns 80. Overall, though, Al keeps one main goal in mind.
“Do what is fun!” Al says. “My girlfriend and family are fun. Smiling and laughing is the most fun.”