Runner and massive heart attack survivor to race in Tussey Mountainback Ultramarathon


CENTRE, Pa. (WTAJ) — Runners will be lacing up their sneakers for the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay & Ultramarathon on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Sixty-two year old Don Halke is one, out of over 70 runners who will be taking on the 50-mile race. Though it’s nothing too new to Halke.

“I’ve ran in the Ultramarathon 15 times now and finished 11, so I’m hoping to make that 12 this year,” said Halke confidently.

While inspiring enough to participate in the rigorous marathon as is, Halke is doing it after having a massive heart attack.

“I had a heart attack back in 2009, I have two stints, 4 bypasses and I have a pacemaker,” listed Halke.

Despite doctor’s recommendations to cut back to one mile a week… at most, Halke didn’t listen.

“Four months later I’m out running a 40-mile race and they were not happy. But if you have a passion about something and you really love doing it, it will kill you if you can’t do it and if I die running, I’ll have died happy,” said Halke.

This is why he’ll be running in the Tussey Mountainback Ultramarathon this weekend.

When asked what his training looks like, Halke hesitated to say, admitting he’s not one others should take notes from.

“I’m a very bad example because people think you should rest in between races but I run almost every day. And I run races, pretty much every week,” said Halke.

According to Halke, his passion started back when Joan Benoit, the first women’s Olympic Games marathon champion won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.

“When I saw her win it, I said I have to start running marathons,” said Halke.

In 1985 he’d run his first-ever marathon and fast forward to today, he’s run over 130.

Tussey specifically, he says, is a special marathon to run in for him, as its proceeds always go back into the community.

“Mike Casper the race director does it all for the runners and a local charity each year, and I think that’s just wonderful,” said Halke.

This year’s event will support Common Food Centre County, a nonprofit, all-volunteer group that provides help and support for those facing food insecurities.

Halke currently runs 60 miles a week and says he’ll finally give up marathons, only once he can’t make cut offs.

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