World class cyclist takes on Blue Ridge as his first-ever marathon

Bernie Sanders competes in his first marathon in hopes of qualifying for Boston

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE - Runners from Southwest Virginia and around the world are preparing to take on America's Toughest Road Race, the Blue Ridge Marathon. 

More than 560 people have signed up to run the full marathon, taking on 26.2 miles of extreme elevation changes. Saturday will bring runners from 40 states and several countries, including Canada, Ireland, South Africa and the UK.

One unique story this weekend comes from local man and former world class bicyclist, Bernie Sanders.

At 60 years old, Sanders became a world champion cyclist. He won his age group of the Union Cycliste Internationale Road Masters World Championship in Austria. He beat his competitors by a margin of more than 18 seconds.

Seven years later, Sanders has his sights set on a new goal-- the Boston Marathon. He's been training for months for Saturday's race. This isn't just a run that could qualify him for the Boston Marathon, but also his first time ever running a marathon.

It's a training process he says is similar, but also very different than his training as a cyclist.

"I guess the cardiovascular part is the same," he explains. "But you feel like you've never run around the block before when you start running. You're not sitting down anymore, so it's different."

At 67 years old, he's become a motivation for many people in Southwest Virginia. He's managed to stay humble, saying it's just another goal and a milestone he hopes to achieve.

"Other people have motivated me, so shame on me if I don't pass that on," says Sanders.

The qualifying time for this age group, four hours and 10 minutes. If he can reach that tomorrow, his next marathon will be through the streets of Boston.

Copyright 2017 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.