90-year-old man completes 5K

Published Jul 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm (Updated Jul 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm)

Two years ago, at the age of 88, Roger Murray began walking a mile a day through his Peters Township neighborhood.

On the Fourth of July, Murray, now 90, completed his first 5K race, the Whiskey Rebellion race in Canonsburg.

“I came in dead last, but I walked with a lady with a bad knee and we had a good time,” said Murray.

He walked the 3.1-mile race in about an hour.

The Canon-McMillan cross-country team, which sponsors the race, honored Murray for his accomplishment on July 16 at Big Mac Stadium.

Race director Sally Arrigoni presented Murray with a first-place medal for the newly-created 90-to 100-year-old age category and a Whiskey Rebellion race T-shirt, and Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome presented him with a commendation.

Murray was delighted with the ceremony and especially thrilled with the T-shirt.

He wanted a T-shirt to commemorate his first 5K race, but only the first 300 runners were guaranteed a shirt. Murray, the 510th entrant, missed out.

“The T-shirt proves you did it. You have to have a T-shirt,” said Murray, whose daughters, Beverly Steele and Diane Spinelli stood by as their father was honored.

They never doubted their father would complete the race, but they were surprised when he first mentioned he planned to sign up for a 5K.

“I said, ‘Yikes, Dad, that’s 3.1 miles. That’s a lot farther than you normally walk, and you don’t usually walk on hills,’” said Spinelli. “But the amazing thing about my dad is his sense of humor and his willingness to try new things. He doesn’t say no to anything. We knew he would do it.”

Murray, a native of Independence, Mo., moved to Canonsburg as a teenager after both of his parents were killed in separate car accidents within a year of each other. The Williams family of Canonsburg, who knew Murray’s father, a delegate to the Iron Workers Union who traveled around the country, took in Murray and his older brother, Monty.

Murray enjoyed walking the race route and remembering the families who used to live in the houses he passed.

He also reminisced about walking to and from school, and walking home for lunch each day, joking that it was great preparation for the 5K.

After he graduated from Canonsburg High School in 1940, Murray traveled to California to live with his brother and attended Los Angeles City College, where he studied civil engineering until he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He served for three years in the 312th Engineering Division of the 87th Infantry.

His brother was killed in the war.

Murray returned to Washington County after the war, graduated from Robert Morris, worked as an accountant at H.J. Heinz and Levinson Steel, and married his wife of 65 years, Pauline, who died in 2011. The pair enjoyed dancing and traveling, and it was after Pauline died that he decided to start walking.

Last year, he reconnected with an old friend who served in the 87th infantry with him, and later this year he plans to travel to Seattle, Wash., to visit a distant cousin. His health is good, and he has no plans to slow down. And next year, he has a title to defend at the Whiskey Rebellion race.

His advice to the Canon-Mac cross country runners?

“Keep moving,” Murray said. “Don’t ever give up.”

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