South Charlotte

81-year-old Unionville runner keeping a good pace

Many people in Unionville are used to seeing Bill Nave running around town. Regardless of the weather – snow, sleet, rain, heat – he’s out there.

He’s also 81 years old, but age doesn’t stop him.

He also continues to keep a goal to learn. Nave recently finished seminary training in May at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte and received a master’s degree in biblical studies. He now holds two undergraduate and two graduate degrees. He has been assisting a pastor at a Korean church in Charlotte.

“You need something to stir you on, something to encourage you to reach for something you don’t think you can reach for. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed in school to get the education I have,” Nave said. “I just wouldn’t have thought I would ever have done that in my life. But it’s one step at a time.”

He took the same approach with running.

“I started out slowly,” Nave said. “I ran 1 mile a day Monday through Friday for about five years.”

A former swimmer and diver, health issues led him to consider jogging to improve his health. What started out slowly grew quickly once he got started with a group of friends.

“As we kept running and building the weekends up to 10 miles, we started talking about marathons,” Nave said. “I couldn’t believe in the beginning that I could do this – run a marathon.”

After running several 10K races – 6.2 miles – Nave began working to improve his running times and eating habits. He was running 60-80 miles a week and ran his first marathon just after his 50th birthday.

“The first (marathon) we went to was Oak Ridge, Tenn., called The Smoky Mountain Race,” Nave said. “And this was one that didn’t have that many people in it. We were actually running on farmland in the country.”

His wife, Carolyn, and late mother-in-law took water to hand out to him and the other runners, as there were no official water stations.

Later that year, he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. He continued to run that race each year from 1983-1999, missing only one year due to a work trip to Maine.

“Just thoroughly enjoyed Washington, D.C., running that race, because the entire race you had people encouraging you, little kids giving you bars of candy and playing all the way around, and of course, the sights around D.C.,” he said. “We ran around the Pentagon, the first 8 miles across the Potomac. But it’s always exciting to get to the halfway mark, which was around the Capitol building. So you knew you had half of it over and you were heading downhill.”

Twenty-three marathons later, including Charlotte’s Thunder Road, where he was a featured runner on their posters, he stopped running marathons at age 77.

But he didn’t stop running.

Health issues have slowed him a little after landing him in the hospital for a while. He had started a weekly goal of 25 miles, about 1,300 miles a year, and is back out on the pavement.

“Part of the help I get is from getting out and jogging so I can relax,” Nave said. “It does several things for me. But one is that it allows me time to just think about what the Lord has for me to do.”