He’s been called “Old Rambo” and “Mr. Adidas,” but perhaps the best title for Danny Seagle is just that of “competitor.”
The Morganton athlete recently turned 80 years old with 50 years and 50,000 miles of running under his belt, along with 56 years of weight training. He isn’t showing any signs of stopping, however, as Old Rambo was back in action on Saturday after winning his age group in two different 5ks the weekend before.
As he celebrates becoming an octogenarian, Seagle hopes to inspire other seniors to stay or become active and athletes of all ages to keep up a healthy lifestyle.
For Seagle, running and weight training have helped him overcome ailments over the years — pneumonia in his early 50s left him with scar tissue in his lungs that led to shortness of breath; he suffered bursitis in his hip and leg joints six years ago this June; a torn right bicep limited his weight training six years ago this July; he has experienced several blood clots in his left leg, most recently in 2017; and he has arthritis and gout that are under control.
He began weight training in 1963 while stationed in Germany with the United States Army. He began lifting at 130 pounds and was 150 pounds by 1965 when he returned home with 200 pounds of York weights waiting for him. Wanting more space to work out, Seagle approached Clinton Foust about starting weight training at the Collett Street Recreation Center that bears Foust’s name.
Foust welcomed Seagle to the center and, not long afterward, young men began to join Seagle in the regimen bringing their own weights and using equipment donated by the community. Though the activities weren’t organized, they continued to grow in popularity until former Morganton Recreation Department Director Gary Leonhardt started memberships and equipped two rooms — one with machines and one with free weights. Seagle was hired as the supervisor and worked there until 2009.
Seagle’s personal records at 160 pounds are 285 for bench press — 125 pounds over his body weight — and 160 for the military press. Those marks accompanied Seagle’s personal best of being able to run 7-minute miles for up to five miles.
“My fitness goals were (and still are) about balance in running and weight training, as I wrote in an article for The News Herald in April 1981,” Seagle recently wrote. “My running began in April 1969 at 30 years of age. The weight training had me gaining weight from 130 in 1963 to 190 in 1969, so I decided to start a running program at the NCSD track, which was dirt but now paved. As I ran laps, the weeds would grow to the inside lane where I ran daily — and alone.
“Running became popular in the U.S. when Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic marathon — and the NCSD track became popular. Soon enough, interest grew until a running club was formed, the Table Rock Runners. The club was popular for many years and my cousins, Rhonda and Robin Mabe, kept the club in the news with the May Day Biathlon/5k for years.”
As a runner, Seagle has competed over the years in distances including 40 and 100 yards; 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters; and three, five, six, eight and 10 kilometers, along with a one-hour run at Appalachian State University where he covered seven miles and 330 yards. He has competed in track meets at ASU, Furman, UNC Asheville and Wake Forest and in Hickory, Charlotte, Mooresville and Kingsport, Tenn., in July 1982, where at 43 years old, he competed in the 30 and over classification but won every event entered — 400, 800, long jump and discus.
In 1987, he was the first of 26 Burke County runners to carry the Olympic training torch for one mile each through to Catawba County. Runners eventually carried the torch all the way to Raleigh.
Since the 1980s, Seagle has competed or run at events throughout the Southeast, placing highly and continuing to find success in his age group up to the present day.
As he seeks to continue inspiring others — writing: “If you work or work out in the recreation fitness rooms, then you owe me!” — Seagle credits a long list of those who have inspired him.
They include his students at the rec center, many of whom still thank him today; the Burke County Sports Hall of Fame; former Burke County Sheriff Jerry Richards, who started a fitness class for the department at the NCSD track; Budrow Johnson, a former Glen Alpine High standout who trained inmates at the local high rise prison; North Carolina School for the Deaf; fellow age-group competitors Charles Buckner, Lester Copeland and Eddie Gwaltney; Dr. Scott Scoggins and staff; and Monica, a physical therapist at Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge.
His over-80 heroes include “Mr. Outdoors” Bob Benner, Jim Cates, Jerry Norvel, Walter Pharr, Ed Phifer, Joe Eddie Roper and Eberhard Will. And Seagle gives a special shout-out to World War II paratrooper Carl Memmel, who still weight trains in the Collett Street weight room and has passed on his commitment to fitness to his family — most recently standout grandsons at Patton High School, Spencer and Pierce Memmel.
As he continues competing into his 80s, Seagle says he will keep going by the six Ps: passion (which comes from within), purpose (why he does it), performance (with joy and effort), patience (it takes time), production (results) and pride (in reaching goals).
Justin Epley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8943.