Smith: Luther Messick still has plenty of miles left

Published 10:28 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

By Dan Smith

Luther Messick has run many miles in his 75 years, but on one particular day in November, his body was telling him he had to stop.

Something was not right.

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You know Luther Messick.

He is the charter bus driver that for the last 15 years has driven many area high school teams and bands, the Middle School archery team to the national finals in Louisville, Ky., Troy University athletic teams and the Sound of the South on away games. He was also the driver when the Troy Dixie Boys 13-year-olds went to Aiken, South Carolina and won the World Series.

You may know him as the former Youth Director at Northside Baptist Church.

Maybe you have seen him running.

Mr. Luther Messick has run many a mile, over 50,000 by his own estimate; at least those are the ones he has documented. He said for a long time he did not keep records.

50,000 miles is equivalent to running back and forth from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Diego, Ca., 24 times. Google it.

Still cannot place him?

Picture your favorite grandfather, relative or friend, always smiling, strong handshake, body like a defensive back – well – a former defensive back.

He is the type man that when you talk to him for two minutes, you feel better about yourself.

You feel a great sense of appreciation and self worth that he took the time to talk to you and say so many positive things about so many different things.

He is an example of what is right and good in society and life.

You may know him from his 23 years as an employee of Whaley Pecan, or his work at pecan shelling plants in Andalusia and Montgomery.

But if there is one thing Mr. Luther Messick is known for, it is running.

“I started running during P.T. exercise when I was in the Army in 1962, and when I came back home I never quit,” said Messick. “I was used to plowing with a mule when I was young, so P.T. did not bother me, so I thought, why not continue?”

Messick was one of 15 “young’uns”, and because of his large family, he stayed out of school to work on the farm, plowing the mule and whatever it took for a young man to help feed his family.

Once out of the Army, Messick was serious about his running. He trained with legendary local runners Nick Costes, Rick Stetson and others.

For 20 years, he also rode bicycles in competitive events.

He did not compete to collect trophies and medals, but once his house began to fill, his wife Dorothy said he needed to find another place to keep them.

Messick bought an outdoor storage shed, installed carpet, lights, paneling and shelves, and that’s where they go today.

“They are not worth a hoot to anyone but me,” Messick said.

This past July, Messick collected four gold medals in the state Senior Games in Montgomery, and then he went to Cleveland, Ohio for the National Senior Olympics, where he placed in each event.

Upon returning to Troy, Messick began training for a 5K, and that’s when he knew something was not right.

“I ran about a mile and a half, and something felt funny, something I had never felt before,” Messick said. “I quit running and walked home. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what to do. I went to see Dr. Todd Pearlstein, and he sent me to a heart specialist in Montgomery.”

Messick had a bad valve in his heart and two completely blocked arteries.

For three and one half hours on December 5, 2013, Messick lay on the operating table, with his heart stopped, as doctors conducted open-heart surgery.

Today, Messick is now walking, trying to get back to being able to do his daily pushups, chin-ups, and running.

Messick has been medication free for most of his life, taking only a Centrum vitamin and one baby aspirin per day, just those two items and a healthy dose of exercise and positive attitude.

“I don’t know of anyone that does not need to exercise,” Messick said. “Do what you can do. If it is not much, then do a little. It is more of a mental workout for me than physical. I can have a real bad day, and feel so much better when I am through running.

“The doctor wants me to walk one hour a day. In anyone’s life, what is one hour out of 24 to be able to do something good for yourself?”

The doctor says Messick can be back to pushups and chin-ups in six months.

“I am not trying to prove anything. I do want to be the best I can be with whatever I get, if I can. If not, I accept it.

“A recliner will kill you. If all I did was watch TV and eat ice cream, it would kill me.”

With his positive attitude, the next six months for Messick will fly by, and he can return to his exercise routine, and staying busy.

“I got four or five cemeteries I cut grass and keep up,” Messick said.

That’s right; Messick mows grass in addition to driving Greyhound-type charter busses and his other responsibilities.

“The Good Lord has blessed me, no doubt, and I put him at the top.”

In time, Messick will be back in his stride, as he still has more miles to go.