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Texans employee's father, 76, to run 26th marathon


Gene Woodruff, 76, is the second-oldest runner registered for the 2008 Houston-Chevron Marathon.

NFL running backs often are considered old once they turn 30. That criterion, however, doesn't apply to marathon runners – at least not to Gene Woodruff.

The 76 year-old, father of long-time Texans employee Cheryl Moffett, is set to run as the second-oldest participant in the Houston-Chevron Marathon on Sunday. It will be the 26th marathon for the Houston native and resident of Wimberley, who holds the state record time in his age group and routinely finishes first or second in his age group in marathons in Houston and Austin.

Woodruff attends every Texans home game. His daughter, the administrative assistant to Texans vice president and controller Marilan Logan, has been employed by Texans owner Bob McNair since 2000.

"He's very ambitious," Moffett said of her marathon-running father. "He's very competitive. He likes to stay in shape. He wants to stay young. My mom goes to Curves and she's 71, so they're just healthy people. He's outlived his whole family."

Although Woodruff retired in 1994 from a career as a VP & Mechanical Engineer of formerly Houston-based Hahn & Clay, it did not prevent him from retiring his legs.

The avid marathon runner keeps a consistent training schedule, running 25-30 miles a week during the summer, 10-12 miles on his long Sunday runs. He gradually increases the distances during the year to the point where his Sunday runs are 20 miles in the weeks leading up to a marathon.

{QUOTE}He has been a one-man dynasty in his age group in the marathon circuit in recent years. He won first place at the Motorola-Austin Marathon in 2002 with a time of 3:51:19. The next year, at the age of 71, he finished first at the same event in his age group with a swift 3:44:06. That set a state record for the Austin marathon for his age group.

Woodruff ran Austin again in 2004, finishing in 4:06. He then reeled off back-to-back second place finishes in 2005 and 2006 with times of 4:12 and a 4:10.

At the 2007 AT&T Austin Marathon, Woodruff once again finished first in his age group with a time of 4:22:30.

Concerned about being overweight, Woodruff took up running at the age of 39 when he read a fitness tip in Reader's Digest. He said he was invigorated by the immediate weight loss that ensued.

The hobby soon turned into a staple of his life. He started running at Memorial Park on his way home from work to relieve stress.

"I found that it cleared my head," he said. "It just kind of seemed to get the cobwebs out of my brain and relax me, and I could go home and I just felt more relaxed. So that really was kind of the thing that kept me going."

At 50 years old, Woodruff entered his first 5K race in 1983 in Oak Forest, surprising himself with a third-place finish. From there, he decided to enter 10K races. A year later, he entered and trained for the 1984 Houston Tenneco Marathon.

That marathon, Woodruff said, was "more or less a disaster," as his legs cramped and he had to limp along for the final nine miles to the finish line. As it turns out, that drove the ultra-competitive Woodruff to enter another marathon.

The next year, he recorded a personal-best 3:14:45 in his second marathon, shaving more than 45 minutes off his previous time. He hasn't looked back since.

"It still lifts me," he said. "To get out and run, I just feel better, even though I'm retired now, don't really have to worry about anything stressful-wise. It just makes me feel better.

"If I miss running two or three days, I start climbing the walls. It kind of gets into your system, I guess, and I just have to get out and run. That's all there is to it."

In recent years, aging has caused his muscle mass – and, subsequently, his marathon times – to decline. Woodruff also has significantly less runners to compete against in the 75-year-old age than he did in the 70-year-old age group, which has diluted the competitive spirit that drove him for years.

With that in mind, this weekend's marathon Woodruff's might be his last. In that event, Moffett wanted her father to run the Houston Marathon, which he has not done since 2000, for what could be one last time.

"If I don't hit my 4:20 mark, that might be last," he said, mentioning a desire to again run the Boston Marathon (he ran it in 1987 and has qualified each year since, but not returned). "Everything'll be just how it turns out Sunday. I'll just go and see how that goes."

If it is his final race, the Texas marathon circuit will be saying goodbye to one of its finest on Sunday afternoon.

Editor's note:Woodruff finished the 2008 Houston Marathon in 4:17:12 and placed first in his age division, 75-79. He said he is now interested in running the Boston Marathon for the second time.

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