#098 – Prepare to be inspired by the remarkable story of Barry Karch, host of Running for Your Life Podcast, a passionate runner who, after a two-decade hiatus, reignited his love for the sport. Having once raced in up to 20 races per year, burnout set in and Barry stepped off the “track” for 20 long years. Upon reaching his 60s, Barry realized that it was time for a change. This was a pivotal moment that sparked his journey back to running. Listen to his why and how he made a successful return to running races at an older age.
Listen to what led Barry to burnout from running races
Hear about his “why” and what led him to train again
Learn what are things to consider as you start / resume as you get older
Barry Karch became an avid runner as he approached his 40s. He participated in as many as 20 races a year, ranging from 1 mile to marathons and everything in between. He qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. After 5 years of intense training and running, he got burned out. He stopped racing for 20 years.
The bad news was that he kept eating like he was running marathons. His weight kept going up and up until he had added 35 pounds. Finally, when he reached his 60s, he got the determination to do something about the weight. He felt like if he wanted to live a long and healthy life, it was now or never.
He changed his diet and the weight came off – all 35 pounds – and, as a side effect, an unexpected thing happened. He started to enjoy running again – really enjoy it. Much more than when he was younger. He has begun racing again with great results and feels rejuvenated – like he found a part of himself that was missing for 20 years.
He created the Running For Your Life podcast to share his joy of running and to encourage others to take control of their health and that it’s never too late to get started running. His goal is to have his listeners join him in outrunning Father Time.
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Richard Conner: [00:00:00] Hey, my friend is the thought of aging keeping you from becoming active or even getting back into running. Well today you’ll hear an inspiring conversation where our guests talks about an amazing comeback in his sixties. After not running for 20 years. He also shares tips that you should know as you begin or resume your running journey. Hope you enjoy.
Intro: Welcome to inspire to run podcast. Here, you will find inspiration, whether you’re looking to take control of your health and fitness, or you are a seasoned runner looking for community and some extra motivation, you will hear inspiring stories from amazing runners, along with helpful tips from fitness experts.
Now, here’s your host Richard Connor.
Richard Conner: Hi, my friend, welcome to inspire to run podcast today. We have the pleasure of sitting down with Barry Karch, who is an avid runner. And he participated in as many 20 races a year, ranging from one mile to marathons and everything in [00:01:00] between. He even qualified and ran the Boston marathon. , but after five years of intense training and running, he got burned out and stopped racing for 20 years.
Through some ups and downs, Barry started racing again with great results and feels rejuvenated, like he found a part of himself that was missing for 20 years. Barry created the Running For Your Life podcast to share his joy of running and to encourage others to take control of their health, and that it’s never too late to get started running.
His goal is to have his listeners join him in Outrunning Father Time. Welcome to the show, Barry.
Barry Karch: Hi Richard. How are you doing today?
Richard Conner: I’m good. I’m good. It’s a great day here in Connecticut. I’m enjoying the last few days of summer. Uh, I’m feeling good about myself today.
Barry Karch: Awesome. Glad to hear it.
Richard Conner: Yeah. And excited to have you on the show. I’m so excited that we met just not too long ago.
And I love that you have a running podcast and I love how you’re sharing your story about your running journey and the stories of others. So very similar to what we’re doing here. [00:02:00] And it’s, it’s just so cool to meet a fellow podcaster or, you know, kind of in this space and helping others. So. So super cool to have you here.
Barry Karch: Yeah, exactly. We have a few similarities. I think we both started our podcast to inspire other people to get into running and I think we both had stop and start careers and running too.
Richard Conner: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, for sure. So, you know, let’s talk about that. Let’s learn that, you know, a little bit about you, how you started running in the first place. Why, you know, why you stopped, what led you to stop and then, um, we’ll take it from there.
Barry Karch: Okay. Well, I had never done any sports when I was younger. I didn’t do anything in high school. , I would play pickup basketball every now and then for fun. , I like sports, but I never did anything and I never ran. Um, and then one day of all places, , I, I love pizza. I used to go to a pizza parlor on the corner and I got to [00:03:00] know one of the owners.
