Each week through August, the Wyoming County Press Examiner will be spotlighting a ‘Sportsperson of the Week’ to recognize the efforts and achievements of our community members still enjoying their sporting passion. This week, we spotlight Dr. Jerry Hildebrand of Factoryville.
Name and Age: Dr. Jerry Hildebrand, 67
Activity/Passion: Active lifestyle, including biking, running, weight training, cardio, hiking, backpacking, and skiing.
Current Town: Factoryville
High School: Abington Heights
Job: Retired optometrist after 40 years practicing in Tunkhannock
What age did you begin? At Abington Heights, I joined the cross country and track teams when I was 15 and just kept going.
How or what got you involved? I had friends on the cross country team, and was interested. But honestly, in gym class we had to run a mile and a half. I had the fastest time, and my social studies teacher was the cross country coach. He asked me to join the team, and I was going back and forth. He then asked if I wanted to pass social studies that year, so I joined the team. I had a fabulous time and some success, I was hooked.
Now who do you go with? Mostly by myself, but when I lived in Tunkhannock I ran a lot with Dick Daniels, Larry Lewis, and Robin Robinson. We would run a race every weekend back in the 1980s.
What equipment is needed to be successful? For running, good shoes. For biking, a good bike that is specific to your type of riding, a road bike, mountain bike, or even a gravel bike. Also, in backpacking, you need to make sure your pack fits properly for the weight you are carrying.
Where do you go to continue to be active? I like the Trolly Trails in Dalton and Factoryville, but have done a lot of hiking at Lackawanna State Park, World’s End, Ricketts Glen, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and Black Forest.
Have you seen any interesting places because of this? While hiking, I was able to visit Lake Placid, where they held the 1980 Winter Olympics, to see where the “Miracle on Ice” was. Also, I have seen such quaint little New England towns, I often go back after hiking with my wife to enjoy the shops and restaurants.
Has your sport taken you out of the state? We have gone to the New England states a lot, as well as the Adirondacks and the Appalachian Trail.
Have you received any awards or accolades? I was recently celebrated at the Camptown Races. In 1969, I won my first Camptown race. I skipped going to Woodstock so I could make it to cross country practice, and entered the race. I won the race three times, and recently was recognized for the 50th anniversary of the first win. I hold the record there for most victories in the 30-something year span I ran it. I also ran the Boston Marathon five times, and hold one of the fastest times of anyone from Tunkhannock.
Tips to offer rookies: Attitude is everything. You have to want to do something good for your life, make lifestyle changes, and be active every day. Change your diet, and make connections with a group of people with the same goals. You can share your common interests, and make the journey more enjoyable, plus it will help keep you motivated and focused.
Biggest accomplishment? It is a toss-up between running the Camptown Races three times and running my first ever marathon, the Skylon Marathon in Buffalo. In that race, I ran my best time ever, under a six minute mile. The Olympic trials were held there that year and Larry Lewis and I both qualified for the Boston Marathon there.
How long do you plan to continue this lifestyle? Until the day I die. I have been skiing for over 50 years, spending 22 of them on ski patrol at Elk Mountain. I like to visit my son and ski with him in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but I can’t really keep up with him anymore.
Why do you continue to live this lifestyle? Part of it is the “Runner’s High” I get. But I’d say mostly it is because of the calm that comes over me, I can be hyper sometimes, and running, hiking, biking, and skiing give me inner peace. I know it makes me feel good. I have been to reunions and seen classmates who are not happy with themselves because they haven’t taken care of themselves. I don’t want that.
Athletes you admire? Lance Armstrong. He is a cancer survivor who went on to win seven Tour de France races, that is beyond human capacity. My idol in high school was Jim Ryun, the first high school runner to break a four minute mile.
What music do you listen to while you train? In the earlier days, it wasn’t an option. We didn’t have iPods. Now I do. I am a drummer in a band and like to listen to, and play classic ‘60s and ‘70s rock music.