Every other day, Albert Burrier sets out for a three-mile jog on the hike-and-bike trail near Brookdale Gaines Ranch. This feat may not seem all that remarkable, but Burrier is 84 — and legally blind.
He still remembers the day he discovered running. It happened on a business trip to New Jersey in the 1950s. “I was sitting at this sidewalk café when I heard this noise coming down the boardwalk” he says. “A big group of runners ran by — I’d never seen anything like it.”
Constantly traveling for work, Burrier used to carry a tennis racquet from hotel to motel, but once he discovered running, everything changed.
“I got some shoes and I put them in my kit, and when I got to the motel in the evening, I’d go for a run or a jog, with no particular goal in mind,” he says. “I’d run for 30 to 45 minutes and that got me into good shape.”
A Runner is Born
Lubbock, Waco, Port Aransas, Carney. Everywhere he lived, Burrier found a running club. He joined the Waco Striders and then the West Texas Running Club. “You just fall in with a group of people and almost every weekend there’s a 5K or 10K run.”
Burrier ran on the beach, on trails and on the shoulders of roads. Eventually, he got the nerve to try a marathon. He finished marathons in Houston and San Antonio, and his 2008 Austin Marathon time qualified him for Boston. “After I ran the Boston Marathon I thought, ‘man, I can do anything.’”
So, in 2011, Burrier entered a 50K ultramarathon in Big Bend — 31 miles across rugged, unforgiving terrain. “I wasn’t used to the high altitude and I was the oldest person there,” he says. “I was the last person to finish, but I did finish.”
Never Too Old to Run
Now living at Brookdale Gaines Ranch in Austin, Texas, Burrier takes advantage of the city’s elaborate system of connected trails. “There’s a hike and bike trail that runs right by Brookdale and it’s the safest place I’ve ever run, other than the beach,” he says. “I just stay on the right and I can get three or four miles, easy.”
Besides three long runs a week, Brookdale staff members take Burrier to a nearby track so he can do sprints and speed work. “Physical activity is my thing,” he says. “Some people here can see forever, but maybe they’re not taking care of their lower body — you’ve got to take care of what you’ve got.”
In February, Burrier ran the 5K at the Austin Marathon and took home first place in the 80 to 99 age group. His favorite Brookdale employee, Sales Counselor Morgan Eckert, took him to the race and ran it herself. “She did very well,” Burrier says, proudly.
Portrait of a Runner
With a degree in agriculture from Texas Tech, Burrier sold farm equipment across the high plains of Texas, and later managed U.S. and Canadian sales for a company that made aerial lift equipment. “I’ve always been one of those people who knocked on doors,” he says.
This same grit and tenacity inspired Burrier to run all over Texas. He lights up when he talks about the hand-sewn quilt made from his racing T-shirts. “There are at least 30 to 40 runs on there. Anytime there was a run anywhere, I did it.” Burrier even ran a race at a nude sunbathing resort. “My wife went along to chaperone me,” he jokes.
Besides the health benefits that come from running, Burrier savors the friendships he’s formed on long runs. “I have a running buddy I met in Abilene who I haven’t seen in seven years,” he says. “But we talk on the phone twice a day and we always talk about our runs.”
Burrier may seem fortunate to be able to run at 84, but he’s had his share of challenges. “I’ve had glaucoma, lymphoma and prostate cancer,” he says, “but they all inspired me to get in better shape.”
Retired, with two grown daughters, Burrier lives at Brookdale Gaines Ranch with his wife and their beloved puppy. “The people here are fantastic,” he says. “I don’t ever go down the hall without people saying hello.”
Burrier enjoys the gym, the hot tub, and doing aqua zumba at the pool. When he’s not working out, he’s encouraging the chef to add more spice to his favorite Southwestern dishes. Every time he sits down to eat, the staff presents him with his very own bottle of Tabasco sauce.
Burrier certainly enjoys the spice of life. It’s kept him moving through all the ups and downs. “Running is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Burrier, who still dreams of one last marathon. “I don’t know what makes people want to run but it’s been good for me — I just love it. My vision has gone away, but I can still run.”
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