By Gail Smallwood
“In the solitude of the long run we get to know ourselves.” John Platt ’49
John Platt is a runner.
He runs in 5K races, half marathons, 5 milers and other races, and has run all over the world, from Saudi Arabia to the Great Wall of China. In 2019 he ran in at least 12 events, including the Houston Half Marathon and the Bethlehem Runner’s World Half Marathon. Throughout his running career he has competed in at least 200 races, at least 16 or 17 marathons and has won his age group in all three of the New York City Half Marathons in which he ran. Not bad for someone who did not start running until age 47.
John Platt will be 90 this year.
“Running gets you in touch with who you are,” he says. “To reach my 90th year and still be able to run is a blessing.”
It’s a blessing he is very happy to share with others. He is actively training several runners who are nearly 50 years younger than he is. And he devotes much of his time to designing their training schedules, attending their races, monitoring their times and helping them reach their goals.
“Watching these runners improve their times takes my breath away,” he says. “For me, especially at this point, I am living through the runners I coach. I love working with people who love the sport and want to work at it throughout their lifetimes.”
“I feel very blessed to work with him,” says Colby Bolesta, a nurse who began training with Platt in June, 2019. “He is very supportive and encouraging and is a great role model.”
As a student at Sem in the late 1940s, Platt excelled both in academics and athletics. An outstanding wrestler who went undefeated in Sem competition and won a national prep title in his senior year, Platt also played football. While earning his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering at Lehigh University, he earned three varsity letters in wrestling and won titles at several wrestling tournaments. In recognition of his accomplishments on the mat, Platt was inducted into the Sem Varsity Sports Hall of Fame.
After serving as a first lieutenant in the U. S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, he built a highly successful career in leadership positions at General Electric, Dressler Industries and Geosource before co-founding CerebroVascular Advances in San Antonio, Texas. Along the way, realizing he wanted to regain his strength and fitness, in 1977 he decided to start running. Within a year or so he began running marathons. A few years later he began working with Jim McLatchie, a Scottish national champion in cross-country running who has trained Olympic and national championship runners.
Training with McLatchie helped Platt further refine the training regimen he had developed for himself, which reflects his engineering focus. Since 1977 he has kept meticulous records of his training schedules, times and races. These records, and his own experiences, have helped him hone his own training practices, and he now shares those practices with the runners he coaches.
“Running is based on math and science, and records are vital for looking back on what you have done and accomplished,” he says. “I keep running logs for my runners and encourage them to do that for themselves.”
Platt’s first trainee was his wife, Julie, a physician and dedicated runner. He also trained a tutor for one of his 10 children. Since moving from Texas to Dallas, Pennsylvania in 2010 he has picked up several more running trainees; after meeting Sem Director of Communications Jill Snowdon at Alumni Weekend in May, 2019, he agreed to train her and two of her friends for the 2019 Scranton Steamtown Marathon.
Bolesta, a nursing supervisor for Homebound Health Services and one of Snowdon’s running partners, has been running for six years. She says Platt has helped her become more serious about her sport and she now runs every day, racking up as many as 85 miles a week. Thanks to his training methods, Bolesta says her time in the 2019 Steamtown Marathon in October, 2019 dropped by almost 90 minutes, compared to her time in the 2018 race.
“Most important, he has taught me to believe in myself, to be patient and to trust the process,” she says. “He helped me qualify for the Boston Marathon in April 2021, something I never imagined I could do.”
The individualized training programs Platt designs for his runners reflect his understanding of their life commitments, talents and goals. Their success is a source of great satisfaction for him, and it is always a thrill for his runners when he runs in a race with them.
“I think about how much I love this sport and how grateful I am to still be able to run the distance,” he says. “It’s why I raise my arms to the sky when I cross the finish line, win or lose, first or last.”
You may contact John Platt ’49 at firstname.lastname@example.org.