Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 15, 2013

Going the distance

Local man spends retirement days on the track

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Age 65 is when some folks give up the rigor of the working world and enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle. When Butch Currence reached that age he retired from Appalachian Electric Power and began a new activity — running. Now at the age of 72, his birthday this past Thursday, Currence enjoys his routine and takes part in races in the two Virginias and South Carolina.

“When I retired I weighed about 190 pounds and I knew that if I didn’t do something I was going to balloon to 250, so I started running,” Currence said. “I started by walking the two miles up East River Mountain and then running off and I did that for a couple of years.”

That routine ended when Currence felt a “pop” in his knee. His son, Brian, a captain with the Lexington County South Carolina Sheriff’s Department advised his father that running downhill can be stressful on joints, especially the knees. That was when Currence took his running regiment to Bluefield City Park.

“I would walk three miles, then run one (mile), walk one, run one, and I’ve built up to where I now run four miles and walk one,” Currence said.

It is one thing to run, it’s another to win. Currence has experienced much success in his endeavors, either winning or placing near the top of his age group in nearly every race he has entered.

He has run in the Varmint in Burkes Garden, Va., the Brian Delp 5K in Bluefield, the Jason Elswick 5K in Bluefield, Va., and the Jailbreak in Lexington, S.C. It is in the Jailbreak which Currence has participated the most.

“I’ve run down there four times. The first time I finished first in my age group, 65 to 70, and I thought I did all right for the first time running a race. Then I looked and there was a guy five years older than me that beat me by one minute. I said, ‘Goodness, I can’t let a guy beat me that much older than I am.’ I told my son, ‘I’ll be back next year,’” Currence said.

“The next year I run and get 100 yards from the finish line and the humidity got to me, but he was behind me. There were 500 in it and I finished eight or 10 runners from the end. They wouldn’t let me out of the ambulance to finish. I went back the next year and I beat him, finished first. I only beat him by nine seconds and he said to me after the race, ‘Congratulations, I’ll get you next year.’

“I was considering not going back this year, but I went back and he doesn’t show up,” Currence related with a laugh.

The South Carolina race is a family affair for Currence as it is sponsored by the organization for which his son, Brian works. His wife, Lovetta and grandson, B.J. were there to provide support and encouragement.

“Usually when I find out he has gotten first place, I’ll scream,” said 14-year-old B.J., who is visiting his grandparents for the summer.

Lovetta Currence is a retired schoolteacher and administrator who is her husband’s biggest fan. At races she not only cheers on Currence, but snaps photos for the still-growing scapbook/photo album that contains memorabilia from each run.

The two have been married for 44 years and met at the Daily Telegraph, where she worked for Currence’s father, the late V.I. “Stubby” Currence, long time sports editor and columnist. She explained further why running benefits her husband.

“He has sugar diabetes and polymyalgia, which is a crippling form of arthritis,” Lovetta said. “The running helps with both of those conditions and he is such an inspiration to me and so many others with what he is doing.”

Currence can usually be seen at a race wearing his WVU football shirt. After crossing the finish line he changes into gear promoting his hometown of Bluefield.

Always willing to lend a helping hand, Currence is known around his neighborhood as one who clears snow off sidewalks and assists neighbors in need.

“He’s either delivering the paper to our friend on Stadium Drive, or giving money to people who need it,” Lovetta said. “He’s always thinking of the other person and giving... The Bible speaks of the serving spirit. He’s a servant. He’s a quiet servant.”

Currence has received commendations from Montcalm High School for his support of the school’s athletic programs and facilities. He is a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and proudly possess a photo of his son with Franco Harris taken nearly 40 years ago, and a picture of himself and Brian with Harris at a more recent event in Baltimore. The family den is decorated with plaques, ribbons and trophies from not only his races, but for his work for organizations throughout the two Virginias.

Currence’s most recent runs were last week’s Varmint and the Jailbreak which took place in May. He finished first in his division in the Varmint and 30th out of 110 runners. At the Jailbreak he was first in his division and 221st out of 710 who participated.

Just days past his 72nd birthday, Currence has no intention of slowing down.

“There are people who ask me how I do it,” he said. “You start out walking and you just don’t do it overnight. Walk and get that built up and then you might try a lap of running.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com