By Peg Lopata, Contributing writer
NEEDHAM – If there’s one person who may have the secret to a super long and healthy life, it could be Bill Schawbel, age 80. Schawbel of Needham, MA, lives on an old ten-acre farm by a river. But he’s not sitting by the water and watching it flow by. This native of Boston with four grandchildren is always on the run—in more ways than one.
“I ran relay races and cross country in high school. I’ve been running ever since,” said Schawbel.
Being an athlete, successful business owner, and corporate executive is just part of who this man is. What really makes him run is helping others, such as creating products that are of value and raising money for nonprofits. That’s why he runs marathons.
“In the last fifteen years, I have raised in excess of $100,000 for each marathon,” said Schawbel.
When he means to help out, he helps out in a big way. Short races? Minor contributions? Not his thing. He brings large-size tenacity, resilience, and endurance to everything he does.
Whether it’s the racecourse, treadmill, or the boardroom, Schawbel brings his optimism, too. His guiding philosophy of life is to be optimistic and to share his success with his family, friends, and nonprofits. He reads motivational and how-to books to always keep improving himself and what he does. His idea of relaxing is running, walking, swimming, climbing, bicycling, playing tennis, and traveling. He admires people with common sense, especially those who begin life poor and become successful later.
Common sense is what has driven his own life. So it’s not surprising that he feels his best life decisions have been getting a good education, being in the military, and his line of work. Another decision he’s glad he made was choosing to become what he calls an intrapreneur (one who is involved in innovation and startups using corporate money) in a major corporation and then leaving the corporation to become an entrepreneur in his own business forty years ago.
Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed down Schawbel. Though the Boston Marathon of 2020 was canceled, he still ran it—on a treadmill, completing the race in seven hours. In doing this, he raised money for Junior Achievement, an organization that supports the development of young entrepreneurs. As he said in the September 12 issue of The Taunton Gazette, “This organization changed my life. You build confidence. You learn teamwork, you learn innovation, but you understand that there’s a reason to make a living.”
Keeping things moving along in difficult times has not deterred Schawbel. But as he admits, in life, some luck helps everyone. “Luckily, we were already established in remote offices,” Schawbel explained. “We’ve been able to maintain our business and nonprofits with virtual tools.”
But Schawbel has an especially strong skill set in surmounting difficulties. After all, there’s a lot to contend with running long road races, such as the way your body feels running a marathon. It doesn’t sound like fun, even at the finish line. “When you finish, you feel relief, jelly legs, exhaustion,” he said. But there is a reward. Schawbel said he feels pride when he completes a marathon not finishing last. However, most importantly, he raises funds for worthy charities. After all, for Schawbel, it’s not about the race; it’s about helping others.
For the next marathon and his work life, he’s keeping that same common sense that’s made him successful in so many ways throughout his life. He’s looking most forward to just completing the marathon. For his career as a business owner and corporate executive, he is not planning on making any changes there. What does he hope to accomplish in the future?
“I look to retire at age 123 without changing any of what I currently do.” If there’s anyone around to break any world records for longevity, it seems like Schawbel’s the man to do it.