David Hoffman has run marathons in every state and on every continent. At 76, he's run more than 500 races — 200 of them marathons — and he's not winded.
"Some people do it for their health," said Hoffman, a Milwaukee resident and volunteer advocate for AARP Wisconsin. "But I also enjoy the competition."
Mariann Muzzi, the AARP Wisconsin associate state director for outreach, said Hoffman has been an advocate all his life.
"He brings the same mental focus, stamina, clarity and rigor to his volunteer work that he has as a runner," she said.
Hoffman said he is not a natural athlete. In high school he rode the bench for four years as part of the football team. He also ran track but acknowledged he wasn't any better at that sport.
As a student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Hoffman concentrated on academics. Then he focused on his career at Family Service of Milwaukee (now Aurora Family Service), the oldest and largest nonsectarian family support agency in the state. He was the nonprofit's executive director for 28 years until his retirement in 2000. The agency named the building for Hoffman when he retired.
He's also a public policy leader for AARP Wisconsin, volunteering to contact legislators and others on issues that affect people over 50.
"David walks the talk when it comes to both senior issue advocacy and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle," Muzzi said. "He is an inspiration to us all."
More than 30 years ago, Hoffman's wife, Debbie, suggested they take up jogging. Although she quit running after a few months, Hoffman said he couldn't. Six feet tall, he weighed 193 pounds. Losing weight was an early motivator, said Hoffman, who now weighs 170.
A neighbor, Bill Rumpf, 72, was an avid runner. Hoffman asked to join him on his jogs.
"He started by running around the neighborhood a little," Rumpf recalled. "Eventually we were running a 10-mile route every Saturday."
Hoffman discovered another advantage in running.
"I was always thinking about work," Hoffman said. "The best problem-solving ideas came to me while I was running."
Hoffman's first race was Rumpf's idea. It was a 10-mile run, but until then Hoffman had never run that far. He was afraid he'd come in last.
"I told him not to worry about it, that there would be a lot of people there, and he certainly wouldn't come in last," Rumpf said. "Well, he did. But he finished the race."
The loss drove Hoffman to work harder.
Of the 36 races Hoffman ran last year, he took first-place medals in his age division in 24 of them. Most of the races were shorter than 26.2-mile marathons. But all were challenging.
In three decades of running, Hoffman has become one of a small but growing cadre of runners who have participated in marathons in every state and on each continent.
Every run presents new challenges and different pleasures. A portion of a marathon through China took runners on the steps of the Great Wall — each step is a different height. A late-October race through Greece that ended in Athens' Olympic Stadium was done in devastating heat. A glacial run in Antarctica was bone-chilling cold.
"I'd really like to try Cuba," Hoffman said. "There are 30 flights a day from Miami, and Americans are allowed to go there on cultural trips. I think it's a real possibility."
Marie Rohde is a freelance writer in Glendale, Wisc.