Person of interest: Runner Stush Sadowski

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If you're a runner who does road races around town, chances are you know him and maybe even have received one of his enthusiastic high-fives as you near the timing mats. He's Stush Sadowski, the long-haired runner in short-shorts and sunglasses who doubles back after crossing the finish to cheer on the racers behind him.

For someone who's become such a fixture on Pittsburgh's running scene, Stush -- it's Polish for Stanley -- is something of a late bloomer, having laced up his first pair of Mizuno Wave Riders at 46 because "I got a beer gut without drinking beer, and was told that if I ran it would go away."

Turns out the auto repair shop owner, who serves as volunteer fire chief in his hometown of Lawrence, Washington County, and also boards horses and raises free-range chickens, had a knack for it. With his sub-8-minute-mile pace, the 54-year-old consistently places near the top in his age category in competition -- at the Frigid 5 Miler in North Park earlier this month, he averaged 7:47, or fast enough to come in ninth out of 31 in his age group.

What captures our attention, however, is that he never wears a shirt, no matter what the weather: rain, snow, ice or just bitter cold. That, and the way he pushes runners -- like it or not -- to finish strong by shouting out words of encouragement. Looking particularly peaked? He'll probably run the last few torturous steps alongside you.

Here are a few questions for the energetic, bare-chested Mr. Sadowski:

How often do you hit the pavement? I only run three days a week, but try to race somewhere every weekend. Sometimes two races on a weekend.

Why no shirt? I did a Lupus 5K about five years ago, and the temperature was about 30 degrees. I usually get warm running, so decided to take my shirt off at the beginning of the race. As I did, I saw some strange looks from the other runners. They were cringing and shivering, and I heard whispers like "He's nuts!" I thought that gave me an advantage and as it happened, I won my age group. So I ran shirtless the next few races and now there is no going back -- yet.

Do you like being cheered on yourself? Yes. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and I heard my name about six times. It surprised me and seemed to help me keep going.

Speaking of races, if you could run one you wanted, it would be ... the Boston Marathon just for bragging rights!

And if you could run with any one person, it would be with ... nobody in particular. I feel like I run with special people every weekend.

I keep on pace by ... the 30-year-old whippersnapper in front of me. No, I actually wear a Garmin 305 watch.

Running makes me feel ... like I have accomplished something. I've overcome barriers and pushed the limits of what I thought my lungs could handle and my legs could endure. Don't ask my wife; she thinks it is a lot of wasted time.

I keep doing it because ... it's part of my life. There are all types of runners -- people run to stay healthy, some to be social, some to see the scenery. But for me, it's about the competition. What other sport can a 17-, 31-, 48- and 62-year-old compete with/against each other?

Water or Gatorade? Water. Gatorade tastes way too sweet.

Is it ever too cold to go shirtless? So far, no. The coldest race on record for me was a "Toys for Tots" race -- it was 16 degrees.

The best running advice I ever got was ... from a "good form" running class. It taught me everything I was doing was wrong. Before the class, I was always sore and had gotten injuries like stress fractures. I learned to shorten my gait, pick up my cadence, keep my shoulders back and pump my arms in small movements.

Fellow runners think ... I'm very passionate about running. For me and them and anyone who gets off the couch to get in shape and have fun.

I couldn't live without ... my wife. She is my anchor and common sense.

lifestyle - outdoors

Gretchen McKay:, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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