Saltwater Portrait

Harry Davies: Running for the fun of it

Two words made him mad enough to try cross country
September 13, 2011
Harry Davies of Lewes started running more than 30 years ago to lose weight. He's run in eight marathons and to maintain fitness he trains several days a week. BY HENRY J. EVANS JR.

For Harry Davies the road to an improved lifestyle began in 1978 following a physical, when he watched as his doctor write two words in his medical report – slightly obese.

“When I was at Conrad High School they didn’t have a lot of money and they needed someone to drive the bus, and I volunteered. I went for a physical and the doctor wrote on the form, ‘slightly obese’. That got me mad. That was my motivation to get into running cross country,” Davies said.

At the time, Davies weighed 240 pounds. Just a few words were all it took to spur him into action. Today, Davies looks forward to putting his 180-pound body to the test of a half-marathon.

With eight marathons behind him, Davies said he’s cutting back to half-marathons and shorter distance races.

His first race was a hilly 5K run in Newark. “I said I’d never do it again,” but he did. And he continued to do it again and again.

He’s run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., five times. “That’s probably my favorite,” he said.

Davies, 69, grew up in Avoca, Pa., near Scranton-Wilkes Barre. His father was a coalminer, and he grew up knowing about hard work.

He said he didn’t take high school seriously and knew he wasn’t prepared for college. But after three years in the U.S. Army working for Uncle Sam, he decided it would be a good idea to get an education under the G.I. Bill.

He went to a junior college for two years, and he said he had never worked harder in his life. He enrolled at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and took a degree in accounting.

In 1967 he began teaching business education at Conrad High School in New Castle County. He taught for about four years while earning certification from West Chester College to become a high school guidance counselor.

“I retired from traditional education in 2000 and took a job with the Department of Education administering an online high school for adults. It’s called Diplomas at a Distance,” he said.

The program started in 1998 and gives those who didn’t earn high school diplomas an opportunity to do so. Last weekend, about 50 students graduated.

“It’s a phenomenal program for adults. It’s a very viable program,” Davies said. He said the program graduated four students in its first year and a few years ago had more than 80 graduates.

“Once they get that diploma, they get confidence and they want to build on it,” he said.

Davies has coached cross-country running and baseball. He was head baseball coach at Conrad from 1967 to 1978 and at Wilmington High School from 1978 to 1980. He also coached cross-country at Wilmington and Newark high schools.

For about 15 years he officiated womens’ high school and college basketball, which kept him running the court.

Davies is a member of the local Grove Park Running Club. Club members run or walk on Tuesday evenings, and this week marks the organization’s 900th consecutive run.

That’s not a misprint. For more than 17 years some of the club’s 50 members have laced up their running shoes for the weekly outing.

Davies and Sandra, his wife of 44 years, have two sons. Keith, a U.S. Army lieutenant will soon enter the army’s Ranger training school.

Son, Brian, is a U.S. Navy Commander in charge of a nuclear submarine. Davies said Brian, also an avid runner, ran a marathon in a submarine.

“About three or four guys ran 26.2 miles on a submarine while they were at sea. I don’t know how they did it,” he said.

Davies said as he’s gotten older he’s cut back on the miles he runs but still trains to stay fit.

His advice to people who know they need to lose weight is to be patient. “Exercise is the key. You’ve got to be patient and enthusiastic. If you’re enthusiastic, you can overcome a lot of things,” he said.

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