Eighty-nine-year old Charles Terrell will take to the Cotton Row Run on Memorial Day alongside his three daughters. Participating in the annual fixture event in downtown Huntsville since 1985, Terrell will walk the 5K portion of the event as he suffers from spinal stenosis. Photo- Bob Labbe

At Age 89 Charles Terrell To Walk The 5K Cotton Row Run With Three Daughters Alongside

HARVEST- Throughout the grass growing season the sounds of a push lawnmower can be heard coming from the lawn of a home on Badger Drive on the border of Harvest and Madison. Still extremely active, such as mowing his own lawn, Charles Terrell will continue his prowess of participating in the annual Cotton Row Run on Memorial Day.

The 89-year old will dress in his running gear, lace up his shoes and walk the 5K race of the multi-event 44th annual Cotton Row Run in downtown Huntsville. He will do so alongside his three daughters who will walk with their father as he partakes in the 5K distance event he began in 2010. Prior to moving to the 5K, Terrell ran in the 10K distance race beginning in 1985 at the urging of a friend.

“I was a high school basketball referee at the time and I was looking at running to stay in good physical shape,” said Terrell. “I’ve been running ever since. Now I’m walking and I hope I can finish the race.”

Six years ago Terrell was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition of the spine causing lower back pain or cramping in one or both legs. His condition has caused him to stop running and walk his way through the Cotton Row Run races. To keep in good physical shape, Terrell walks on his treadmill four days a week. His additional hobby is completing jigsaw puzzles, which he glues front and back and then frames. Many of those completed puzzles hang throughout his home where he lives alone after his wife, Lila, passed away four years ago. They were married for 62 years.

Terrell was among a class of 10 who graduated in 1952 from Industrial High School located in Southern Mississippi. He then served in the United States Army from 1954-1956. After some education in junior college, he chose to complete his degree in electrical engineering at Mississippi State graduating in 1964. He soon moved to Huntsville where he began working for NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center. Later, working for both General Electric and Chrsyler his duties included working on numerous NASA high profile projects such as the Saturn I and Saturn 5 rockets and the Skylab program. He retired in 1990.

“I ran an array of races throughout the Southeast including one Rocket City Marathon,” said Terrell. “I talked my daughters into running while their mother was our cheerleader from the sidelines.”

“My father always wore a bright neon headband while he raced so he was easy to spot among the racers,” said Kay, 62, the eldest of Terrell’s three daughters. “He never really looked up while running as he kept his head down.”

Kay, along with her sisters, Janice, 60, and Cathy, 56, will shadow their father on the 5K course throughout downtown Huntsville as part of the Cotton Row Run festivities. Their similar family outing last year in the event had Terrell surrounded by his daughters the entire 5K distance until just yards from the finish line. “They didn’t want me to run, but I had to run across the finish line,” said Terrell.

Terrell’s family includes eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren, all of whom support his efforts during the road races.

The one-time softball and basketball player, nicknamed “Tiger,” was born on Aug. 5, 1933, the same day the National Labor Board was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the same date three years earlier, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was born. Sort of ironic that Terrell would cross paths with Armstrong in his line of work for NASA.

Close to 700 runners from the immediate Madison area will face the challenges of the Cotton Row Run presented by Bill Penney Toyota. The event will feature both the 10K and 5K runs along with the one mile Fun Run. Those registered to participate will be eligible for two cash awards as Bill Penney will hand out $5-thousand to one lucky person prior to the 10K and one before the 5K race. The Cotton Row Run will offer a total of $20-thousand in race record bonuses.

Terrell will complete his effort with little fanfare long after the winners cross the finish line. His personal best time in the 10K was in 1985 with a 43:44 at age 54. In 2010, he posted his best 5K time at 29:28. This time, he looks to walk his way with moral support alongside.

“After each Cotton Row Run we come back home for a family brunch and to take photos,” added Kay. “He’s a legacy. All these people who see him are inspired by his efforts as he’s worked hard all his life.”

Terrell looks back on his years as a runner as being exciting and rewarding. He’s multi-faceted training regimen has featured a multitude of different workouts. He said one remembrance that stands out from his workouts was once where he trained by running backwards, which didn’t turn out well. He added with a laugh, “I ran into a car as I thought I was in the middle of the road, but I was actually on the side where I ran into a parked car. I wasn’t injured nor did I damage the car.”

“My goal this year is to finish,” added Terrell. “Along with my daughters close by.”

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