Haviland recently had a chance to show off his abilities as a distance runner where he was declared the winner for the 70 to 74 age group at the USA Track and Field 2012 USA 24 Hour National Championships.
The event was conducted in Cleveland on May 5 and 6.
It was the second time Haviland, who serves on the Nelson Planning and Zoning Commission, competed in the race. He tried the race 10 years ago when he was 60 and came in second place.
This time around he said, “I’d just turned 70 and thought, ‘I’ll run it faster at 70 than I would at 71 or 72.’”
Haviland, who regularly runs races longer than a traditional marathon, or 26.2 miles, said participants run for 24 hours straight on a paved course that’s just shy of a mile.
Haviland said he got so far ahead of his competitors that he stopped running at the 21st hour. His total mileage was 85 miles, but he said he could have easily gotten into the high 90s.
He said the runners were allowed to stop and rest. He said one competitor stopped during the race and opted for a massage.
The race, he said, was different from traditional marathons, because runners have to find a way to not get blisters, stay hydrated, to keep muscles cramps at bay and keep salt and fuel in their systems.
“You have to find a way to get calories,” Haviland said. He said he had to get creative at times.
Haviland began running in his late 50s. He started out with 5Ks, 10Ks and some half-marathons, or 13.1 miles.
His wife, Drina, also runs regularly and has competed in half-marathons and marathons.
He eventually started doing marathons and soon transitioned into ultramarathons.
Haviland has completed 13 100-mile races, most of which he said are done on trails. One race, he said, was done in a desert in California, where he ran 135 miles in June.
“On these longer races, it’s not so much the physical (part),” he said. “You do have to be trained and be a decent runner, but the mind over matter thing is way more important. It’s pretty hard.”
Haviland shared his story with Cherokee County Commissioner Harry Johnston, who represents the Cherokee side of Nelson on the board.
Johnston said he always been impressed with Haviland, but has gained more respect for his tenacity.
“I now see a whole new dimension I didn’t see before,” he said.
Haviland is retired as an economic developer for the city of Santa Clarita, Calif.
As a member of the planning commission, Haviland has worked closely with Cherokee County leaders to bring more parks and recreation options into the city, which sits on the Cherokee-Pickens county border.
Haviland said he hopes his success at the championship will demonstrate to others, particularly older Cherokee residents, that they can do anything they set their minds to.
“I’m not as fast, but I’m doing great,” he said. “You need to just keep going, which I have.”