La Salle University professor competing in Penn Relays the day after his 86th birthday
PHILADELPHIA - The oldest and largest track-and-field competition in the country happens to be a Philadelphia tradition. The race attracts competitors from young to old and one racer in particular is proving that age is just a number.
The Penn Relays kicks off on Thursday, just in time for Joshua Buch's 86th birthday.
"My birthday is April 28th and what a gift," said Buch.
The birthday gift for Buch is the opportunity to run in the Penn Relays. Friday will be filled with birthday celebrations for the enthusiastic athlete before he hits the track the next day to compete in the 100-meter dash.
The 85-year-old is originally from Israel. When he came to the U.S. for college, he discovered a love and talent for tennis. Then, one day, his doubles partner commented on how quick he was on the court, suggesting that he compete in the Penn Relays. His first race was in 2015, and he hasn't looked back since.
"First time, it was just a challenge," said Buch.
But the challenge is what kept him coming back for more.
During his first race in 2015, another runner almost caught him at the end, but Buch pulled through and won.
"The atmosphere is intoxicating," he said.
Buch isn't just energetic about running. He's also a professor at La Salle University. For the last 52 years, Buch has taught finance and international business. But, instead of bragging about his many years of teaching experience, he prefers to highlight the impressive number of semesters he's been a part of.
"It's 104 semesters. It's kind of a bit more impressive number," he said.
Even during his walk in to work, Buch doesn't take the elevator. He says the walk up several flights of stairs to his classroom isn't just good exercise, it's also motivation for the students to arrive on time.
"I warn my students, ‘If you are late to class, you might have to run with me up and down the steps,’" Buch said. "And guess what? It works."
The multi-talented and passionate professor and athlete says he won't stop teaching until his students tell him he's too old, even though there isn't much of a chance of that happening. As he prepares to take on his 7th year in the Penn Relays, Buch says all he is worried about it finishing strong.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world," he said. "I don't care if I'm winning, if I finish healthy and not last."
His next big challenge is in July when he will be competing in the National Men's Tennis Singles Competition for players 85 and older in Pittsburgh. And just like anything else he's taken on, Buch is going into it with a healthy mind and body.