At Franklin Park Mall, before it opens to shoppers, you will see some of Ohio's fastest seniors in their daily exercise workouts.
J.L. Wells, 80, and his wife, Ruby, 79, of California Boulevard, both retirees and champion walkers or runners, are among those who make almost daily use of the malls during periods of bad winter weather.
Competitors in the Senior Olympics, American Diabetes Association runs, and a number of state events, they have accumulated at least 300 trophies, many of which they display in the living room of their home.
“The Toledo area has many good 80-year-old walkers and runners,” Mr. Wells said. “I won first place last year in a Northwestern Ohio race, and placed third in all-state competition. Ruby came in first in her race.”
Mr. and Mrs. Wells compete regularly each year in most major diabetes runs, garnering a steady increase in their inventory of medals and certificates of achievement.
“During the winter months, we try to walk each day at a mall,” Mr. Wells said. “We usually get there before the stores open to customers, so we have it entirely to ourselves.”
The mall workouts are individual rather than in a group, and the number of walkers may total 150 to 160 people daily, the Wellses said.
“I especially like Franklin Park because it has shops where runners can sit with friends for food and conversation,” Mr. Wells said. He has been using the mall to train for some 20 years.
The couple set too fast a pace for themselves to do any window shopping, but after a workout they sometimes return to a store to look at some item that may have attracted their attention.
At the mall, as elsewhere, Mr. Wells is known only by his initials, J.L.
“When I entered military service, initials would not be accepted,” he said. “I was given the first name of John. I used it for official business, but never liked it.”
He was employed 33 years by the Pugh Heating and Air Conditioning Co. She retired in 1983 from the offices of Toledo Cleaners. Since then, most of their leisure time has been concentrated on fast-walking and running, in which both excel.
Millie Benson is a Blade Columnist.