He was about my age. Actually, it’s probably one of the owner’s sons, actually, but he was around my age. And we got to talk a lot every time I was in there and he was a runner. He liked to run. And I guess he just encouraged me to run. And so I started running with him and that’s kind of how I got into it from a pizza parlor of all places.
And, uh, we just started running. We started training together and we started doing races from there. So that’s kind of how it all started. And that was in my late thirties. That’s when I got started in running.
Richard Conner: Oh, I love that. And you know, one of the things I’ve. Really enjoyed about having these conversations. I feel like I’ve been a student of how folks started with running. And, you know, one of the things I’ve learned, it’s either been internally driven, either it’s, you know, something they needed to make a change in their life or it’s been external, right?
Just like you said, there was a friend that brought you into running, which also happens. So I love to hear these stories about how folks start.
Barry Karch: Yeah. Yeah. So we started [00:04:00] running pretty hard. We trained a lot. There got to be a group of us. It wasn’t just me and him. It was probably close to 10 other people. And we would, we would push ourselves real hard. We did a lot of races. We would meet, I think about 5 30 AM in the mornings. And we would, we would get after it.
And after a while, he brought up the idea of running a marathon, which I had never really thought about. Although I did find that I could run a pretty long distance, uh, without getting too terribly tired. So that became a goal of mine to try to run a marathon. And so. We ended up doing that together too.
That was, um, how I got to my first marathon.
Richard Conner: That’s incredible. And I want to talk about the marathon in a moment, but I’d love to just go back for a minute. Were you ever one that said, Oh, I’m not a runner. I don’t run. Or had you been thinking about it and you really just needed a little bit of a push to get into it.
Barry Karch: You know, no, I never thought that I wasn’t a runner. Um, when I was [00:05:00] in, when I was in college, I would go out for a little jog every now and then on my own. And it was just a slow jog. I wasn’t trying to. Run a certain distance or a certain time. I was just running just to run. So I would do that occasionally.
So it’s not like I never, never ran, but it had been still, that was in my early twenties. So it’s still been a long time since I did that, but I felt like I could run. I wasn’t like, I didn’t think I could do it.
Richard Conner: Okay. Okay. Good. Good to know. So, so now you started running, you have these 5 30 am calls to run, which I think is incredible. Um, I’m not in that camp. Yeah. But I’m, I’m glad you are that, if that works for you, that’s cool. So tell me a little bit about, you know, the journey of getting up to the marathon. So, you know, for me personally, I never thought I could run really long distance, anything more than a 5k.
And I’ve been approaching it very conservatively and very gradually. And it sounds like you just went out there like, yeah, I could do. A marathon in pretty short order. So tell me a little bit about [00:06:00] that.
Barry Karch: Well, we gradually built up to it. My friend kind of wrote out the training program. So we weren’t following any professional program at the time. Um, but we would gradually build up to longer and longer runs. And, uh, I think we maxed out around 20 ish miles on our long run, but, um, we would, we would go early, we would start five, five 30 AM and get it in for a couple of hours and it almost felt like a second job really, , doing that.
And then get home, showering, getting dressed and going to our. A regular job, but, um, it was, uh, it was a long process and you have to be careful on it because sometimes you can get beat up on the training. And then when you get to the starting line of the marathon, you’re not at your best as you’d like to be.
So you have to be very careful. You don’t beat yourself up just getting there. But, , that’s how we did it. And we ended up, well, I ended up doing eight marathons. Um, so I kept doing them and doing them with the, pretty much the [00:07:00] same group of guys and we, as I mentioned, we trained super hard. , we were always pushing each other and.
It finally got to the point where I stopped enjoying it. It, I just lost all the joy of running. It got to be too much like work. It was just, we were, we didn’t ever have easy runs. We would always, I’m not saying I’m the greatest runner in the world, but we push ourselves to the limit of our ability and what we could do.
So they were always uncomfortable runs. And I was trying to figure out how I was going to tell my friend that.
I didn’t want to train or run with him anymore. I was trying to get up the courage to tell him that. When one morning he said, I got some news for you. And I’m like, what he’s like, I’m moving out of town. And so I never had to tell him that I was burned out and didn’t want to do it anymore because he ended up moving. And that was kind of the end of a phase one of my running career. And that was it for races for 20 years.
