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Why does this 90-year-old want to run the Deseret News Marathon? Why not?

Dorwain Wahlquist is pictured on a recent trip with family members to Europe. The 90-year-old West Valley man has been preparing to run in Friday's Deseret News Marathon.

Dorwain Wahlquist is pictured on a recent trip with family members to Europe. The 90-year-old West Valley man has been preparing to run in Friday's Deseret News Marathon. (Family photo)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dorwain Wahlquist lives by the attitude of "why not?" according to his daughter.

Two years ago, while he sold his woodwork at the Raspberry Days festival in Garden City, he found his booth situated across from a free fall jumping tent. He observed a little girl make her way up the line to jump and then lose her courage when it became her turn — a process she repeated over and over.

"And after two days, he finally walked over to her and said: 'What are you afraid of? Just do it.' And he got her convinced and gave her enough confidence that she actually jumped. Then he turned around and said, 'That means I have to, too,'" said Karna Morrow, Wahlquist's daughter.

She recalled her father — a then-88-year-old — jumping off an 80-foot free fall because, "Why not?"

And now at the age of 90, Wahlquist, of West Valley City, plans to run the annual Deseret News Marathon on Friday.

"I don't know, I've been running for 40 years. I haven't run a marathon for the last six or eight years, so I thought now that I've turned 90, I'd go ahead and run it again," he explained.

Fifteen years ago, Wahlquist was the second-oldest racer in that year's Deseret News Marathon, and finished with a time just over 5 hours and 33 minutes, according to race records. Few people age 80 or older have participated within the past several years. The last time he ran the race, Morrow said her dad experienced difficulty from the heat, which caused him to take a break from the marathon.

She says he's been running 22 miles each morning to prepare for the marathon this time around. When asked whether that's true, Wahlquist brushed off the feat, saying, "Affirmative."

He began running in his 50s when his doctor suggested he do so to reduce headaches caused by too much unused energy, according to Morrow. At the time, Wahlquist managed mechanics at Delta's Salt Lake City International Airport hub.

His family says he's carried his "can do" attitude his whole life.

Wahlquist started working at age 14 during World War II by claiming he was older. When he went to college, he hitchhiked each week from his hometown of Eureka to Utah State University to get his degree in aviation. On the weekends, he would hitchhike back home to work on the railroad in order to pay for school.

"He's just always been, just a go-getter," said his son-in-law, Dave Morrow. "They don't make them like him anymore."

"It is inherent in that generation, and I wish that there were more exposure to (it). He is the last, and his best, high school, childhood friend passed away this year, and that was basically the last of his group, and a lot of his friends are gone. But that generation had a work ethic and a problem-solving, just because of living through the Depression, living through World War II, they just had to scrap to get by. And we haven't learned that. If my internet's down, then I just can't do anything," Karna Morrow added.

Family members say he wants to make the most of every minute.

"Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, it just depends on how you choose to use them," Karna Morrow said.

When asked what he would tell others who want to do something but don't know if they can, Wahlquist said, "I'd say, 'just do it.' I found out if you don't do something when you can, then pretty soon it's gone, and you don't have the opportunity. So you'd just as well give it a try when you've got the opportunity."

Because many of his family members live in other states, just a few family members will be there to watch him run Friday's marathon. Dave Morrow said they hope the community will step in to cheer him on.

"He is a very quiet, low-key man. I think it will surprise him, but when you see him smile, even in his wedding day pictures, he has a smile that almost breaks his face. I think he'll love it," Morrow said.


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