Starting small, Salvatore J. Ciulo, 54, and John I. Stirling, 70, competed in 6.2- and 13.1-mile running races.
Crossing the finish line at each event with a faster time than before has kept their momentum going. Always searching for the next competitive running level, the running partners together have joined multiple full marathons, at 26.2 miles each. Their competitive spirit, determination and desire for bragging rights lead them to sign up for Niagara Ultra-marathon, a 31.5-mile race Saturday at Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, Canada.
It only takes a couple of hours to run that, but youve got a lot of training to do, said Mr. Stirling of Watertown.
Mr. Ciulo, also of Watertown, said when training for a marathon, prospective participants should run 40 to 50 miles per week, training in all weather conditions.
You cant cherry pick a nice day to train, he said. Training for the ultra marathon is the hardest weve trained.
Earlier this month, the pair ran on flat land and up and down many hills from the Stewarts on State Street to the Walmart Super Center in Lowville. While both Mr. Ciulo and Mr. Stirling run miles within Watertown city limits, they said time spent running through the most rural places within Jefferson County has been breathtaking.
When I (drive) down 81 and see a secondary road going off of the highway, my mind wonders where it goes, Mr. Stirling said. Id run on any road.
Throughout the past five years, the pair have run nearly 25,000 miles collectively. Mr. Stirling has run 17 marathons and Mr. Ciulo 11.
The ultra-marathon will be their seventh marathon theyve run together, and there are no plans to stop.
Mr. Stirling and Mr. Ciulo met several years ago, when they worked on Fort Drum. As their friendship developed they both realized they shared a love of running, and became running partners.
Mr. Ciulo said not only can he and Mr. Stirling be proud not only of achieving all their racing goals, but also of the health benefits theyve experienced through running and staying fit.
I have diabetes Type 2, and I dont take any medications, Mr. Stirling said. The running takes care of it.
According to the American Heart Association, without regular physical activity the body loses its ability to function well. Even moderate exercise may help reduce several health risks, including, but not limited to, lowering blood cholesterol levels and decreasing the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
Mr. Stirling said he was introduced to the sport of running in the mid 1960s when he was stationed with the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C., and ran a little bit in the 1970s before picking it back up in 2001. Mr. Ciulo, however, said hes been running since he joined the military in 1975.
Helping them get to the next levels of competitive running, both men said their wives, JoAnne Stirling and Anita Ciulo, have continued to support their efforts, as have many family and friends.
Without running, they said, life wouldnt be the same.
One day would then be just the same as the other, Mr. Stirling said.