Richard Conner: Wow. Wow. , well, you know, so thank [00:08:00] you for sharing that. And I know that’s got to be hard, you know, if you’re especially training for marathons, and I can only imagine, right? I’m even thinking about it. If I do my. First marathon next year, how deep into that rabbit hole do I want to go? Because I foresee it being very hard training, a lot of long days on top of everything else.
And I don’t want to get to that point where I’m burned out and don’t enjoy it. And interestingly enough, we actually recently had this topic on the show, um, on the Instagram live about like how to notice the signs of burnout and then how to avoid it. So it’s really interesting to kind of hear your story about.
You know, what kind of led you down that road? And do you think, do you think like if you did training for different types of races, if it wasn’t a marathon, do you think you would have stayed with it or you felt like you probably already passed the point of no return?
Barry Karch: I think I passed the point of no return from the way we were training, but looking back on it, as I look at marathon plans now that, as I said, [00:09:00] I was just doing, my friend was making it up. But, um, if we, I look at professional marathon training plans now and they do include easy days, easy runs. So you really aren’t supposed to be killing yourself every day, uh, like we were doing.
So I think if you follow a plan like that, then, uh, Richard, you’ll be okay. You won’t worry about getting burned out or killing yourself. So you just gotta learn to take it easy on some of the days that you’re supposed to, and just have a nice, easy, fun run. And I think you’ll do, you’ll do fine. If you incorporate that in your plan.
Richard Conner: Okay. That’s really good to know. And to kind of pinpoint, you know, some elements of it that. Made it not enjoyable for you and made a hard, you know, hard on you physically, I assume as well. So that’s good to know that, you know, a different training plan might have had a different outcome. So, so let, let’s talk a little bit about, let’s fast forward.
I think it was 20 years now. Um, so you went through the burnout phase, your friend moved out of [00:10:00] town, you didn’t run. So like what happens during that 20 years?
Barry Karch: Well. I didn’t race. I don’t want to say I didn’t run. Cause I still, I don’t know if you’d call it run. I was doing like slower jogs. It was more like a slow jog. I would still do that regularly, but I didn’t go more than three miles and it was much, much slower and I was getting slower and slower and slower all the time, so I did that, but the real problem was I kept eating like a marathoner.
So I would eat, I was still eat a lot. I have a horrible sweet tooth. I would eat ice cream, chocolate, cookies, you name it. I love all that stuff. And so the pounds started to gradually doesn’t all happen at once, but over 20 years?
They start adding up and adding up And adding up. And next thing, you know, I’m carrying 35 more pounds than I did when I was running marathons.
Richard Conner: And then when did that, like, when did you, you [00:11:00] just wake up one day and when did you notice, was it like a doctor’s visit or like, when did it hit you?
Barry Karch: Not any one time. Every time I visit the doctor, I weighed more than the time before. And it kept going up and up. Um, when I ran, I was around 150 ish in weight. I’m not a, I’m not a real big guy. So I was around 150 ish. But then I go to the doctors and then all of a sudden I’m in the 160s. And then after a while, I’m in the one seventies next time I go, I’m in the one eighties and then I’m pushing one 90.
And so it’s like, Whoa, you know, it’s really getting up there, but I never, I was always kidding myself. I still look good. I wouldn’t admit that, you know, I had a bit of a belly. I still try to convince myself. I look good. I’m in good shape still. , I, I had trouble facing reality there and then, uh, I kept asking myself all the time, , when are you going to do something about this weight, but I was never motivated enough.
I [00:12:00] just, I was enjoying what I was eating and enjoyed the food, I guess more than the weight and didn’t really care. And then finally I got into my sixties. And I said to myself, you know what, it’s now or never, if you want to live a long and healthy life, I got to do something now or it’s going to be too late because I, I’m already in my sixties.
So I finally, finally got motivated after 20 years has changed my diet entirely and I lost, it was gradual again, couple, two, three, four pounds every week that would come off. And before you know it, I got back into the one fifties and I got pretty doggone close to my weight where I was. Running marathons at, so that really changed my whole life.
