Lewis Ress’ son Brad, 56, doesn’t run — that is, if you don’t count the time four years ago that he jumped out of an airplane, free fell 14,500 feet and then competed in a 50K (31 miles) foot race.
Ress’ wife Esta, 87, who has undergone two knee replacements, doesn’t run — that is, if you don’t count the 118 10K (6.2 miles) road races and three marathons she ran before her body said, ‘No more.’
And Lewis, who turned 91 in September? He doesn’t stop.
Ress, a retired South Florida trial attorney who splits his time between Aventura and Vero Beach, still does legal consulting, has written two books, produces twice-monthly podcasts and on Sunday will run the half marathon event in the Life Time Miami Marathon.
The marathon and its 13.1-mile ancillary half marathon begin together at 6 a.m. in front of the FTX Arena on Biscayne Boulevard and end down the street in front of Bayfront Park.
No one in the combined field of 15,000 will be older than Ress.
The oldest marathoner is an 81-year-old woman.
The half marathon will have two women aged 80 and five men ranging from 80 to Ress’ 91.
“I’m always the oldest one in the race but I never tell anybody,” quipped Ress, who started running in his early 30s and has done 15 full marathons and more than 60 half marathons, never quitting in any of them. “I’m pretty fit.”
Ress, who has run nearly every half marathon in the Miami Marathon event that began in 2003, calls himself “a very little guy” at 5-6 and almost 150 pounds. He is also a very athletic one.
He began playing tennis at age 5 where he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and continues to play competitively at least twice a week — singles, not doubles. “In my age group,” he said, “if I play doubles the people push the ball around and don’t hit it to me. They have no choice in singles.”
Ress was ranked as high as 12th in Florida in the Men’s 35-over division. He won the 48th annual Florida Clay Court Championships in Miami Beach in 1977 for the 45-over division.
He also plays 18 holes of golf twice a week.
“He’s very good in tennis and has a good game on the greens chipping and putting in golf,” said Jack Castaneda, 65, who plays both sports with Ress — tennis on Williams Island and golf at Emerald Hills in Hollywood. “Lew is super active for anybody, not just a 91-year-old. He knows the game and he’s sharp.
“In golf he likes looking for balls in the water. We have these retrievers in our bags and when we hit the balls in the water we grab our long sticks.”
Castaneda has an arthritic knee from a motorcycle accident in high school and “is missing the ACL in my left knee,” he said, so he doesn’t do much running. But when the Covid-19 pandemic “first hit,” Castaneda said, “we couldn’t play tennis, so Lew said, ‘Jack, let’s stay in shape and run around the Turnberry golf course.’ My pace was still a little faster and he’d say, ‘OK, see that stop sign over there, sprint to that and come back,’ and he would still be running.
“He jogs in little steps, but he gets there.”
Lee Roth, 89, is another competitive tennis player who said he gives Lewis “a hard time because he’s older than me and not supposed to win.” Roth won the USTA’s 85-over National Clay Court Championship, but he doesn’t run. Instead, he walks two miles daily before breakfast and tennis.
“I jogged with him once from Williams Island to the Bagel Cove in Aventura,” Roth said. “He set the pace. But I wouldn’t even think about running 13 miles. Mentally it’s very difficult to run, and more than that it’s not fun.”
Ress thinks its gloriously fun, though he never was fast. He said his best 26.2-mile time was 3:57 many years ago in the Marine Corps Marathon, several minutes slower than his wife’s best time in the former Orange Bowl Marathon when she was 49.
“I had over 100 trophies and stuffed them all into this huge duffel bag I had won and brought them to the boys and girls club in Miami when I had to stop running,” Esta said. “Lewis and I did a lot of running together. He’d look after me and usually tried to pour water on my head during the races and then would say, ‘Go!’ during the last parts.
“I think it’s fantastic he’s still running. He’s a very positive, good-hearted person. I’ll be on the sidelines Sunday cheering him in.”
Brad Ress, a retired South Florida neurotologist who now serves as a volunteer emergency medical technician in Montana, said his father is “amazing.”
“He’s got stamina and perseverance, just a very positive thinker and really good person,” said Brad, who is a black belt in Krav Maga (military self-defense/hand-to-hand combat system developed for the Israel Defense Forces) and the former skydiver who ran the ultramarathon in Clewiston. “He’s tenacious. It’s a family trait.
“I’m proud to have him as my dad.”
Ress, who also has a non-running son Andrew, a plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, said he figures to finish the half marathon in about 4 1/2 hours. But he intends to keep running, despite his tiny steps. His training encompasses “one long run a week, up to nine or 10 miles” at his peak for the Miami half, and a shorter run that include speed work and hills or bridges.
His books, available on Amazon among other distributors, are “Miami Memoirs: Including the Maharani’s Ring” (2020); and “Strange Cases and Wild Tales” (2019). “Florida attorney Lewis Ress uncorks a caseload of true, weird, wonderful and wild stories from an always-eventful six decades of life in the law,” is how the latter book is described on Amazon.
“Eventful” would be fitting for Ress’ running adventures as well. Many years ago he said he almost didn’t finish the Last Resort Marathon in Key West. “People were fainting all over the place,’’ he said, “and I came in weaving and wobbling in the shape of an S. I finished second in my age group.”
What year was that?
“1812,” Ress said, laughing, before looking up that it was in the early 1980s.
Ress, a philanthropist who has given to several South Florida causes, said he loves the event course that takes him down Biscayne Boulevard, past the cruise ships below the MacArthur Causeway — “very lovely” — and down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, “when we run past all the lovely art deco hotels.”
Ress said runners are “the nicest people in the world, bar none — the kindest, most considerate, caring, decent people you would ever want to meet. They’re very concerned about the world and ecology.” Many of them know him by his thick crop of white hair and will stop to talk and encourage him along the route. When he’s not meeting people during the race, he sings songs to himself and dedicates each mile to people he knows who have passed away.
“Running is a great chance for introspection, for reflection, for a little psychotherapy,” Ress said.
Miami Marathon co-founder and Life Time chief running officer Frankie Ruiz said the oldest age group Sunday will be 80-older, with each of the top three men and women earning a special medal separate from the usual medal all finishers receive.
“We’re pushing the perceived limits of when people should hang up their running shoes,’’ Ruiz said. “Folks like Lewis Ress, he’s saying, ‘I may not be doing this at the same level I used to, but I still get the same joy.’
“At the end of the day there’s going to be just one winner, but the other 14,999 runners are competing at their own story, in their own way. Lewis Ress will have a good story to tell after this race.”
Said Ress: “If you look at how much slower you’ve gotten over the years because of the aging process it can be devastating. But if you’re glad to be alive, it’s wonderful.”