Chet Coates’ first foray into adult exercise was cycling.
“I bought a 10-speed bike,” Coates recalls. “It wasn’t a marriage because my butt and that skinny seat weren’t a marriage.”
Instead, Coates tried sweating by foot, joining the early 1980s jogging craze. Initially, the Silver Spring, Md., resident stepped outside his front door, jogged five blocks to the local 7-Eleven, chatted up a friend who worked there, swigged some coffee, then sloshed home.
Coates has come a ways since jogging to Slurpee heaven. At 75 years old, his next marathon will be his 50th. He ran 40 races in 2014 and the competitive juices are still roiling.
“I ran a 10K [recently],” he says. “I saw one guy in front of me who may have been in his 70s, so I said, ‘I‘ve got to get his butt,’ and ran him down. I saw another guy who may have been 70 and thought, ‘Here’s another one.’ I got him.”
In the final mile, Coates’ clocked a 9:49, his fastest in the race. “I’m always trying to improve,” he says.
And he’s always running the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. Coates has run all 14 Virginia Beach half marathons and the streak will hit 15 come Labor Day weekend. He’s a living, breathing example of not letting age slow you down. He keeps moving.
Coates’ home sits on a 13,000-square-foot lot, where he stills mows the lawn. It takes about 70 minutes. When reached by phone late one afternoon, Coates rattled off a Cliffs Notes version of his day: A 6-mile early-morning jog, shower, lift weights at the gym, run seven 200-meter intervals on the treadmill, stretch, shower again, cut the grass.
Coates and his wife of 47 years, Charlotte, are raising one of their six great grand children, a 14-year-old boy. They’ve raised Nijier Coates since he was 2 weeks old.
“I’m one of those chauffeur parents,” Coates says. “I have to take him ice skating three times a week, and diving. I just chauffeur his ass around.”
However, Coates’ irascible front is more act than reality. “He’s a father all over again,” Charlotte says. “To me, he’s a better father to this child than he was to ours. He’s more sensitive. He’s a very, very good father. He has more time to listen and reason with him.”
Coates began jogging in 1980. He didn’t run his first road race until 1985, a 5-miler covered in 40 minutes, 10 seconds.
He then ran his first 26.2-miler in 1987, the Marine Corps Marathon, finishing in 4:01:12. His PR is 3:28:57 set in 1991. Last year he ran five marathons, his fastest clocked in 5:03. He typically runs five or six days a week, totaling 35 to 40 miles.
“Mechanically, I think I’m pretty good,” says Coates, who practices yoga once a week. “I don’t have any ankle, knee or hip problems.” This may also be in part due to his weight of 150 pounds that hasn’t fluctuated much since entering the Army in 1963.
When asked what he thinks about during his runs, Coates lets that faux cranky exterior flash, blurting, “Why am I running so damn slow?” But later, he lifts the curtain and reveals part of what motivates him. “In the back of my mind, foolishly I’m trying to get back to where I was 25 years ago,” he says. “I know I’m not [going to get there], but I’m not going to stop trying.”