A "negative split" is a runner's term for running the second half of a race faster than the first -- a term that could also be used to describe Roger Hauge's life. He didn't start running until he was 60; now, at 80, he has more than made up for lost time.
As of August, Hauge had run 160 marathons, including four ultramarathons (races longer than the 26.2 miles of a regular marathon) with plans to pass 170 by the end of the year. He has completed a marathon in every state in the union -- twice. He has qualified for the Boston Marathon -- the dream of most serious runners -- and racked up a number of wins in his age group, even when the oldest category is "70 and up" (recently, he came in first, ahead of a 73-year-old).
"It's always a challenge," said Hauge, a trim, affable man who works as a business consultant and investor out of a small Excelsior office. "Anytime you set out to run 26 miles -- whether it takes you six and a half hours, or four and a half hours, or two and a half hours -- it's a challenge."
Hauge's inability to pass up a challenge was what led him to start running -- or, more precisely, to stick with it. At 60, he was living in London, a busy Northwest Airlines vice president eating pub food for lunch, sitting around at night, and grumpily carrying a few extra pounds. A colleague named Alan urged him to try running. Reluctantly, Hauge began heading out alone after work, at first alternating running and walking and eventually just running for four mile stretches. Soon he had lost more than 20 pounds. Mission accomplished, he might have returned to the couch had Alan not urged him to enter a race. Hauge sighed and entered a half marathon "to shut him up."
Hauge and Alan ran the race side by side. Exhausted several miles before the finish line, Hauge announced that he was going to quit. Alan pointed out a girl running ahead in the distance and challenged Hauge to catch up with her. Next thing he knew, Hauge heard onlookers applauding as they crossed the finish line.
"That's when I learned that, no matter how tough, how bad it is -- and I've been through some tough ones -- you don't quit," he said. "You do whatever it takes to keep going. I found out I could do it."
A running friend once told Hauge that she liked the simplicity of running: "All you need are a decent pair of shoes and a lake." Hauge, who lives on Lake Minnetonka, has both. But he sees the sport as a little more complex than that. He monitors his heart rate throughout each race, pacing himself according to weather, terrain, distance.
"It can be a very complicated sport, for an ordinary runner," he said. "I'm not talking about those guys doing 2 hours and 15 minutes. I'm talking about finishing a marathon when you're 80 and, if you're lucky, winning in your age group."
Hauge is in good health, but running is more than just a way to stay in shape. He was a leader for years in the Active Life and Running Club (ALARC), and belongs to a running group near his winter home in Florida. Running provides a social life, a means of bonding with others, a boost for his self-image.
"I hear this all the time, 'You're such an inspiration to us, blah blah blah,'" Hauge said. "It's rewarding. It's fun. You get [your ego] stroked."
Hauge radiates energy and optimism. Most runners do, he said. So he was puzzled, recently, when a 60-year-old running friend said he worried about getting older.
His friend is the age Hauge was when he took up running. At 60, Hauge said, "as far as I'm concerned, life has just started."
Katy Read • 612-673-4583