"New Job, New Wife, New Life" sent in by Tom Pontac
, 64, is a resident of Leisure World, a retirement community in Southern California, but he's
anything but retired (or retiring), and leisure is not on his
radar screen.In fact, Tom
, a runner who has completed "at least" 125 marathons since his
40th birthday, is training for the London and Paris marathons that he
intends to run with his
new bride, Jeanne.They are part of ‘Fred's Team', a group which raises funds for each mile they run to help treat and defeat pediatric (children's) cancer.
Another goal is to change the perception of retirement communities, starting from within.In June 2000, Tom founded the Leisure Leggers, a running team with members between ages 55 and 90, because "I didn't want to be the only one running around in my shorts."He
coached a group of 30 for four months, preparing them to compete in the Long Beach Marathon in November.His
personal daily routine includes 450 situps, 60 pushups, and a hour of running."I'm doing things I could never have done 40 years ago," he
Things haven't been the same at Leisure World since Tom Pontac
moved in.More of the 9,000 residents have become active -- skating, cycling, walking and running -- and he
has become the local guru on exercise and diet.For his
"contribution to the running community," Tom
received Runner's World magazine's Golden Shoe Award."Exercise makes you feel stronger and better.And most importantly, you don't feel helpless.That's one of the greatest fears of aging," he
told the magazine.The motto of Leisure Leggers
: "Growing old is not for sissies."A former salesman (furniture and furnishings to hotels and restaurants), Tom ended his successful career in his late 50s, immediately enrolling at California State University at Long Beach to complete a college degree.Last year, he graduated with a BA in psychology, with an emphasis on kinesiology and gerontological sports, and is now working toward a Masters degree.
hopes to help create a new "sports and elders" focus within the gerontology department.In his
spare time, Tom
also authored a book, "Movies in a Minute," and is looking for a publisher.Tom
also found himself a new job at Cal State Long Beach, through a series of serendipitous events even his
optimism might not have foreseen.One morning, he
ran into the university's president, Dr. Maxson, who was also exercising his
right to exercise by running up the stairs.As Tom tells it, that quick encounter soon led to other conversations and before long, Tom had "designed" his own job to "serve as a channel between Cal State Long Beach and the senior community."
Those goals included bringing courses, such as the recently completed "Financial Health" class, into Leisure World, which represents about 35% of the population of Seal Beach.He
is now working with the university to create a series of senior exercise programs within the University.
Tom and JeanneTom
has now become "a full fledged employee of the state of California" with the title of Senior Community Liaison in the Cal State Long Beach university relations and development department.Tom reports that, "The 'Financial Health' class at Leisure World has been such a success, that we are taking applications for both the next semester as well as a 'Financial Health 2' for those wishing to learn more.There will also be a physical health and training series of classes here in the next few months.I love this job!"
At age 60, Tom
met Jeanne, fellow marathoner and "The love of my life," after he
placed a singles ad in a local paper.They met at the gym for a "workout date" and he
instantly recognized that "She
was the one."They sealed their commitment by "burning old love letters on the barbecue the next week," and three years after they met, they married.Jeanne, a clinical psychologist in private practice, recently took First Place in the 50-54 age division at the 50K run in Cuyamacha.Her
motto: "It's never too late to be what you might have been."Tom
agrees."This is definitely the Very Best Time of my life," he
says."No doubt about it!"
If you've been thinking about regenerating yourself, physically or mentally, Tom Pontac's
advice is, well, Get Started: "It ‘s never to late to get started doing what you want to do.