It has taken 72-year-old Henry Lopez just one year of competitive running to make his mark in the sport.
Among his best efforts over the course of the past year was a third-place age group finish in the 36th Annual Phoenix 10K that on Nov. 6 drew 10,000-plus runners and joggers to downtown streets.
In winning the bronze, Lopez covered the 6.2-mile course in a very respectable 53.39.
Lopez has also been an age group winner in the Monsoon 4-mile Run and was second among 72 runners in last spring’s 4.2-mile Pat’s Run in Tempe.
In the event, he was timed in 36:51, a very good time for a runner in his age group.
At the 39th Annual Oktoberfest 5-mile Run held last month at Tempe Town Lake, Lopez was second among the senior runners in about 44 minutes.
As good as Lopez has been as of late, he didn’t take up running until a few days prior to the 2010 Turkey Trot when he and his girlfriend, Rosalie, decided to enter.
“I just said to her, why don’t we try this and she said ‘okay’,” said Lopez.
Entering the Turkey Trot and doing well sparked an interest in the Payson senior who says he has been running long distances since.
While many take up the sport for weight control, Lopez says that was never a concern of his, but his body has undergone a transformation.
“I’ve always been in good shape, never really heavy, but since I took up running, I’ve lost 15 pounds,” Lopez said. “I feel real good now that I’m running steady and I really enjoy it.”
Prior to taking up running, Lopez maintained an interest in physical fitness, but it involved only some weight lifting, hiking and biking.
Now that he has experienced success on the running circuit, he eagerly looks forward to his next competition.
“I’m going to enter the Turkey Trot (on Nov. 19),” he said. “That’s where I started (running) and it will be the one-year anniversary of when I began.”
After the Turkey Trot he plans to keep his options open and enter events as they appeal to him.