Avid runner still winning races at age 81
At 5:30 a.m. every morning a Fort Myers Beach snowbird resident slips on his running shoes and takes off for about a three-mile run, first along the sandy beaches before heading back home on Estero Boulevard.
Jay Gray, 81, who also lives in Atlantic City, has already competed in three races since returning to the Sunshine State, placing first in his age group in the Naples 5K Labor Day run, the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk at Lakes Park and the Downtown Dash 1 Mile Run/Walk in Fort Myers.
He placed first in his age group in the Downtown Dash for the third straight time.
“I really don’t go to Downtown Fort Myers. I never knew how alive Fort Myers was on a Friday night. A lot of music. It was fun,” Gray said.
The U.S. Marine veteran has run in the New York City Marathon for 12 straight years and has competed in more than 500 races. Some years, he said he ran 15 to 20 races.
A member of the Fort Myers Track Club, Gray said he runs most of the Fort Myers races.
“I was running when it was embarrassing to go out running in short pants,” Gray said of when he first started running.
Now running for more than 40 years, he said he thinks the purpose is to encourage others to get out, go for a run, take a bike ride and enjoy the beach.
He enjoys his daily runs because it gives him to think.
“I think about what I am going to do during the day, life and reflections. That is the most positive thing. It’s my quiet time where I can think,” Gray said, adding that at that time of the day he sees navigational lights and the Sanibel lighthouse while running the beach.
The avid runner will participate in the Oct. 12 Fort Myers Cops & Joggers 5K in Downtown Fort Myers.
“I’m usually the oldest, but not the slowest,” Gray said of his time.
In addition to running, he also rides his bike every day and takes his 35-foot sailboat out on the water.
Before finding a house on Washington Court on Fort Myers Beach 18 years ago, he said he used to live on his sailboat under the bridge for a few years.
“We finally saw a house we wanted and now the boat is behind the house,” Gray said. “I see the water every day.”