Dan Young is not afraid to call himself an old guy, but that's probably not what you would call him.
The fit-and-trim 73-year-old Payson resident is an avid hiker who participates in 5K events whenever possible, including the Payson Area Habitat "Home Run" 5K Walk/Run May 11 at Green Valley Park. He believes what's important is not how old you are, but how active you are.
"I've been hiking since I've been here, especially with the Payson Packers," Young said. "Most of us are senior people who have elected not to spend our time at the senior center or at Wal-Mart."
He encourages sedentary people of all ages to join the group, and offers his own story as motivation.
"I lived in San Francisco nine years ago when I retired, and I never walked more than three miles," he said. "I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and I drank too much. Then I moved to Payson and went out and joined these old people. Six miles later they asked me how I was doing. I was dying."
He sees a lot of people in Payson who remind him of how he used to be.
"I was a part owner when the health club was Summit Health Club," he said. "Every new year, we'd have 500 people come in and sign up. By January 30, we'd have maybe 20 still coming back. People want to become Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight. You just want to shake them."
Young believes walking or hiking makes a lot more sense.
"It's an alternative way of life for older people like myself," he said. "If I didn't do that, I'd probably be down at the senior center playing mah jong or something."
Another advantage is that walking and hiking aren't costly activities. While Young believes a good pair of hiking shoes is important, even that isn't essential.
"There's a lady in the (Payson Packers) who wears a pair of tennis shoes I think she got in high school, and I can't keep up with her," he said.
And while Young has a stair-climber and some other equipment, he advises against making a big investment in expensive exercise equipment at least right away.
"Just get the shoes and start walking. Go out to Green Valley Park and take the loop around there three times. If you decide you like it, then go down to Wal-Mart and get a pair of 15- or 20-pound weights for $7 or $8 and start using those. You can get a lot of gear for under $100."
If you need more incentive, Young is quick to point out that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
"This area is a paradise for hikers," he said. "Go 20 miles south and you've got high desert. Go 20 miles north and you're up on the Rim. I'll bet I could do 100 hikes around here without duplicating them. There are ravines you can follow, wildlife you can see.
"I just got back yesterday from a nine-mile hike up Dirty Neck Canyon. There are just innumerable canyons on the Rim. I can't believe the beauty of the places that exist around here."
But as much as Young likes to get out in the wilderness, he also enjoys the camaraderie of 5Ks and participates whenever he can.
"A 5K is 3.1-miles, so it's really pretty short. And it's not a race it's a run/hike. The Habitat 5K starts out by one of the ramadas down at Green Valley Park, goes up to Doll Baby Road to where the sludge plant is, then turns around and comes back."
While there are always some hardcore runners in 5Ks, there are plenty who take a more casual approach, including Young.
"They'll have some serious runners, even my age, who will go out and run that thing in under 20 minutes," he said. "Then there are the high school kids, too. I'll probably come in at about 45 minutes. I'll fast walk it at a little over 4 mph. People who are not runners shouldn't be intimidated. I'll be right back there with them."
To join the Payson Packers, show up in the Rim Country Mall parking lot any Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.
"They have about five classes of hikers now. There's everything from people who are just out for a walk they go five to six miles, but they stop to smell the roses to people like me who are out to show the world how macho we are."
Young's advice to the sedentary is to get out and try it. But whether you join the Payson Packers or just walk around your neighborhood, the important thing is to get started.
"I've seen more people turn their lives around," he said. "Most of the guys I hike with are people who were not very athletic. They took it on as a way of survival to improve their quality of life in their senior years."
PAHH's 5K fun for entire family
Accelerate your training, replace those shoelaces, grease the wheels of the baby stroller and locate your dog's leash Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc. will host its second annual 5K Walk/Run "Home Run" at Green Valley Park Saturday, May 11.
Early registration through May 10 is $15. This includes entry in the race, a free commemorative T-shirt and a complimentary pancake breakfast hosted by the Knights of Columbus.
Registration forms are available at the Payson Parks and Recreation office, the Payson Roundup, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Payson Athletic Club, Eastern Arizona College gym, various Payson churches and the PAHH office at 1013 S. Goodfellow Road.
Late registration the day of the race is $18 and includes a T-shirt (if still available) and a complimentary breakfast. Late registrations will be accepted until just before the 8 a.m. start time.
The 3.1-mile course winds west on Country Club Drive past Payson Golf Course and almost to the Northern Gila County Sanitary District. There, it doubles back to the park crossing over the dam, and winding its way to the finish line at Green Valley Park.
Non-racing family members and friends can join 5K participants at breakfast adult tickets (13 years or older) are $3; a child's plate (12 years and younger) is $1.
This is an event for the whole family. There will be sack, crab and sprint races for the kids; llamas, Payson Humane Society pet adoptions, and more.
All walk/run and breakfast proceeds will benefit PAHH's mission to provide decent, affordable and healthy houses to Payson-area low- and moderate-income residents in need.
For more information, call 474-0330.