Each day throughout high school I would walk to and from school through the property of a neighbor of mine. For years, in my childhood, I viewed this neighbor as the gruff and scary old man across the street. However, once I got to know him over those countless days walking through his yard, as he sat on the porch or worked in his workshop, I began to find a side to this neighbor that I never knew existed. Today that neighbor, Ted Winters, is a cherished mentor, friend, and positive influence in my life who has deeply shaped me. He is 80-years-old and fills his days making Native American flutes, model ships, mobiles, reading, spending time with his wife Bonnie, and running. Winters has run since the late 1970s and was a core participant in the early days of the original 100-mile trail races, like the Western States 100.
While races like States, as the Western States 100 is colloquially known, were important in Winters’ evolution as a runner, they weren’t everything. Even though ultrarunning was largely unknown when Winters began, in 1983 the first year that he entered States only 281 people started the race with him, he found that it quickly spiraled away from the simplicity that he was looking for. He realized that he was putting to much pressure on himself to compete, to stress about time, to spend money on signing up for the events, and to execute the race just so. By the end of the 1980s, he came to the realization that he didn’t need the races to experience the simplicity of running. For Winters running transcends time, pace, or racing. Over the next couple of decades Winters incorporated running long distances on the trails into his everyday life. It was, and still is, a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual outlet for him.
Now in his 80’s Winters still does his best to get outside and run every day. Unfortunately, recently he was hindered by an atrial fibrillation, what is commonly known as an irregular heartbeat according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the set of valves in Winters’ heart did not close properly. At the time of his first appointment concerning the issue the doctor predicted that, without surgery, Winters had 12-18 months to live. The doctor even noted that due to the strength of Winters’ heart after all of the years of running he survived longer than someone normally would with such an affliction. Thankfully, surgery was able to resolve the issue and Winters has been able to slowly return to running every day. He stayed confident that he would run again, never heeding the warnings that he might not, and has fallen even more in love with the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other in nature.
To explore more of Winters’ story watch the video interview below and listen to Ep. 83 Ted Winters: Twinkle in His Eyes of the Touching the Trail Podcast.
Note: this post is an assignment for the Journalism 285 class that I am taking at Cal Poly.