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Reflecting on a Lifetime of Athletics: 94-Year-Old Still Embracing the ‘Ironman’ Spirit

By Andrew Alonzo |

Alan Carlisle, a prominent older athlete known for his participation in challenging endurance races, has garnered attention over the years. At the age of 94, he has completed an impressive 93 marathons and eight Ironman triathlons. Currently residing in a retirement community with his wife of 55 years, Cherie, aged 91, Carlisle is finally taking a well-deserved break.

Throughout his life, Carlisle has excelled in athletics. With a particular talent for swimming, he achieved victory in the 200-yard freestyle relay for Florida in 1947.

In the 1970s, Carlisle witnessed the success of American long-distance runner Frank Shorter at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where Shorter earned gold in the marathon, followed by a silver in the 1976 Montreal games. Shorter’s accomplishments sparked a nationwide craze for long-distance running, and Carlisle was swept up in the trend.

Subsequently, Carlisle became a familiar face in the marathon scene, participating in races across various locations such as the U.S., the Netherlands, and Italy. His achievements were featured in publications like the Claremont Courier and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on ABC Channel 7 in New York.

In 1978, Carlisle’s interest was piqued by the inaugural Ironman triathlon held in Hawaii. This grueling race comprised a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon run. The following year, Carlisle competed in his first Ironman-style event in Newport Beach, involving a ½ mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 5K run.

Reflecting on his experience, Carlisle shared, “I was an immediate star because, first of all, everybody else was 20 years old. The girls and the boys were all 20 years old, and here’s this 50-year-old, ready to take on the race.”

Participants’ ages were displayed on their calves, highlighting the surprise of younger competitors trailing behind a man more than twice their age.

Carlisle continued to participate in Ironman events globally, accumulating numerous triathlons over the years. His racing adventures took him through iconic locations such as New York, New Zealand, San Francisco, and Venice, Italy.

Apart from his athletic pursuits, Carlisle’s professional journey has been equally fascinating. From his early days as a geodetic engineer to his service in the military, followed by a career in family and divorce law, Carlisle’s life has been filled with diverse experiences.

Today, Carlisle can be spotted strolling around the Mt. San Antonio Gardens community or walking his beloved red standard poodle, Braxton, along Bonita Avenue.

Despite the impracticality of making a living solely through marathons and Ironman competitions, Carlisle’s dedication to running persisted. Running marathons became a personal challenge for Carlisle, with his total races surpassing his age. His last marathon, the 2015 [ppp0], marked his 93rd at the age of 85. Last year, his longevity surpassed his marathon count, symbolizing a remarkable milestone in his enduring legacy.

Mount San Antonio Gardens resident Alan Carlisle, 94, seen Monday with his red standard poodle, Braxton. After competing in 93 marathons and eight Ironman triathlons, Carlisle is finally catching his breath at the Pomona-based retirement community.