This article is part of our series on Successful Agers #SuccessfulAger
BY LISA CHICK
Randy Hampton, PhD, is a biology professor, a runner, and a recovering addict who has been "clean and sober" for thirty-four years. He also describes himself as an "ecstatic agnostic," believing in the power of working with others. "One way to view human spirituality is being part of something bigger than yourself," he said. "Science is totally a spiritual endeavor because you have to be a part of something bigger for it to work."
In 1995, Dr. Hampton began teaching at UC San Diego. He now also mentors the people working in his laboratory, but it was a long journey to where he is now. A baby boomer, Dr. Hampton was born in 1954 into the affluent and well-educated community of Scarsdale, New York. He is the middle child of three brothers and a proud uncle of a niece and nephew. The newest addition to his family, or as Hampton described "the latest miracle," is his fiancée, Marrie. The two got engaged last December, after having met three years ago through mutual friends who share Hampton's enthusiasm for running.
In addition to finding love and friendships, running can offer a constructive outlet for relieving the pressures and stresses of everyday life. For Hampton, this includes recovering from addiction—a disease that led to a detour during his academic career.
After earning degrees in both chemistry and math from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1976, he had several "false starts" in graduate programs. He then sojourned away from science in order to pursue a path of complete abstinence from all substances. "Getting kicked out of graduate school for my overwhelming problems with addiction saved my life and aimed me towards a purpose-driven life, an outlook that never veers far from gratitude, ongoing suggestibility— with occasional resistance—and a desire for wellness," he said.
Dr. Hampton had always dabbled in running, but it was during this time that it became an important component of his life and a natural part of his recovery. Then, after thirty years of running and thirty-four years of being clean and sober, Dr. Hampton opted to join the UC San Diego masters running program, which includes faculty, students, and community members who want to run together but are not part of the track team.
On days he doesn't run with the group, Dr. Hampton will cover anywhere from four to twenty miles. The distance depends on what he is training for, such as the Boston Marathon, which he qualified for and ran in last year.
Recently, Dr. Hampton formed a team with students from his biology and medicine of exercise class to participate in the Triton 5K and even hosted a party for them afterward. In a few weeks, the professor will be running a 50-mile race—the longest he has ever attempted—and next year he will be running a marathon in Berlin, Germany. "When I go for a long run, I get a total runner's high," Dr. Hampton explained. "There are a lot of addicts who love endurance exercise. I joke that we still like to get high, but we're willing to work for it."
In addition to running, Dr. Hampton attributes his successful aging to being a professor and constantly interacting with vibrant, young people who energize him. He has no set plans for retirement but will continue to run twenty to thirty races per year, with the goal of completing a marathon in every state.
According to Hampton, there is a lot of luck involved with aging successfully, but being active, eating less, taking suggestions, helping others, and staying grateful are key components.