86-year-old completes 5K run

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2005

Henry Harrison has never been afraid of hard work or challenges.

The 86-year-old Demopolis native spent most of his life taking tough situations head on.

As a veteran, he served in World War II, where he earned a Bronze Star, and the Korean War. Earlier this year, Wellness Center Director Betsy Adams issued a challenge to her members to participate in this year’s Christmas on the River Jingle Bell Run. When she issued the 5 Kilometer challenge, she knew Harrison was up to the task. She was right.

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“I asked him if he was going to be in the Jingle Bell run and he said he wasn’t at first,” Harrison said. “The next day he called and said he changed his mind and started training and jogging.”

Harrison said he had been training at the Wellness Center for three years and was ready for the challenge. Once he decided to participate, he began conditioning for the race and issued a personal challenge.

“I set a goal for the 5K, to run it or walk it in 45 minutes,” he said. “I didn’t quite make it, but I did make it in 46.”

The race took a toll on many runners who were accustomed to running on treadmills. Adams said many participants from the Wellness Center told her the change created several new challenges. However, the only challenge Harrison saw was getting a better time next year.

“After the race was over, some of the middle-aged runners told me how tough it was to run outside and on the pavement, instead of on the treadmill,” Adams said. “They talked about their aches and pains and when he came in, I asked him how tough it was. “He said it wasn’t that bad and he thought he could beat his time next year.”

Exercise, Harrison said, has been a part of his life since he was a young man in Northern Arkansas. When his job brought him to Demopolis in 1953, he continued to stay in shape.

“I was raised in the country about a mile from school,” Harrison said. “We walked to school and most everywhere we went. I was also raised on a farm and that involves a lot of work. When I got out of college at the University of Arkansas, I went to work for the Soil and Conservation Service and that involves a lot of walking too.”

When his days with the Soil and Conservation Service came to a close, Harrison said, he continued his daily walks at nearby parks.

“When I retired I started walking out at Foscue Park,” Harrison said. “I started walking about five miles a day before I came up here and then started doing about three miles.”

Though he is retired, Harrison still puts in a good day’s work. He owns a farm near his Demopolis home, which helps him stay busy and stay in shape.

“I own a little farm in Greene County and work on that,” Harrison said. “Since I worked for a soil and conservation service, I try to make it a patterned farm. I raise a few cows and some timber.”

When Harrison is not on his farm, he spends time with his three children James, Donald and Sandra. his three grandchildren and five step-grandchildren. He also belongs to the Rotary Club and Methodist Men’s Club.