SARASOTA — Here are five people who prove that age is just a number in Sarasota and Manatee counties:
1. Walter White celebrated his 90th birthday this month with a John Ringling Causeway Bridge run, and then spent the morning surrounded by friends at a breakfast party at O’Leary’s. Earlier this year, he qualified to compete in the National Senior Games for the second time.
2. John Wallace earned the nickname ‘Maddog’ long before he ran a marathon in every state, twice, and then promptly moved on to a race on each continent, all of Europe’s countries, and the Western hemisphere in between. Wallace’s love of long-distance running has brought him all over the world, most recently to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe this past July for his 364th 26.2 miles race. The 71-year-old has ran marathons in 125 countries, a world record that is unlikely to be surpassed soon as many of the races in smaller or third-world countries Wallace organized himself. He’s logged 9,851.2 miles in competition — strung together that is more than 1/3 of the circumference of the Earth.
3. Para-rower and Sarasota resident Betsy Mitchell, 58, and competitive partner Scott Brown qualified this month for the World Para-rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France, in August. Brown and Mitchell compete in a trunk and arms double, for competitors who have none or only some of the use of their legs. Unlike traditional rowers who drive with their legs on a sliding seat, Brown and Mitchell use only their upper body — their legs are strapped in and their seats are fixed. If the pair win their race, they move on to the world championships, where the boat can earn a direct spot in the 2016 Paralympics.
4. A few times a week, Bob Dein spends the morning making portraits of strangers in downtown Sarasota. The rules; he can’t have met his subjects before, and he must ask permission. The Venice High School graduate and retired pathologist started shooting street portraits in 2011 after taking a photo workshop in Savannah, Georgia. He’d later find the “100 Strangers Photography Project,” which has more than 10,000 participants, on the photo website, Flickr. Its manifesto encourages participants to take portraits of people they have never met to improve both technique and the ability to talk to people. Four years later, 100 strangers have become more than 650 for Dein, who shows his work on a personal blog at Flickr.
5. Leslie Thompson and Tom Richardson, of Bradenton, are a charismatic couple, a pair who found each other later in life and for the past three years have embarked on a special mission. Together, and sometimes with family and friends, they have methodically hiked segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail, squeezing in hiking time on vacations and long weekends. As of last year, they had a little more than 300 miles left, a feat that will still take them at least three or four more trips.