- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

“It’s a sad day in Louisville,” Chuck Moeser said when asked if it was true the 53-year-old road race star was retiring from the sport he has loved for more than four decades.

“I have a lot of catching up to do in my life, like finishing up my home,” he continued. “How many years can you go putting things off? Getting ranked No.1 in the Washington Running Report isn’t of interest to me anymore. I ran 2:37 at [the] Steamtown [Marathon] last year [fifth fastest masters time ever in the Scranton, Pa., race], but I’m not getting my house done.

“I guess there is nothing really interesting saying that I’m trying to be responsible.”

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Asked if he still would compete locally from time to time, Moeser stressed: “I’m done competing 100 percent. I don’t have a gray area. I’m not halfway about it. Either I’m gunning for it or I’m not. And right now I have to get the house done and get my kids through college.”

Moeser said he has been reconstructing his 1960s rambler in Sterling for two years and his wife “is getting fed up with me.”

One must understand that Moeser has not become one of the most feared masters road racers in the nation by treating his running as a hobby. His daily workouts have become the talk of Saturday-morning group runs around the area.

The Sterling native trained as intensely as he raced. He only knew one gear, and that was all-out. Thus he is choosing to retire rather than give less than 100 percent.

But what a career he had.

Over a span of hundreds of races from the mile to the marathon, Moeser beat nearly all of his masters competitors, some 10 years younger, and many times won races outright. Two of his most memorable races include 1994 victories in the Alexandria Turkey Trot and the Jingle Bell Run in Washington — at age 44.

“Winning the 1994 Alexandria Turkey Trot against my biggest rival, Ron Kulik, in the last quarter mile” after being in eighth place most of the race was a career highlight, Moeser said, as well as “winning the 1994 Jingle Bell Run from behind in the last 200 meters against 3,000-plus runners.”

But he most savors outrunning legends Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter in the Mobil Masters Mile at George Mason University in 1995.

He was a Running Times Masters Runner of the Year (age 50-54) in 2003 and honorable mention in 2002. He also owns Virginia state records for the 5K (age 45-49, 15:53) and 10K (age 50-54, 33:54).

Moeser spent his entire masters career in the Washington area, moving back home to Sterling in 1991 at age 40. He grew up just a mile from his current home and graduated from Loudoun County High in 1969. He said he ran the 220 and 440 in school but had little coaching.

Two years later, he was drafted into the Army. Because of his fitness, he skirted going to Vietnam, instead going to jump school, joining the Special Forces and eventually Ranger School. His last six months in the Army took him to Alaska, where he tested cross country skis and worked out on the wooden slats for 10 miles a day.

“I wanted to keep cross country skiing,” Moeser said. So he moved to New Hampshire in 1974 and was part of the developmental program of the Olympic ski team. He augmented his skiing with running and bicycling, eventually nailing a personal best marathon of 2:24 in Wisconsin in 1983 at age 32.

He still owns the New Hampshire single-age state records for 10K (age 36, 31:47) and 10 miles (age 37, 56:26).

“That’s when I realized my genes weren’t going to take me any further,” said Moeser, who continued to work at a ski area and do summer construction work until the lack of snow and the New England recession of the late ‘80s forced him to look for work again.

“My parents told me there was plenty of work in Virginia and I should come down here,” Moeser explained. “I moved to Sterling on my 40th birthday, then [wife] Linda and the kids came down later.”

Many people will remember Moeser as the man without a shirt. Even on a freezing cold day two months ago, Moeser ran topless at the DCRRC Martin Luther King 5K. He said he adopted his look in the mid-‘80s.

“I do have a little bit of an ego,” he said. “And I always run a little hot. And being a contractor, you build your upper body pretty well. Lining up against runners who don’t have much of an upper body, I look buff.

“I realized one winter that the singlet doesn’t really do very much so you don’t need a shirt in the winter. People would be going ‘Who is this guy?’ and I’d hear people talking about me and that’s exactly what I wanted. It’s the reputation I wanted.”

It is the same ego that will force him to un-retire someday.

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