By Marty Gallagher
James Runner has been an athlete his entire life. Originally from Pittsburgh, James is “60 years young” and has built a physique that borders on incredible. Age-defying is the phrase that comes to mind when looking at Runner’s physique. A few years back one of the catchy clichés of the era was, “40 is the new 20.” In our current era, a new cliché should be created, “60 is the new 40.” At Parrillo Performance we come across many outstanding examples of men and women past 60 with outstanding physiques, constructed using Parrillo methodology. This phenomena, elder bodybuilders retaining outstanding physiques, is a relatively recent occurrence. This is no coincidence: the greatest system for extending the quality of life, is, without question, bodybuilding. The component parts cover every contingency: lifting weights maintains muscle strength and function, bodybuilding-style aerobic exercise keeps a person fit, energized and lean. Bodybuilding-inspired nutrition is critical for attaining and then retaining the lean, muscled-up functional physique of a serious bodybuilder. James Runner was always athletic, he was genetically gifted and one surefire indicator of his inherent athletic abilities was the fact that as a competitive broad jumper he leapt an amazing 25+ feet! The 25-foot broad-jump barrier is akin to a 60-foot shotput toss or a 7-foot high jump leap: the 25-foot barrier is what separates the men from the boys in track and field.
Because he was a natural athlete, it was no great surprise when James finally turned his attention to bodybuilding that he found he was a natural bodybuilder. He had been exposed to bodybuilding very early on. “As a youngster, maybe five years old, I would tag along with an older cousin. He was a dedicated bodybuilder and he got all the muscle magazines. My cousin served as my first introduction to lifting and bodybuilding.” James was quick to figure out that getting stronger dramatically improved his athletic performance. He built the power to soar 25-feet in the weight room. “In 1985 I was attending Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I decided to start lifting weights. I was competing in full-contact karate and sought to develop stronger kicks for fighting. I weight trained to improve my martial arts.” A funny thing happened: James’ body began responding to his martial arts weight training to such a degree that the serious bodybuilders that trained at the same gym urged him to try his hand at competitive bodybuilding. “People looked at me and noted how quickly I had improved and how much I had improved.” Despite being very young and totally inexperienced, James entered the Mr. Indiana University show and won the short class. “My win was totally unexpected. You can imagine how fantastic it was to win a really nice show my first time out.”
James embarked on what would prove to be a long career in competitive bodybuilding. “I was bitten by the bodybuilding bug. I entered three A.A.U. contests. This was in the days before the NPC.” It would be nice to say that James continued his winning ways, but he had some dues to pay. “I came in last or next to last in my class in each of my three AAU contests.” James found out that you can learn a lot from losing if you pay attention. “I got a little better after every loss because I made myself smarter: I read every bodybuilding magazine that came out, cover to cover.” James also discovered how big a leap it was to jump from local bodybuilding federations into the big leagues. “A little later, I had won an overall title in a huge national organization. I entered the 1987 NPC Nationals and came in last place. I knew I had to get better.” It was around this time that James was first introduced to Parrillo Performance Products. “I read an article in Muscle Training Illustrated that talked about a guru training guy in Cincinnati named John Parrillo. I was so taken with this muscle guru that I went and visited him and trained with him. Not once or twice, but three times; this was at his old facility.” James took to John’s approach towards bodybuilding like a duck to water.
“John taught me how to properly engage the muscles being worked. This goes way beyond ‘proper form.’ John is a master of ‘muscle targeting.’” Parrillo demonstrated to James an ability to pinpoint muscle contractions. “John taught me how small movements and subtle body positioning can create vastly different effects.” Parrillo combines precision muscle targeting with off-the-charts training intensity that “makes the muscles respond immediately.” After taking his lumps, James went on to become “a nationally-qualified Lightweight and Middleweight NPC competitor.” He had a long run. “As a lightweight bodybuilder, I placed in the top five at the NPC Junior USA. I placed in top seven at the Junior Nationals twice. I qualified for pro status in a natural organization. I am very proud of the fact that I won three NPC overall titles in the under 150-pound division. This is very difficult to do.” His success in competitive bodybuilding was a tribute to his work ethic and his self-discipline.
