Clarence Hartley dies at 84; runner dominated Georgia records

Clarence made running comeback at age 68.

Atlanta Track Club members are mourning the death May 26 of Clarence Hartley, who was days shy of turning 85. “He holds most of the running records in all the age divisions of 70 and above in the State of Georgia, as well as age-group records in several other states,” writes Don Burkett. “He was looking forward to turning 85 on June 2, so that he could start breaking records in the next age group division.” Mainly a roadie, apparently, Clarence found his way to the track, and was the top M75 5K man in 2005, with a 25:00.2. He was notable for resuming running at age 68 — after taking a break for a half-century. A wonderful profile in Runner’s World said: “A 4:09:36 marathon debut in early 2005 surprised and greatly motivated Hartley, then 75, and he almost immediately set his sights on Boston. … But two big obstacles cropped up to block Hartley’s path to Boston, first a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March of 2006 and then, two years later, a bout with prostate cancer. Most men in their late 70s would be very happy to merely survive such daunting challenges, but through all the treatments and difficult months Hartley never forgot his Boston dream.”

How’d he do at Boston?

The Boston Marathon Facebook page said yesterday: “He completed the 2011 Boston Marathon at age 81 — the oldest registered man that year — finishing in a remarkable four hours and twenty-six minutes.”

Don Burkett sent this obituary:

My friend Clarence


Clarence D. Hartley, of Young Harris, GA, passed away at age 84 on May 26, 2014, after a brief illness.

Born in Cadillac, Michigan, Mr. Hartley grew up primarily in Portland, Oregon. He served in the United States Air Force for 24 years, flying missions over Korea and more than 100 missions during the Vietnam War alone. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross “for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a navigator” for missions flown between 1968 – 1969 for the 41st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron.

Other awards include the Air Medal + four bronze oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, the Korean Service Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal + four bronze service stars. He was assigned to the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command when he retired, at the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Mr. Hartley ran Track & Field in high school. Years later, at the age of 68, he entered a local 5K on a lark. He won his age group of 65-69, rediscovering his love of running. Over the next 17 years he would compete in more than 200 races of varying distances.

A member of the Atlanta Track Club, he holds most of the running records in all the age divisions of 70 and above in the State of Georgia, as well as age-group records in several other states. He was looking forward to turning 85 on June 2, so that he could start breaking records in the next age group division.

In 2005 he ran his first 26.2 mile marathon, qualifying him for the next year’s Boston Marathon. His entry would be delayed six years, beating back two separate cancer diagnoses. He completed the 2011 Boston Marathon at age 81 — the oldest registered man that year — finishing in a remarkable four hours and twenty-six minutes.

He was featured in an article that year in the magazine Runners World. His last competitive race was the Run the River 10k in Roswell, GA, on March 29, 2014, finishing in 59 minutes and 10 seconds.

A private service will be conducted for family members. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Riki Hartley, daughter Denise Dietel, daughter Debra Hartley, son Christopher Hartley (Micah Buis), his grandchildren Carson Couch and Cameron Couch, his brother Ralph Hartley, and his sister Kathleen Wilmot.

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May 31, 2014

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