Sign him up |

Sign him up

There are not many runners in their early 40s who have the ability to win their age group in a 5K race while finishing in the top three overall, while also being competitive in the prestigious Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and completing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Local physical therapist John Seivert is one of the few who can.

Perhaps his love of competition explains why Seivert’s training partners nicknamed him “Sign-Up Seivert.”

If there was a race, be it running, biking or swimming, or any combination of them, he was there.

Seivert spent 16 years working for Kaiser in Sacramento and the Bay Area, with two stints of post-graduate training in Australia, before moving to Grass Valley in May of 2000 to work for a year at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. It didn’t take him long to develop relationships necessary to open his own practice.

One of his patients was Meltdown Challenge coordinator and The Union columnist Carole Carson. Her happiness with her visits to Seivert led to his speaking about “How to start and maintain an exercise program without injury” on Tuesday of last week at the group’s weekly meeting at the fairgrounds to a crowd of about 800 people.

Seivert, at 5-feet, 6-inches and 170 pounds (15 pounds over his current running weight, he says), started his sports career as a backup running back for three years at Northern Arizona University, where he got most of his playing time on the practice field, his body taking, as he calls it, “a huge beating.”

While in physical therapy school, Seivert took up running with some friends as a way to stay involved in athletics. He had no coach, which would explain how he ended up running his first race in January of 1982, a very respectable 41:14 for a 10K in Phoenix, in knee high tube socks and hi-top basketball shoes.

At the end of that year, Seivert, along with his training partners, ran the Phoenix marathon.

“I did the marathon and kinda beat myself up,” he remembers. “I thought ‘this is not healthy and I’m not going to keep doing this to myself.’ I saw the Ironman on TV and thought it was a perfect blend of exercises. I thought I’d do the short version of the triathlon, called the International Distance, consisting of a 1.5K-swim, followed by a 40K-bike ride, finishing with a 10K-run.”

Along with competing in numerous triathlons over the subsequent 20 years, while running 30 to 35 miles a week, Seivert ran numerous races, setting personal records of 17:09 for 5K, 34:55 for 10K, 1:19 for a half marathon and 2:52 for the marathon.

In 1986, Seivert put his name in the lottery for the prestigious Ironman Hawaii and was picked. He was told that 150 were picked out of 100,000 entered. The Ironman, comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and followed by a marathon (26.2 mile) run, is an event only the toughest athletes even attempt.

Seivert trained with the some of the top triathletes in the Sacramento area, and in the taper week before the race, couldn’t keep up with them, leaving him feeling, as he says, “inferior.”

But, as it turned out, his will to push the limits of his body, combined with weight training, cross-training and natural ability, got him to the finish line first among the 10 competitors from Sacramento.

“It just feels so good to be done,” he said. “It’s one of those so painful things that you can’t believe that you’re finished.”

Seivert was picked to go again in 1989, where he did his best ever, finishing 220th overall out of 1,200 and in the top 15 in his age group. Overall, Seivert has completed seven Ironman competitions, finishing every one he started.

In 1996, still training only 30 to 35 miles a week, Seivert was picked in the lottery for Western States and set his mind to finishing the 100-mile event.

At the start, he was harassed by fellow competitors he knew who questioned his sanity for attempting to run 100 miles on only 35 miles training per week. Although they told him he wasn’t going to finish, Seivert felt he could, based on having completed three 50-mile races, including one in 7:59, to prepare for Western States.

“Those were fighting words,” he said. “I couldn’t believe they said that! I proved them wrong. I went running by them when they were wrapped up in blankets on IVs at the river crossing. They were the ones who ended up all dropping out. It was a great experience! I finished in 29:45 and got my bronze belt buckle for going under 30 hours. When I finally stopped, I thought, ‘Thank you Lord, because this is the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life and I will never do this again!’ It was a great challenge and I’m glad I did it, but I was so happy it was over.”

But completing Western States had its bizarre and painful consequences, including not being able to run for a month afterwards.

“I had a couple of out of body experiences,” Seivert said. “I was totally hallucinating and they were absolutely hilarious. I thought I saw the Hatfields and the McCoys having a gunfight. This was about 72 miles into the event, at about 4 a.m., when I told my pacer to stop and duck below the bullets. I was on the ground, crawling to get behind some rocks. I was actually sleep-running and he had to hold me by the back of my shirt to keep me on the trail.

“I also saw a bunch of beautiful women in bright fluorescent pink bikinis standing on an inner tube in a swimming pool beckoning me to ‘Come on in!’ I had so much pain in my legs that they didn’t hurt anymore.”

The naysayers at the start of the event were very impressed that Seivert finished, probably not knowing that he has never dropped out of a race he started.

Due to some knee pain and wanting to spend more time with his children, Seivert has backed off on his long distance running events for the time being, with a current goal of being competitive in 5 and 10K races and a long-term objective of running into his 80s.

Additionally, Seivert is looking forward to competing, for the first time, in the Tour of Nevada City bike races this year, with a goal of finishing the 50-lap race, which is conditional on not getting lapped (where you are then forced to drop out).

When all is said and done, which sport of the three he excels in is his favorite?

“Running!” Seivert replies without hesitation. “What other workout can you do anywhere, any weather, any time?”

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