James continually sought to expand his bodybuilding knowledge base. He got his bearings and rose fast, competing in the toughest amateur bodybuilding organization on the face of the planet: the NPC, the National Physique Committee. “As a 176-pound middleweight, I won four NPC Overall titles and was undefeated in my class.” James’ titles speak for themselves. You do not casually compete at these levels. To compete at the highest levels of amateur bodybuilding requires a tremendous degree of dedication, fortitude and tenacity. A big part of James’ bodybuilding approach was (and is) rooted in Parrillo methodology. “In 1988 I read a small paragraph in Muscle Training Illustrated about this ‘genius bodybuilding prep expert in Cincinnati’ who was obtaining radical results using unusual methods.” That was enough to peak James’ interest. “I followed up on John and became acquainted with his methods. Something about the Parrillo approach naturally made sense to me. John didn’t candy coat things.” John’s products became part of James’ bodybuilding preparation, in season and out of season.
James stopped competing in 1997 and did not get back into competitive bodybuilding until 2016. Like anything else done seriously, at some point things come to an end. “I stopped competing in 1997 after deciding I didn’t have a chance at becoming a pro. It was much harder back then. I naturally picked up 20-pounds of bodyweight after I stopped competing. I find that getting conditioned in 2018 is different than it was back in my day weighing 176-pounds.” He has expert help this time around: he is working with a Parrillo super-trainer. “I am relying on the expertise and guidance of Scott Canatsey, the head trainer at Parrillo Performance. I’ve known Scott since 1986 when we both started out competing in Indiana. He will be helping me with my diet and contest prep. Scott knows his stuff. He’s accomplished a lot, in terms of his own development. He walks the walk. I have complete faith that following the Parrillo methods, I will achieve my pro goals.”
James is 5’8” and will weigh a tight and fit 200-pounds in the off-season. For a competition he will whittle his bodyweight down to 189-pounds. Like so many ex-bodybuilders, James’ interest in competing (again) was stimulated by the inclusion of new male categories. The Pro Classic Physique category is ideal for those that are no longer enamored with the bulk and size thing. Rather than compete in an age-group category, James is excited about the idea of competing in the men’s open category. “My ultimate goal is to become a force to be reckoned with as an IFBB Pro in the Classic Physique division, which will be unheard of for a 60-year old like myself.” One look at the photos that accompany this article reveals just how possible that unlikely scenario might be, particularly when he will undoubtably present an even better body in future competitions, this a result of his work with Scott. “I am really excited to see how just how much improvement I will be able to make relying on his expert eye.”
Currently living in Little Rock, Arkansas, James is married to Karla. “I have known Karla since I was twelve years old. In 2015 I married my childhood sweetheart. She decided to get into shape. So, I decided to start bodybuilding again, this at age 56. I knew if I trained the Parrillo way, I could get back into shape quickly.” Muscle memory can lie dormant for decades and still spring back into action. As John Parrillo points out, “It is relatively easy to regrow muscle you once had – as opposed to creating new muscle where none existed.” Now the duo are pursuing fitness together. “My wife supports me and cheers for me the same way now as she did when we were 12 years old.” Now how amazing is that? Recently James mounted a competitive comeback. “Utilizing the Parrillo principles, I was able to win the 2018 NPC Masters National Championship. I captured the overall title in the over-60 division. I earned my IFBB Pro Card.” Asked about future plans, James envisions a long run. “I hope to continue to compete as a pro for the next five years.” James feels he has a lot of room left for improvement. “I feel I can make an impact in the men’s open class in the Classic Physique division. The fact that I would be competing in the open division at over 60 is unheard of and fires me up.” James would conceivably be competing against men 1/3rd his age. The Parrillo bodybuilding lifestyle is the finest system of age-retardation known to man and James Runner is a prime example.
- Sunday Legs
- Monday Back
- Tuesday Deltoids, Triceps
- Wednesday Chest
- Thursday Biceps
- Friday Lats
- Saturday Upper body (miscellaneous)
Multiple-meal eating schedule
- Meal 1 Parrillo Protein Pancakes, eggs, ground turkey
- Meal 2 Chicken breast, salad
- Meal 3 Grass-fed ground beef, rice, asparagus
- Meal 4 Skinless-boneless chicken thighs, broccoli, sweet potato
- Meal 5 Parrillo Hi-Protein™ shake
I confess that I have a sweet tooth. Parrillo Supplements really help me manage it. I use the High Protein Pancake and Muffin Mix™. I love Parrillo Cakes and Cupcakes. And of course I eat the Protein bars and Energy Bars. The Liver Amino Formula™ tablets definitely aid in keeping your nitrogen balance up. I use Cap-Tri® C8 MCT under Scott Canatsey’s guidance. I’ve seen Cap-Tri C8 MCT aid in muscle gain and fat loss. It’s a secret weapon for gaining muscle.