SANFORD, Maine — Allyn Genest says he doesn't really feel like an athlete. The 68-year-old has run 36 road races so far this year, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 461 road races he has run over the last decade.
The Sanford man is the first to admit he got into running late in life. In 2008, one of his four sons asked him to run a race in Wells. An amiable guy, Allyn agreed.
"I ran that race, and I didn't know nothing about running. I didn't do very good, but I did it," Allyn recalls. He only ran the one race in 2008, but the next year he started to pick up the pace, running more races. It wasn't until Penny, his wife of 39 years, passed away from a heart attack in 2011 that really sent Allyn into overdrive.
"Everyone grieves in their own way. I knew I had to move on, and so I did, and the running community changed my life, and it helped me out a lot," Allyn says.
A couple of weeks after his wife's passing, Allyn starting signing up for every race he could find. He says he became addicted. But it wasn't really the running that was keeping him charged.
"I love being around people. I really don’t like running alone at all. I wouldn’t go out and say, 'I am going for a run today.' I’d rather be around a whole bunch of people and just supporting people and saying hi and hugging and talk about running," Allyn admits.
Because Allyn runs so many road races, he doesn't really train for them. He exercises and lifts weights, but he leaves the running for the races when he is surrounded and buoyed up by his community.
Allyn says he has made hundreds of friends over the last decade -- what he considers his running family. And even when he can't run, he gets out to support others at track meets and other road races.
"You got to give to get. I support everything I can."
Allyn has become a staple at road races in Maine, and most runners know who he is. And Allyn has learned a lot about himself and giving back.
"I just tell people out there you never know what you can do if you never try and get out there and make a difference. It does make a difference. And it's unbelievable."