I felt so much better about myself just from taking off all the pounds. But even so, even with that done, I [00:13:00] still wasn’t planning on racing. That thought never occurred to me. And then one day my wife said to me, are you thinking about racing anymore? you?
know, after I took off all that weight and I was like, well, I never really thought about it.
, I guess I could and cause I hadn’t trained for anything and I registered for a 5k and , I really didn’t do much training for it, but I just figured, Okay, I’ll just show up and see what I can do. And. , I tell you one good thing about being older, there’s a few good things about being older, not that many, but one good thing about being older is you have a lot less competition at the races, less people in your age, less people in your age group.
Right? So I showed up there. I did the best I could. It wasn’t what I used to run 20 years ago, but I managed to get first place in my age group. So I was pretty excited about that. Like, wow, where’d that come from? So that kind of got me hooked again. Like maybe I can be competitive at running. [00:14:00] So that’s, that’s kind of the story in a nutshell,
Richard Conner: That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s, that’s motivation to keep going. And that’s great that your wife is supportive, um, of your running and races. And I know that’s not easy. Right. Um, so. And is your wife a runner as well, or she just knows how passionate you are about it?
Barry Karch: she knew how passionate I was. She’s not a runner, but she does. Exercise a lot. She, , she does, , hill workouts on the treadmill at the gym. She lifts weights. , she does a little bit of running on the treadmill now, but she’s not, a runner or a racer or anything like that at all.
Richard Conner: Oh, that’s fantastic. And still to be so supportive and you to do that, that that’s awesome. And, you know, I love your story about how you got back into it. , because like you said, you know, you went through those periods of times where you wanted to change, but you, you weren’t, you know, maybe didn’t have the motivation to make that change.
And it’s something that I’ve been studying a lot as well. , what is there that one thing that finally. Motivate someone to make, to [00:15:00] make that change. So I recently read a book, how to change by Katie Milkman and, um, was really fascinating, uh, all the research and studies that she did. And one of the principles that she talked about, , was around fresh start.
So you’ve mentioned this a little bit, like you’re, you’re in your sixties. So for you, you know, it felt like a milestone and now you’re thinking about like, when, when are you going to do this? And, you know, for others, there might be. You know, new year’s resolution or your birthday or the change in season is that fresh start for you?
Like, okay, like you just said, it’s now or never, like, now I’m going to take this opportunity to do it. So it’s really, as I’m listening to your story, I’m wondering if it’s a little bit of that, for to take a milestone like that for you to say, I want to make a change now.
Barry Karch: I think it is. I think fresh start is a very good, uh, analogy there. Cause I feel like a fresh, different runner and I don’t compare myself at all. I was worried about this initially, but I do not compare myself at all to myself. In my first phase of running, [00:16:00] because I’m, uh, I’m much older now and I feel like a new, different person, different runner, but, , whatever I do now, I enjoy it so much more than when I was younger, because I think I took it for granted when I was younger that I can run.
, now I don’t, I just, anything I can do. I’m thrilled about, , I’m just totally happy I’m out there doing it. I have a lot of gratitude for it. I know a lot of people, especially as they get older, aren’t able to run, even if they wanted to because of health issues or whatever. So I’m just very thankful for the ability to do it.
And, um, as I said, I, I, I enjoy every bit of it and I, and now I just want to keep pushing and pushing myself. To see what I’m capable of, , I would say it’s a midlife crisis, but I’m a little bit past mid midlife, I guess by now, but it’s my way of, I guess, a fighting off father time and trying to prove to myself in my mind.
Hey, I’m not old. I’m not old yet. I [00:17:00] can still do this. So I just recently did a half marathon. Um, this past December, my first half marathon in 20 years. And thoroughly enjoyed it. I did train for that. , ended up in the top 10 percent of my age group on that one. So I did pretty well on that. And then, um, two weeks ago I took on maybe the biggest challenge of my life and it’s a little bit outside running, but it was a mountain hiking.
, event called two nine zero two nine. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. , yeah, I don’t think it’s that widely known really yet, but where the number comes from, that’s the height of Mount Everest, 29, 029 feet. The goal is to achieve the equivalent vertical ascent of Mount Everest and you have 36 hours to do so.
