Boulder City’s “Peter Pan”: Meet Doug Smith

You’ve no doubt seen him running everywhere in Boulder City. He’s known in running circles as “Superman” or “Peter Pan”. He’s 75 years young Doug Smith who continues to prove you can find the fountain of youth in the Mojave Desert!

Doug, and his wife, Debbie, came to Boulder City almost two decades ago from California, where he retired as an electrical engineer with AT&T. He and Debbie were in Vegas, attending a concert, and planned to have breakfast with the late Jon Barth of Barth Electronics, when they stopped at the Boulder Dam Hotel. Over breakfast, his wife said, “I feel at home,” to which Doug agreed and within a little more than six months, they had relocated here. Doug and Debbie are the proud parents of two sons and a daughter.

A misdiagnosed condition as a child kept him from physical education classes, but helped him to develop an interest in electronics. He was a ham radio operator and obtained a first class radio/TV license when he was just 16, which proved both profitable and practical when he went to college. He was able to work at radio stations to help put himself thru college.

Running, as Doug says, became a popular way to exercise in the 1970s. While many gave up after months or years, Doug is still out every day, running approximately 250 miles a month. He uses the Strava app to track his runs and discovered last year that he is in the top 1% of runners of any age group. He spends about 90 minutes a day running, including a 3-mile run from his home to his office inside the Boulder Dam Hotel. His office displays many clippings of his life, both as a young man and as an adult, a small laboratory and classroom, where he still teaches occasional classes.

“Running is dancing, in a straight line, to music,” as Doug describes it. What is he listening to these days? Music that he can “dance” too, of course. This would be guitar instrumentals of beach type music – sort of a combination between surf music and rock and roll. He played a few clips for us of the music and explained how the beat helps keep him on track and in rhythm during his runs.

Doug gave us several tips for being a successful, satisfied runner:

  1. Start off slowly. Many people give up on running because they go “too far, too fast, too soon”, according to Doug. Ideally, he suggests beginning with stretching, then a slow run for 1/2 mile, followed by walking for another 1/2 mile. Continue the series for up to two miles to become accustomed to finding your ideal pace.
  2. Stay hydrated. Doug runs with up to 5lbs of water in the summer. You can buy hydration drinks or use regular water to replace the fluid being lost through perspiration. Doug prepares his own hydration drink by combining water with a tiny amount of salt, and water flavoring packets like True Lime water enhancers. He enjoys the Black Cherry flavor.
  3. Stay safe. If possible, run with a friend. If this isn’t possible, make sure you let someone know your route. In the Strava running app, you can send a text to a loved one. That text contains a link that shows your location on a map. Other running and exercise apps have similar features. Bring a cellphone so that you can call if you encounter a problem.
  4. Get enough rest. Doug gets 7-8 hours of sleep per night. it’s important to allow your body time to rejuvenate for the next running session.
  5. Enjoy the moment. Doug advises that running – done properly – can help one clear one’s mind, and return to a relaxed, comfortable state. This is one of the many hidden benefits of running.

“There are no stereotypes in running,” according to Doug. You can’t look at someone to determine their level of health or fitness. No one should be embarrassed to start a running program and there are plenty of happy corners of social media willing to give suggestions and encouragement. Doug belongs to a Facebook group called Running at 40 Plus. While they are based in the United Kingdom, there are thousands of runners from all over the world, encompassing all skill levels, who cheer each other on.

Doug suggests running one mile 3 times per week. If running isn’t physically possible, consider walking. Walking two miles a day is a great way to keep your heart healthy and maintain your weight. Of course, all exercise should be done under the supervision of your physician.

Some interesting details about Doug’s running habits:

  1. He eats an extra 40,000 calories per month, due to running.
  2. He goes through approximately six pairs of shoes a year, which totals about $1000 worth of new running shoes annually.
  3. He takes no prescription medications and has no physical ailments.
  4. He rarely goes to the gym.

So the next time you think about opening another bag of potato chips and binge watching your favorite series for the third time, maybe consider lacing up your running shoes and doing some “dancing in a straight line, to music” instead!

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