BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Thousands runners will take to the Capital City this weekend for a series of races that make up the Louisiana Marathon Weekend.
That includes Joe Mondello, the oldest man in Baton Rouge registered to compete in the full marathon.
Visit the LSU Lakes almost any time of day and you are likely to find a mixed crowd of runners and walkers enjoying the breathtaking views. Among them is marathoner, Joe Mondello.
"It's the closest I've come to meditation. I wouldn't say it's an obsession, but it's kind of a central part of life for me," Mondello said.
Running, he said, has been a part of him since high school. He ran cross country and played baseball, but then, Mondello admitted, his teen years got the best of him.
"Then I started to smoke like a big shot and that cut down on my physical activity. At age 35, I quit smoking and got back to running," Mondello said.
Mondello never looked back. He said he began racing in 5Ks, 10Ks, and 10 milers. His run of loving really took off.
"Most of all, it makes me feel really good physically and mentally," Mondello said.
When he turned 55, Mondello said he joined a running club and started running longer distances. "I thought, these are healthy, happy people. I want to be just like them," Mondello said.
To date, he has run seven half marathons and six marathons, including the Louisiana Marathon two years ago.
"If you don't keep moving, you get old," Mondello said.
Mondello is 70 years young and is making a return to the Louisiana Marathon on Sunday.
"I love the course. It's beautiful. I love the live oaks, the neighborhoods, but that finish. There's a long overpass before the finish line and it's tough," Mondello said.
He does not believe in good luck charms and doesn't really follow any sort of training plan, but he has run enough marathons to know sometimes it's a mental game. He said when the road ahead looks tough, he focuses on three words: joy, peace, and health.
"Repeating those words as I'm breathing, it helps to put me in a place where I'm not ruminating about stuff," Mondello said.
His goal this time around is to run 26.2 miles in five hours or less. If so, he said this might be his final rendezvous with long distance races, but he is not ready to hang up his running shoes just yet.
"Maybe I will downshift and do halves and ten milers and 10Ks instead. We'll see," Mondello said.
Mondello said for now, he is focused on a successful finish. The Louisiana Full and Half Marathon begins in front of the Louisiana State Capitol on Sunday, January 15 at 7 a.m. The event also features a 10K, 5K, and a race for kids on Saturday.
Click here for details and registration information.