And so, um, it’s held in five different locations across the country throughout the year. The one I did was in snow basin, Utah. And that mountain required 13 ascents. So we would hike up the mountain. We take the gondola down. We only have to hike [00:18:00] up. So I hike up gondola down repeat 13 times and that would achieve the equivalent ascent amount Everest.
And it took also 30 miles of hiking to do so. But, , I was able to do that. , I, I was, I trained super hard, uh, and I was very, very determined to accomplish it. And, that was one of my proudest moments. I’m proud to say only, only 58 percent of the people finished that thing. But, um, and you know, I just, as I said, I’m just thrilled.
Anything I can do now.
it’s just my way of fighting off either time.
Richard Conner: I love that. Congratulations. First on the half marathon and second on the hike, you know what? Now that you’re talking through it, I’m like, wait a minute. We actually did talk about this when we met just a few months ago. So it’s great to hear that you did it. And congratulations.
Barry Karch: did it. Yeah,
yeah, It was, it was fun, especially now that it’s over.
Richard Conner: yeah. yeah. That’s best part, right? Well, I’m sure it was the experience and the
Barry Karch: It was a great experience. Yeah,
Richard Conner: no, for sure. So, you [00:19:00] know, you mentioned it a few times, you know, being in your 60s and not running for a long time and how things have changed. So, you know, what would you say? Is different now in terms of how you’re training or how you’re approaching your training versus maybe before or earlier in your life.
And you know, what advice would you give for folks?
Barry Karch: I have so much more determination now, and I think a much stronger mindset than when I was young. Um, cause I, I really want it. I really, you have to have a big why. I don’t know that I had a big why before I was doing it too, because my friends were doing it. And, uh, well, I, I, I wanted to accomplish it and see if I could do it, but.
I was doing it more to, to go along with them. Now I’m doing it more for my health and longevity, hopefully. So I have the big Y that gets me out of bed every day. I’m super motivated, as I mentioned. , and I just am thankful and. Appreciative of everything I’m able to [00:20:00] do, whatever it is, how big or how small, , I just, , thankful I’m able to do it.
So those are some of the biggest differences between now and then, , running strangely enough, I find that I’m a little more durable now. Then I used to be then, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever because I used to not be able to run back to back at all. Back in those days, it would take me a while for my legs to my muscles to recover.
But now I can do more. I can do more back to back runs and I recover a lot quicker. I don’t I don’t know why, but that’s another strange difference.
Richard Conner: Yeah. I mean, it could be a little bit to your training, right? Like you said, your training is a little bit more balanced now versus before. So it could have something to do with it
Barry Karch: probably does.
Richard Conner: Oh, that’s really great to hear. And I appreciate you sharing that. You know, one of the questions I like to ask the guests on the show is what would you say is the biggest obstacle in your running journey and how’d you overcome it?
Barry Karch: Good question. Let me think. The biggest obstacle in my running journey, [00:21:00] the biggest obstacle before was just little nagging injuries. I never got seriously hurt. I was, I’ve been very fortunate. I never had a serious injury, but my ankles would ache, my feet would ache. Oftentimes when I got into races, I was, as I alluded to before, I wasn’t at my best, especially at marathons.
I would get beat up in the training and when race day came. I would be hurt a little more than I would like to be. So I think it’s overcoming the little nagging injuries. . And just listening to your body. And I used to have a hard time taking time off. I didn’t like to miss any workouts. , I still have a hard time, but I will do it now.
I’ll do it a little bit more now. If I need to, I’ll, I’ll, I realized that missing a few workouts, I’ll be better off coming back a week later and I’ll get regain any, I won’t lose any fitness. But if I did, I would regain it real quickly and [00:22:00] be better off for it?
So I think that’s one of the things I’ve learned.
Richard Conner: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean, definitely want to stick to your plan, but you give, got to give your body the rest of the needs, , and address issues early and not just kind of. You know, run, run through them or just kind of keep going. Sometimes it’s going to end up worse for you. So good that it never turned into any major injuries, but that’s good advice for folks that might be at that point where they’re like, yeah, you know, I’m, I’m feeling a little.
2023-08-31–t07-37-02pm–5e0aa6c1d77a7e0015ce24cf–rconner621: More sore than I should be after these workouts where I’m starting, you know, I’m getting to the start line and I’m not feeling my best. , there’s some good advice for those folks.
