SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Norm Killop, 75, of Shelby Township, completed his first marathon in 1986 at the state fair grounds — six months after kicking alcoholism — and resolved to live an active, healthy lifestyle.
Since then, Killop ran 31 more marathons, two 100-mile races, four 50-mile races and six 50k races. Last year alone, he competed in eight triathlons. He also has taken gold in the Senior Olympics and has run in almost every race that organizer Michael Ward coordinated in the last 15 years, Ward said.
“He’s a legend,” Ward said. “I thought, ‘This guy needs to be recognized.’”
Ward said he worked with staff at Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica to secure a special glass trophy to present to Killop for his faithful support of local races and overall achievements. Ward presented the trophy to Killop Dec. 22 at the 5k Jingle Bell Run.
“My dad was totally, 100 percent shocked,” said Killop’s daughter, Heather Hall, of Romeo, about receiving the glass trophy. “I’ve never seen my dad cry other than my wedding day. He started to quiver.”
Hall said she was able to assemble a group of family members to witness the presentation. One family member who had the flu even came out for the ceremony and then went back home to bed.
“My dad will run every day, no matter what — never with a hat or gloves,” Hall said. “My dad’s never sick, ever. It’s amazing. Sometimes, he blames (his good health) on his running.”
Hall said she began running three years ago to be closer to her father and that her children have also started running races with them, such as a race at Belle Isle on Christmas Eve.
Killop and his younger brother bought matching stick-figure runner necklaces after Killop’s first marathon in 1986, and Killop wears his every day. Hall said he had an identical mold made for her, which he gave to her for her birthday with a poem, and he told her when he dies, to put his runner on her chain so they would always run together.
“I just think he’s a great person,” she said. “My dad has never ever run past a runner his whole life without saying, ‘Good job,’ or, ‘Looking good.’”
Killop said he was overweight when he quit drinking and he decided he needed to change. The first time he ran at Stony Creek Metropark, he said he had to stop three times while attempting to run the six-mile loop around the lake. Killop said his younger brother pushed him into it more and more.
“Then, if you asked my family, it became an addiction. I just went crazy,” Killop said. “I think if I didn’t run, my day would not be complete. I get antsy. I either run or spin or swim every day.”
Killop, a retired plant manager at a steel company, said he is at Stony Creek nearly every day. If he isn’t running, he works at the disc golf course during the summer.
He also said he served in the Navy as a flight mechanic from 1955-1961 and then, 15 years later, served another seven years in the reserves at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, where he was in charge of physical activity for the group.
Killop was one of several veterans who ran in the township’s inaugural 5k veterans memorial run Nov. 17 and who refused to accept free admission for his service to the country.
“(My daughter) is an inspiration to me. She just keeps on moving,” Killop said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her endurance and tenacity. She used to run with me; now, I’m way behind her.”