Retirement hasn't slowed 'Old Don'

Running columnist

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Don Offermann has been a prominent name in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park for many years. As a faculty member, coach, and eventually superintendent at Oak Park and River Forest High School from 1964 through 1999, he is well known to thousands of OPRF grads. Since retirement from OPRF, he has remained active, working as Business Development Officer for the Forest Park National Bank.

He has also served on many civic organizations, including Chairman of the West Suburban Hospital board of directors during the sensitive process of the hospital's acquisition by Resurrection Health Care, and has since been named to Resurrection's board of directors. He was also a member of the West Suburban College of Nursing Board of Directors, Concordia University Foundation Board, Rotary International, the Hemingway Foundation Advisory Board, the Dominican University Advisory Board and the Loyola University College of Education Advisory Board. And I've probably missed a bunch of others. In short, Don Offerman has very actively served the Oak Park-River Forest communities for many years.

But this is a running column. Don is also an active competitive runner, and remains a frequent age-group winner in local road races.

Back in the late 1960s he founded the Oak-William Runners (OWies) evolving from his days as track coach at OPRF, when he and team member Rich Brooks would run between home and school. Brooks, a River Forest resident is still around, and the OWies are now an informal group of runners who still meet at that intersection where Offermann lives. The group has grown to the point where it's not uncommon for about 15 guys, plus an occasional lady, to show up for Tuesday and Thursday runs at 5:30 a.m. (women certainly haven't been excluded, but the group has been primarily male over the years).

Offermann, known as "Old Don" to differentiate him from the other Don in the group, is still one of the regulars, keeping pace with the much younger guys on their weekday runs through Dominican University, the Dominican Priory and Concordia University ?#34; the Three Campus Route ?#34; totaling about four miles. He also participates in the group's Saturday runs through the woods along the Des Plaines River, and occasionally in their more sparsely-attended Sunday morning runs. Retirement from his academic career certainly hasn't included retirement from running.

He has mostly avoided injuries by training carefully, but he certainly isn't the stereotypical old guy who jogs a mile or two once or twice a week. In local races this past fall, Don won second place in his age group at the Makin' Tracks 5K on Sept. 25, and another second at the Frank Lloyd Wright 5K on Oct. 24, in both instances finishing only behind runners from outside the community. No casual jogging there.

But he's not bullet-proof. Once, Brooks brought his dog on one of the OWie morning runs. The mutt darted to one side, tripping Offermann and sidelining him for a few weeks with a pulled muscle?#34;the last time the dog ever participated, and a painful example of why dogs and running groups aren't a good mix. And on an icy Saturday run last winter he slipped on the river trail under the railroad bridge and dislocated his little finger, finishing the run with the finger protruding at a 90 degree angle. He casually mentioned that he should probably go to the ER (West Sub, I presume). On Tuesday he was back for the regular morning run.

Perhaps that fitness and good health through continued running is a factor that has enabled him to serve so many civic organizations over the years. And that's an interesting concept?#34;running can help make you a better citizen.


Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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