Tribute to a Runner, Grandfather, Idol: John DeWalt

pap finishing a run

Tribute to a Runner, Grandfather, Idol: John DeWalt

My grandfather is an amazing figure in the world of Health and Fitness. He will be greatly missed to many people as he’s a successful businessman, family man, marathoner, and teacher to so many of us that look up to him.

I’ve learned a lot from him and tried many times to be just like my pap, never quite reaching my goals to match his accomplishments, yet exceeding my personal bests along the way.

With a resting pulse hovering just below 50bpm and logging 20+ miles daily, his endurance and stamina was no joke. My grandpa could run 100s of miles at a time. And he did. He’s been featured in runner’s world magazine several times. He’s run over courses of days at a time, in the mountains, on the road, trails, tracks, you name it. Rain or shine, he would run. One of his many achievements included a 252 mile race that he took 3rd place- at the ripe age of 60 something. I made a goal in 2005 after completing college that I would run a 100 mile ultra-marathon so I could be like him. The farthest I ever got was 18 miles. Yeah. That’s a good run for the average Joe, but when compared to a John DeWalt run, not quite so amazing.

Pap was an impeccable eater. He loved to eat. He truly ate to live, rather than live to eat. In college I invented the “WWGE” diet. What Would Grandpa Eat? If my pap would eat it, so could I. He told me once that he didn’t eat anything that had legs. So I changed the diet to WWGE + lean cow, chicken, and turkey. He said to me once, “I haven’t eaten ice-cream in 30 years.” Ouch. I switched the diet to WWGE + cow, chicken, turkey and low fat ice-cream. I was at my healthiest ever. I learned that fat is fine to eat. Organic butter tastes better. Olive oil needs to be cooked at a low heat. Peanuts aren’t really a nut. I also got the real scoop on carbohydrates. Carbs are totally cool if you are eating fresh whole grain products. Carbs won’t make you fat. Overeating and laziness makes you fat. You can be a carb-loader with a six-pack if you exercise and eat the right foods. He taught me more about food and nutrition than any school book, course, or teacher ever has. He didn’t eat junk- because it made him feel bad, and that’s all he needed to eat right. I still cannot master the art of eating perfectly 100%. I imagine he is one of a kind, because I’ve never known another person to have such willpower. (Is it still willpower when it’s a way of life?) However, trying to eat like my pap most of the time has had a profound effect on my diet.

Grandpa was a devoted Christian. He wasn’t only physically fit but also very spiritually fit. He read the Bible every day. After visiting Pap I would always vow to read the Bible every day. I would read every day for about a month then stop, just like most things I become gung-ho about. (Welcome to the world of Sam.)

Every once in a while, my grandpa would ask me a question about working out. Giving fitness advice to pap? Yep, makes a girl feel good. He let me train him in the gym a few times, and show him some exercises. And that was really cool.

What can I say? Cancer happens to the best of us. And Pappy was definitely the best of us. Maybe I’ll never run the ultra-marathon, eat perfectly (give up ice-cream?! Seriously?!), have enormous business success or even become as religiously devoted as my grandfather, but I’ll sure as hell get better by trying.

Pap, you will be greatly missed.

John DeWalt Finishing HardRock 100 at 73 Years Old:

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