Lee Callaway and his wife Tami Adachi at the finish of the 2013 LA Marathon.
Lee Callaway, 77-year-old marathoner from Redwood City, didn’t think he stood a chance to run in the 2013 New York City Marathon. The veteran runner, who continues to work as a public relations and communications consultant, has completed the NYC Marathon twice before; but with a limited lottery this year, following the 2012 cancellation that provided registrants a refund or guaranteed spot in the 2013 race, Lee thought his odds to run it were "slim to nonexistent" to get one of the lottery spots.
But one day, Lee’s tennis-playing wife, Tami Adachi, was checking her USTA NorCal player page, as usual. She came across the USTA Serves "Run for a Cause."
As an Official Charity Partner in the 2013 ING NYC Marathon, USTA Serves puts together a team of runners who will dedicate their marathon experience to support the organization’s mission. Each team member pledges to raise a minimum of $3,500 for USTA Serves, which will be allocated to programs in his or her respective Section – and the runner receives guaranteed marathon entry.
Tami called her husband into her computer to show him and that’s all it took. "I read it and then we looked at each other and we’re like, ‘That’s it. We’re going,’" Callaway says. "I was blown away to even have the chance."
Lee took the time to talk to USTA NorCal about everything from his running inspiration to his wife’s tennis game.
USTA NORCAL: Tell me about your wife’s tennis background and what it means to you to be able to do something like this in support of her organization, USTA.
LEE: We’re both cyclists and work out together, but I have always had running and Tami wanted something more competitive and athletic, so she picked up tennis about two years ago. It began with some lessons Redwood City held at a park and she really took to the sport, so she began working with a pro. For the first time this year, she joined a team and has been playing in leagues. She gets so much out of it and it’s been so great for her; I’m just amazed at how far she has come so quickly. So to do this for USTA is not only another way to support her tennis and something she loves, but to do what I love while giving back to a greater cause.
We are so blessed to be able to still be as active as we are. I feel like I’m doubly blessed – I’m 77. When race results are posted, they post by age group and so I joke that I will keep running until there’s no one left in my age group.
USTA NORCAL: What inspires you to run and work to reach your goals?
LEE: There’s this ultra-marathoner, who’s in his 70s, and he said his ambition was to run a 100-mile race when he is 100-years-old. I thought, ‘If this guy can do that, I think I can keep at it.’
And then, simply, that runner’s high – some days, when I’m running everything is right, the weather’s right and I get in that rhythm. Of course, a lot of times, you’re tired, sweaty and hurting, but those days when it all clicks, there’s nothing like it; it makes it all worth it.
USTA NORCAL: When you do hit those walls and feel like you can’t keep going, what pushes you?
LEE: I guess if there’s any one thing in a race, it’s always the people who are there cheering for you Another is just knowing that I have had people commit something in support of me and this cause because I committed to do something, so that keeps me going.
And something just more personal that sticks with me – I was in the Marine Corps, and when we were training, we’d go out for long runs. When we would come back in from a grueling run, people would say ‘Marines always finish strong.’ That keeps me going even still – suck it up and keep going; Marines finish strong.
Lee’s Personal Marathon History:
San Francisco Marathon, 1983
San Francisco Marathon, 1987
Marines Marathon, 1997
Los Angeles Marathon, 1998
San Francisco Marathon, 1998
New York Marathon, 1998
New York Marathon, 2001 (independently raised more than $3,000 and split it between two funds set up for the recent 9/11 disaster)
Los Angeles Marathon, 2002
Los Angeles Marathon, 2010 (raised more than $6,000 for leukemia and lymphoma research with Team in Training)
Los Angeles Marathon, 2013
Lee’s Additional Philanthropy:
Trinity Presbyterian Church, San Carlos, Calif.
Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Association
IN HIS WORDS (from Lee’s USTA Serves 2013 ING NYC Marathon Application): I am a dedicated runner (slow but dedicated!) and am highly motivated to compete in the 2013 New York City Marathon. I have run the NYC Marathon twice and find it to be the most exhilarating and rewarding of all the marathons I have participated in. I am, further, extremely grateful to learn that the organization my wife belongs to, USTA, is a Community Charity Partner for this year's race. Because of the large number of people who will undoubtedly apply for spots in the lottery, and because it is my understanding that registrants from the 2012 race will automatically have a spot in this year's marathon, I thought my chances were slim to nonexistent to get in. Then along comes this opportunity from the USTA – it was truly a gift! I am delighted and honored to have a chance to give back by giving to this most worthy cause.