Three years ago, at the age of 75,Thompsonville's Bo Clampitt tried his hand at mountain climbing. His first peak? Just Africa’s famed Mount Kilimanjaro.
Last summer, at 78, he competed in the M-22 Challenge, a strenuous test of endurance that involves a 2.5-mile run, a 17-mile bike ride and a 2.5-mile kayak race. “I did OK in that,” Clampitt, the retired Air Force veteran, tells The Ticker. “I finished ahead of 109 other people.”
A few years back he hiked the length of the Appalachian Trail, some 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine. And he has a goal of re-climbing the highest peak in Africa in five years at the age of 83. Mount Kilimanjaro measures 19,341 feet above sea level.
“I want to go for the Guinness record,” he says matter-of-factly. “Right now an 82-year-old guy has it. I’ll do it when I’m 83.”
Clampitt’s high-energy exploits can serve as inspiration for competitors of all ages, but he’s not the only Social Security recipient excelling in athletics. He was one of 14 men and six women in the 60-99 years category of the M-22 Challenge.
That competitive spirit and go-go lifestyle are more typical among seniors who refuse to give up their athletic activities just because of age. Just ask Jim Anderson, long-time basketball player and coach, who still plays three times a week with other hoops lovers.
“We play every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception gym,” says the 68-year-old. “It’s not an organized league, just a bunch of guys who get together to play. Sometimes there’s six, or eight or up to 10 or 12 of us.”
Anderson coached basketball for some 40 years, most notably at Traverse City Senior High. So what hold does the game have on these guys?
“I first played in the fourth grade at Guardian Angel (school) in Manistee,” recalls Anderson. “But I grew to love the game when I was in the eighth grade and Jim Ooley, the famous football coach, ran a Saturday gym. I really got my love of the game from Jim Ooley. You can learn about life, about discipline, about gratitude, about teamwork, all through the game of basketball.”
Another active group gathers at Centre Ice every Monday and Thursday night where the Over-50 Hockey League players lace up their skates and hit the ice.
“Hockey is the greatest game in the world,” says Tom Tracy, a Traverse City chiropractor who’s been in the league for 25 years or so. “There’s constant motion, you have to be aware of everything.”
Most players are in their 50s or 60s, according to Tracy, who turns 70 this month. Some played hockey in their younger years, but several started when they hit 50 or so.
“There’s a saying in the league that ‘The older you get, the better you were,’” says Tracy with a laugh.