Owner-operator puts his competitiveness to good use
Fritz Elmhorst • Lakeland, Fla. • Driving for 41 years
I’m 75 years old and I’ve been an independent owner-operator for 41 years. My journey in trucking began when I got out of the Army at age 20 and drove a truck for a pulpwood and logging business I started with my dad in Wisconsin. I went over the road in 1973 and by 1980, I owned my own truck, enjoying the freedom that comes with being your own boss as an independent contractor. I’ve been driving for Watkins for the past 20 years.
I’ve always been competitive, even in our logging business and wherever I’ve worked. I’ve had to do a lot of my own thinking and learn how to make a profit. Some say I have a shrewd business sense, and I guess I do, but it’s helped me survive and be successful.
When I was 69 years old, I discovered an unusual hobby for someone my age where my competitiveness fit right in: running. I was already drawing Social Security at that time, so I didn’t have to work as steady as I always had, plus I was always home on the weekends. My daughter-in-law, Kim, was a recreational runner, and I decided it was something I wanted to try.
I started running with my daughter Sara on Sunday mornings. The first time, I could only run the distance between two utility poles before losing my breath. But I kept doing that every Sunday, and when I was out on the road, I would find places where I could jog a couple times a week. I kept pushing myself and seeing I was making improvement.
Several months later, I entered my first 5K race. I wondered if I would be the last person to cross the finish line, but I finished in 32 minutes, 26 seconds. I was quite proud of that.
Six years later and 25 pounds lighter, I am still hooked on running and racing. I joined the Jeff Galloway Marathon Training Group and now run about 20 to 24 races a year. Since there aren’t too many people who compete in the 75-79 age bracket, I usually get first place. I even have a room in my house where all of my trophies and medals are displayed.
I’ve always been health conscious and try to do a good job of eating healthy while out on the road. Twelve years ago, I bought my current truck straight from the factory, and I have a factory-installed inverter system that has plug-ins allowing me to use a refrigerator, freezer, microwave and other household appliances. My wife, Margot, actually plans healthy meals for each day I’m gone that I’ll either refrigerate or freeze, including fresh fruits and vegetables and some meat.
To date, I’ve run four full marathons (26.2 miles), 10 half marathons (13.1 miles) and a long list of 5Ks (3.1 miles). I also compete in stair-climbing races on a regular basis, and I’ve even done two half marathons with my daughter, Sara, which is a joy for me. In fact, many of my family members have taken up running after seeing me race. Catch me if you can, because I have no intentions of slowing down yet!