Barry Karch: Yep, absolutely.
Richard Conner: Cool. All right. So, you know, what I’d love to know is what’s next for you. You know, what keeps you motivated? What keeps you moving? And, you know, what are you looking forward to in the future?
Barry Karch: Okay. Well, I came across this concept this year of having a Misogi and what a Misogi [00:23:00] is, is a year defining event. Something that excites you and scares you at the same time. And so for me, it was the two nine zero two nine event. And that’s an event I’ll never forget. And like, when you look back in the future?
I can say, Oh, 2023 was the year I, um, ever stood.
So, um, I’m looking for Misogi’s every year. And, um, what I’m going to do next is I’m just started training for my first marathon in 20 years. So I’m looking forward to doing that. And I think I haven’t decided on a Sogi for next year. I’m debating on a couple of things, but, um, at least to wrap up this year, I’m going to run my first marathon.
I’m that still scares me. Cause I know I don’t want to scare you, Richard. I know, I know how hard it is to do it. And, uh, I want to see how it is now compared to how it [00:24:00] used to be.
Richard Conner: Yeah, well, that’s awesome. And I’m going to be following your journey and, and especially as I’m looking to do my first one, I’m not there yet. There’s other things I wanted to accomplish first. Um, but yeah, it’s something that I’m, it scares me and, you know, but I’m looking forward to taking on that challenge.
So I love that concept of looking forward to that one big thing that scares you and getting, getting after it each year. So that’s really cool.
Barry Karch: Yep. That makes life exciting is those experiences you look back on and remember,
Richard Conner: For sure. For sure. All right. So, you know, you’re a fellow podcaster. We started this conversation talking about you being a fellow podcaster. You have a wonderful podcast. Um, great story. You bring on great guests. So, you know, tell us a little bit about your podcast. Why’d you start it and the types of guests you bring on and who it’s for.
Barry Karch: well, I never expected to be running and racing again. I never thought I would be here. If you asked me a year ago, like I would think no way. So I’m here. I’m kind of surprised to be here and, you know, [00:25:00] back fit again and running. And I just rediscovered such joy in doing it that I want to share the joy with other people and encourage other people to get fit and run and that it’s not too late.
Thank you. Even if you are later in life, you can still do it. So that’s the purpose of the show. , it’s, it’s, I target basically runners 60s. Although, of course, anyone’s welcome to listen to it. And I try to inspire, uh, provide inspiring stories of people. , That, uh, will help encourage other people to get out there and get fit and run and they can do it too.
Richard Conner: Love it. Love it. That’s awesome. And, you know, tell us a little bit about how our listeners can, can find you and find your podcast.
Barry Karch: Well, the best place to find, I can be found on Instagram, , under it’s barry underscore S. I had to do it that way. I don’t know. For some reason, Barry Karch wasn’t available. I don’t think there’s [00:26:00] another one out there, but I had to do it that way. , so that’s on Instagram or just the podcast running for your life. It’s available anywhere. You listen to podcasts. It’s on all the major podcast players.
Richard Conner: Love it. Love it. All right. So I’ll put that information in the show notes to make it easy for our listeners to find you and follow you online. Barry, I really appreciate you sharing your journey with us. I mean, really insightful to hear, you know, how you started your journey about burnout, but coming back in and why and how, and some advice for others who, you know, in the same age groups as to how they can get back in and things to look at, you know, look out for some watchouts.
, yeah. As to when they resume their running journey or even get into it for the first time. So really appreciate you sharing your story and then your incredible accomplishments. Um, so with your hiking and now with your marathon, so we’ll be watching you closely as you, you know, embark on that journey.
Barry Karch: Thanks Richard. Thanks for having me. It’s been such a pleasure to be on your podcast. [00:27:00]
Richard Conner: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, so thanks again, Barry. Um, like I said, I’ll put this information to show notes. So with that, uh, have a great day.
Barry Karch: Thank you.
Outro: That’s it for this episode of inspire to run podcast. We hope you are inspired to take control of your health and fitness and take it to the next level. Be sure to click the subscribe button to join our community. And also, please rate and review. Thanks for listening.