Jim White, 70, of Belleair stretches as he prepares for one of his daily runs.
BELLEAIR – Belleair resident Jim White runs every day, without fail. He loves it, and said he thanks the military for that. His 33-year career in the Army made sure that he was fit.
“Part of the military thing is to stay in good shape,” he said.
White said he ran in Army competitions while he was stationed along the Korea Demilitarization Zone during the Korean War.
“Then later I was posted to the Pentagon, and somebody talked me into running a marathon. I did that and finished with a time of 3 hours and 11 minutes, which was very good for a first marathon,” he said.
That was the first of many marathons for White. His lifestyle dictates that he keeps at it, he said.
“Over the years, I have run about 14 marathons,” he said. “I’m better at longer distances, and I now fly a high-performance aircraft so you have to stay in shape for that. You have to be on your game.”
Such activity is remarkable for a man White’s age. He is 70 years old.
White does more than just run; he’s active in many ways in his community. He is the president of the homeowners’ association in his neighborhood, and he ran for a seat on the Belleair town commission in the last election.
Even though he lost that election, he rarely misses a commission meeting and often has something to say about the issue of the day, notably the future of the Belleview Biltmore hotel.
It is that activism that Belleair’s former special event coordinator, Sara Borger, likes about White.
“He is so very active in the community that he is a role model for all people, young and old alike,” she said. “He is as fit as a fiddle, and he’s always smiling. He has an upbeat attitude; he’s always positive. To Jim, the glass is always half full.”
White, who retired as a colonel from the Army several years ago, has a rigid workout regime. He gets up before dawn and heads over to MacDill Air Force Base, where, for the past seven years, he’s been a civilian employee with U.S. Central Command.
“When I get there, before daylight, I get out and run along the water. They have a rubberized track over there, so I run on that.”
White, somewhat proudly, recalls an incident four years back when he was training at MacDill, preparing for the Houston marathon.
After running about 10 miles, he encountered a Special Ops platoon of about 20 getting ready to run. The sergeant asked him his age. White was 66.
He kept on running as the platoon started up.
“After a time, one of the young soldiers fell back because he couldn’t keep up,” White said. “I passed him, at which point the sergeant said ‘You are letting this old guy pass you.’
The solder replied, “But he’s had 40 years more experience than I’ve had.”
“There was nothing wrong with the kid’s brain,” laughed White.
Part of what allows White to keep running is the support of his wife, Roz, who is the current president of the Belleair Civic Association. She doesn’t deny his passion for running one little bit.
“We’re both early risers and work long hours and are very active,” she said. “We go our own ways during the day; we both have things to do, but when we get together it is great. It is good for him. It helps keep him young and healthy because he can do all the other things that he wants to do. It all blends together.”
One of the things White wants to do is to take the physical training test with the Marines. He did it once, back when he was in the Army.
“I was a young major and the Army sent me off to Marine Staff College in Quantico, Va.,” he said. “It was a lot of fun; there was great camaraderie. I competed with the Marines in their PT test and came within one point of maxing the test. Now I want to do it again. I’m doing 50 sit-ups and 15 pull-ups. You have to do 20 to max the Marine test.”
When asked if he will ever stop running, White laughed and shook his head.
“I’m crazy – if you haven’t figured that out by now,” he said.