Local Athlete Contemplates Mentality and Wellness

Don Ardell, running in a 2014 race. The 79-year-old athlete, writer and Gulfport resident shows no signs of slowing down, even after a stroke once left him on the sidelines of a race. “It’s because of my age I do triathlons,” said Ardell. “I can’t afford not to.” Photo by James A. Randall, courtesy of Don Ardell.

Dr. Don Ardell: winning triathlete, published author, wellness advocate and Gulfport resident. Even with multiple triathlon world championship titles and over 10 books published, Don Ardell isn’t ready to slow down.

His latest accomplishment is National Championship title at a duathlon in Greenville, South Carolina. On the weekend of April 7, Ardell completed his race (5k run, 18k cycle and a second run of 2.85k) in one hour and 29 minutes. The twist? Ardell is 79 years old.

“It’s because of my age I do triathlons,” said Ardell. “I can’t afford not to.”

Ardell was born in Philadelphia in 1938 and has lived across the US, calling states like California, Minnesota, North Carolina home. Now Ardell and his wife, Carol, split time between a Town Shores condo in Gulfport and a home in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ardell has focused his life around wellness, health and aging, publishing titles like “High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease” in 1976 and “Aging Beyond Belief” in 2007. Originally, Ardell thought he wanted to work in city planning, but in 1977 got his doctorate in health and public policy from Union Institute and University.

His approach to aging and wellness is holistic, he says, focusing on both mental and physical health. On a list for three easy tips for wellness, he includes “associate with positive people,” and “be happy.”

But health has its ups and down, even for athletes. Shortly after the 2015 ITU World Championship in Chicago marked a big moment for Ardell. He found himself sitting on the edge of the sidewalk during a run by the Salvador Dali museum in downtown St. Petersburg, unsure on what had landed him there.

“I’d just had stroke,” said Ardell, reflecting on that day. “And I’d never had a health problem in my life!” A passerby told him he’d had a stroke, but he refused to believe it. “Hey, I’m in great shape,” he told the group that’d gathered. “Leave me alone.” A doctor happened to be nearby and convinced Ardell to seek professional health care. Ardell later left the scene in an ambulance.

After tests at a nearby hospital, Ardell learned he had atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes irregular heartbeat leading to other conditions like strokes, blood clots and heart failure. Ardell says he’s seen no after-effects from the stroke, however. The 79-year-old still races and exercises, and while he’s not as fast as he used to be, he’s says he’s still faster than others in his age group.

It seems Ardell isn’t letting atrial fib, as he calls it, slow him much.

In the works for Ardell is a new book, titled “Not Dead Yet: World Champions 75 + Offer Tips on Successful Aging.”

In this book, Ardell and 17 other World Champion Triathletes, 75 years of age and older, give their tips on successful aging and happiness. The book is still in the writing stages, but Ardell says it will be published by a major publisher. For more information, the website notdeadyetthebook.com has biographies and photos of all of the featured athletes.

In his section on the site, Ardell puts emphasis on the importance of happiness in longevity and health, quoting his favorite orator Robert Green Ingersoll. “Seek out and pick up every jewel of joy that can be found in your path … the time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here and the way to be happy is to make others so.” 


Updated May 8, 2018 with corrections: The ITU World Championship where Ardell fell ill was in Chicago in 2015. He lives part-time in Madison (the printed article stated Milwaukee), and his upcoming book will feature 17 athletes, with the title “Not Dead Yet: World Champions 75 + Offer Tips on Successful Aging.”  


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