Upper Peninsula Road Runners Club Hall of Fame
Enni and Carl Gregas, Bessemer
Inducted into the UPRRC Hall of Fame in 2022 as the 47th and 48th members
“Warning: Lifelong running may result in long life with side effects, i.e., quality of life.”
By Enni Gregas
Induction into the UPRRC Hall of Fame is a great honor. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your recognition is the capstone of all that running has done for us. Running has given us health, fitness, friends, participation in worthy activities, adventure, and goals—we always have something exciting to look forward to—quality of life extending into our golden years.
As active members in our local running club Easy Striders and our regional UPRRC, we have enjoyed opportunities to participate in many capacities as spokespersons, volunteers, advocates, and as representatives of the age group—we often say that age is our claim to fame!
Although we had always run for health and fitness, we were in advanced middle age when our daughter first challenged me to run with her in the Bessemer Hometown Run. In those days, not many folks our age were registering for local races, so winning the age group was almost a given. Carl ran his first race, the Whistlestop Cruisin’ the Corridor 10K, at age 70–in a snowstorm! It became his annual tradition—minus the snowstorm. They had to create a new age group when Carl turned 80. This year, he ran it at age 84.
When the legendary Gary Engstrom tapped Carl for his Paavo Nurmi master relay team, “Senior
Striders,” at 73, Carl was over-qualified—the beginning of years of Paavo fun together. I ran with our women’s masters relay team, “Sweet Carolines: Boston Strong.” Later when we joined forces and created a mixed masters team, “Beauties and the Beasts,” we were declared the oldest-ever Paavo relay team. Plenty of age group hardware to go around! We even celebrated our 50th anniversary running our Paavo events—we certainly hadn’t foreseen that on August 13th , 1966!
The year I was going to turn 70, “old” in my book, I wanted to be excited and positive about this milestone and the rest of my life. Thus, was born the “SISU 70,” a challenge to run by increments, from my childhood home in Superior, WI to my ancestral home in Green, Mi outside of Ontonagon. I started out on St. Urho’s Day, reached our Bessemer home on Juhannus (Midsummer), and crossed the Finnish line on my 70th birthday and our family reunion. Striders, friends, and family joined me at various points along the way recalling and making memories! I recommend creating your own version of the challenge—the rewards will surprise you!
Since the inception of the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in 1969, my secret dream was to complete it for my father who had spent his adolescence in Finland where Nurmi became his hero. Finally, at 71, with the support of the Easy Striders, I dared to train for my first marathon—Grandma’s 40th Marathon. Until then, my favorite events had been half marathons, but if Donna Gering says you can… it became the steppingstone, along with the Green Bay CellCom, to the Paavo.
The Striders organized a “50th Paavo Training Team” inviting everyone from experienced competitors to novices who aspired to become Paavo finishers. It was an exciting year of camaraderie culminating with 50 team members completing their chosen Paavo event!
My own 50th Paavo goal was to complete, at last, the marathon for my dad who had long since
passed. A true sisu run, it was the hottest Paavo ever—Carl says I know how to pick ‘em—the race director kept the clock running until I crossed the the Finnish line! Apparently, she appreciated our efforts to promote the 50th Paavo. Life in a small town can be heartwarming.
As encouragement to the age group, I offer this strategy: modify a daunting challenge by choosing a doable distance for you. I was 72 when I won the the Heikki Lunta age group at the SISU Ski Fest—the coldest ever, of course. At 73, it was a thrill to complete a Birkie event—the Prince Haaken 15K.
We are glad to see the trend of more folks remaining active longer. Recently, Carl and his pals created a new Easy Striders division: the” Ancient Harriers.” They run/walk Saturday mornings and meet the other Striders for post-run coffee. This fall, they ran the 2-Mile at Bridges & Bluffs together. The Harriers are often joined by runners coming off injured reserve—we have something for everybody and life goes on…I’m valiantly rehabbing my knee replacement, so I can join those old dogs!
Our life in running has been rich, not only in the wonderful people we have come to know through official events but also at unofficial crazy challenges, e.g. our Easy As Pie Run (refueling is key) and the Mt. Zion 365. We continue to enjoy our traditional Easy Striders Thanksgiving Morning Run and Potluck Brunch. Our involvement with Friends of the Iron Belle Trail and its fundraiser “Bridges & Bluffs Half Marathon and 2-Mile Run” has been enormously satisfying—the Trail is a safe venue for us to walk, run, bike, snowshoe, and cross country ski. We can swim in Lake Superior and hike the Porkies—silent sports, cross training. The UPRRC is about running AND the magic of the Yoop. We are grateful.
We realize Father Time is waiting for us at the Finnish line—we intend to make it an ultra!
Meanwhile, we’ll see you on the Trail—we’ll heat the sauna for you!