Ron Goodwyn celebrated his 67th birthday last Friday with a 67-mile bike ride through the back roads of Anderson County.
Another year, another milestone.
It's not how most 60-somethings would observe their B-day. But Ron Goodwyn is no ordinary dude.
He's made a career of testing and defying his limits, reaching deep down to push the boundaries of pain and endurance. He's defied age by turning every year into a physical and mental challenge.
“Just like anybody else that's in a tough situation you'll be playing mind games with yourself,” Goodwyn said. “Your mind will be telling you no. You just have to stay focused.”
Goodwyn's personal journey started 37 years ago: What started as a whim to shed a few pounds has morphed into a lifelong mission to redefine himself.
Goodwyn stayed in shape after college by coaching high school football. At 30, however, a career shift to a more sedentary sales job pushed Goodwyn's six-foot frame to an unhealthy 250 pounds.
“I wasn't feeling well and went to the doctor,” Goodwyn told me.
The doctor said he was overweight with high blood pressure. Feeling too young for blood pressure medicine, Goodwyn vowed to lose weight, starting with an old-school jog around the neighborhood.
At the end of the run Goodwyn vomited.
Enough of that, he thought.
A few weeks later, however, Goodwyn was back at it, determined to transform his body and health.
Soon, training became more mental than physical, a way to test not only his strength but also his will.
If he could run two miles, why not shoot for three? he asked himself. If he could conquer the neighborhood, why couldn't he conquer the Boston Marathon?
In less than a year, Goodwyn lost 40 pounds.
He was still a little north of 200 pounds, however, and a little thick for optimum health. His friends told him to forget the marathon, which only reinforced his determination.
“You don't tell me I can't do something,” Goodwyn said. “I started training. I started cross-training – swimming, biking, running. I branched off into triathlons.”
Nearing his mid-30s, Goodwyn decided to record annual milestones.
On his 34th birthday, Goodwyn ran 34 miles. Since then, he has set a new milestone with each birthday.
At 35, Goodwyn rode his bike 225 miles, from Dallas to Houston. The next year, on his 36th birthday, he rode more than 330 miles in two days, from Plano to Lubbock.
Still, after four years of training, he remained obsessed with the 26-mile Boston Marathon. “It was my personal olympics,” he said.
“You have to qualify to get there,” Goodwyn said. “You can't just run the Boston. You have to find a qualifying meet and run a qualifying time.
“I think that's what intrigued me. Boston, man – it's a high standard.”
Back then, the qualifying time for men in his age group was 2:50:00 (two hours and 50 minutes). Goodwyn wasn't quite fast enough, having recorded times of 2:52:35 and 2:52:45.
A couple of years later, the qualifying time grew to a more forgiving three hours and 10 minutes. In 1990, at age 38, Goodwyn cruised the course, finally reaching his goal of running the Boston --- perhaps his toughest challenge yet.
“A killer,” Goodwyn said, especially the final leg.
“You can't describe the last six miles of a marathon,” Goodwyn said. “You start playing mind games. Your mind will say, just walk off the course. You have to stay focused on getting your left foot out, then your right foot.”
After the marathon, Goodwyn set new milestones: At 55, he did a triathlon, including a one-mile swim, eight-mile run and 46-mile bike ride.
A battle with prostate cancer in his early sixties did not stop Goodwyn from challenging himself. He had surgery, recovered and resumed his training.
Now, at 67, when most men collapse after cutting the grass, Goodwyn continues to push his limits.
When he's not commuting to his flooring company in Dallas, he's biking around the country roads and hills near his home in Montalba, where he lives with his wife, Vanessa, a free-lance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in the Herald-Press.
Why? Because he can.
On his birthday last Friday, Goodwyn rode his bike for nearly five hours. It's his peace. His time to escape, to reflect on being a father, grandfather and husband.
Nearing 70, Goodwyn reviews not only the milestones he has passed but also the mountains yet to climb.
His passion for physical health has led him to a fascination with physics and its imperative that objects are designed for perpetual motion.
That sums up Ron Goodwyn and his quest for a long, healthy life.
“I feel fortunate to get on my bike and ride,” he said. “If I can do it at 85, I will.”