At 83 years old, Ino Cantu is an inspiration to many younger folks

Inocencio Cantu on the track. PHOTOS COURTESY OF RUBEN RUIZ

You want to talk about motivation for running, let Inocencio (Ino) Cantu help you out. Cantu, 83, has come to be a great inspiration for many — runners, elderly runners and Hispanics. Just to get an idea of how inspiring Cantu’s success is, he currently holds the World and All-American record in the indoor mile for age group 80-84. Just imagine what Cantu has accomplished during his lifetime to be able to get to where he is today.

Cantu, one of 11 in the family, came from a migrant family of workers, and he experienced picking cotton himself. He definitely didn’t have it easy when it came to getting his education. Even though he was able to attend school, he still didn’t get to “brag” the way his Anglo friends were about moving away or going to college after graduating high school. All Cantu could think about was ways of him “making it” out in the world while not having much support from his family. But Cantu didn’t just sit there and feel pity for himself. “There has to be some way, some road that would lead me there,” he recalls saying to himself.

It all started at El Campo High School in Texas in 1949, when he started running track during his junior and senior year and qualified for the state meet, but not performing at what level he wanted to. He felt like leaving the cotton fields and his chance to “make it” might’ve been short-lived. When suddenly the unexpected occurred, Cantu received a letter from Coach Eddie Shinn of Victoria College. The note said “I saw you run and I liked what I saw, would you be interested in coming to Victoria Junior College? - Coach Ed Shinn.”

Cantu went on to run track and cross country for Victoria College where he led the junior team to the National Championship 2 Mile-Run in 1952, and then another title in 1953. Cantu then ran for The University of Texas from 1953-1954 where he became an All-American in Cross Country. Cantu then went on to join the Navy from 1956-1957. He was able to run for a year before being sent off overseas. After the Navy, Cantu started running again in Texas and went on to run his last 26-mile marathon at age 41.

Ino Cantu (right) with a teammate (left) and his coach while at UT.

Cantu currently holds numerous records including the American Record in 800 meters, World Record in the 5k at age 83, and owned most State records all different distances among other records. Cantu is currently training for the National Master’s 5k Cross Country Championship in Boston taking place on Oct. 15. The new resident of San Marcos is already working on becoming an active member to the community, while still being able to incorporate his passion.

On Oct. 28, San Marcos will be hosting the 2nd Annual “Run for the Americas” which includes a Certified Marathon, 15k, 10k, and a 5k Run and 5k Walk. Cantu will be participating not only in the 5k Run, but also be one of the guest speakers for the Wellness Expo at Embassy Suites in conjuction with the races. Cantu will talk about what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle and also touch a little on his newly-released book “Finding My Road,” where he talks about his struggle to make it to where he is now.

Cantu stated that even though he wants to spend his spare time running or working out at the gym to stay active, he also wants to contribute his time to volunteering with local run clubs, especially those who raise contributions for charities or other humanitarian organizations. Being in the education field as a counselor for 23 years Cantu also said that he wants to volunteer in counseling or something along the lines where he hopes to bring motivation and share his story to encourage others to follow their dreams the way he did.

At the end of it all, Cantu does gives a countless amount of credit to Coach Shinn for giving him the opportunity to be successful. “I still don’t know what he saw in me” referring to Shinn as his “angel.” The success not only went noticed on him, but also thanks to this opportunity Cantu was able to support his family and give their children the opportunity to get an education in a way more flourishing way than he had. His son, Hiram, attended Harvard and Yale and is now a finance director in New York.

His daughter, Sonia, got her PhD in psychology from Boston College. Cantu also gives credit to his wife Josephine, 52, for supporting Cantu and making everything run a little smoother in the family. “She did a great job with everything” said Cantu with a very humble voice.

Cantu plans to continue his running and training journey as long as his body allows him to. He is making sure he remains in a healthy lifestyle by “eating the right portions” and staying away from fried foods, treating himself “once every 2-3 months.”

“The key to making a change to a more active and healthy lifestyle is when you are younger,” Cantu advises. “It is not easy to do it when you are 70 or 80, then get diagnosed with some illness or sickness and then decide you want to run marathons. “The earlier the better,” he chuckled.

Let’s take it from Cantu who will be turning 84 at the end of the year.

Cantu should be motivating in many ways, not only because of his running career, but also the ambition he had to leave the cotton fields for a better life for him and his family.

San Marcos Daily Record

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