Life outside the classroom is taking a different shape these days for Carlin, who has tapped a passion from the past—long-distance running—for his post-retirement enjoyment.
At age 68, Carlin has become one of the country’s most successful runners in his age group.
Carlin admits even he finds it unusual. “I ran in college (while a student at Tufts University), but I was no great shakes,” he said. “After college, I just ran recreationally. And that was fine.”
Imagine his surprise, then, when he found himself winning medals and ribbons in the national championship masters races he was entering. “Part of it is the luck of the genes, what your body is capable of doing,” the economics professors said. “But part is also what you’re willing to train yourself to do.”
In his case, that meant running more often during the week and running in the winter, when in the past he’d shut down.
Carlin has found that being serious about the masters circuit comes at a price. “There were many days this winter when it was subzero wind chill when I ran, and I was running on snowpack in order to be ready for my first race (in Melbourne, Fla., on Feb. 2),” he said.
There are physical concerns, too. “The enemy at this age is injury,” he noted. “Every race is a gift. Every race could be my last. I feel incredibly lucky.” But when he hears other runners saying, “Wow, I hope I’m running when I’m his age,” it feels good.
His running career has had a side benefit: "My kids think it’s really cool,” Carlin laughed. He has a son who is a senior at IU Bloomington and who “has bragged about me on Facebook,” said Carlin. He has been grateful that “my wife has been very supportive. She tells me ‘you’ve earned it—go for it.’”
Carlin’s new career began when Don Lein of USA Track and Field noticed Carlin’s times were competitive with some of the best in his age group and encouraged the IUPUI professor to compete nationally.
“I had no idea what was out there until Lein came along,” Carlin said. “But after I checked it out, I thought it was cool, and I decided I might want to try it.”
While Carlin enjoys running, he said the biggest benefit is the camaraderie. "I get to hang out with people, old and young, who share my passion, people I don’t normally get to see," he said. "And I love the tales they tell.”
His impending retirement from IUPUI at the end of May will open up even more possibilities.
“I’ll have plenty to do,” Carlin said. He is considering writing a memoir about the discovery of his long-distance racing potential, recalling a recent conversation he had with a philosophy professor in the Barnes & Noble coffee line in the Campus Center, when a fellow faculty member told Carlin his avocation “was very cool.”
“He told me that (boomers) need a template for how to retire well,” Carlin said, and added the faculty member called Carlin’s exploits “a great example for others.”