Oblate Victor Rutkoski: It's Now or Never

Victor after completing the January 1, 2018 5K at Presque Isle State Park in Erie. The bitter cold, wind and snow did not stop Victor.

Age is just a number to Erie Benedictine Oblate Victor Rutkoski who began competitively running in 2017 at age 75. Early that year, after deciding it was “now or never,” he began his training. By the end of 2017 Victor had run seven races and he has already run more than ten races in 2018—including a January 1 race at Erie’s Presque Isle State Park in 20° weather with 15-20 mph winds.

“I’ve been amazed that I’m able to do this and want to keep running as long as I can,” Victor says. He gives much credit for this new-found passion to his daughter Rachel, an avid long-time runner. She is his inspiration—and also the voice that cautions him about pushing too hard without proper training. Like anything else, running is hard work that requires dedication to preparation. “It’s tough going during a race,” Victor admits, “but there is such a sense of accomplishment at the finish line that is even more than the ‘runner’s high.’”

Victor’s introduction to the Erie Benedictines was Sister Miriam Mashank. A retired social worker, Victor served as a member of the Erie County Assistance Office Management Team when Sister Miriam was Director of St. Benedict Education Center (SBEC). SBEC had applied for a large federal and state grant to be named contractor for Welfare to Work Programs for Erie County and Victor was instrumental in securing the contract for SBEC. “I am not one bit surprised that Victor became a runner in his retirement,” Sister Miriam said. “I have come to know him as goal oriented, extremely persistent, highly competitive, and a caring and compassionate individual.” Under the leadership of Victor and Sister Miriam, Erie’s Welfare to Work Programs earned the Governor's Achievement Award many times over.

At Sister Miriam’s invitation many years ago, Victor and his wife, Nancy, began coming to Sunday liturgy at the monastery and soon felt that they belonged in community with the sisters and oblates. It was a logical next step for them to become oblates themselves. They are also community benefactors and continue to support community ministries: Victor recently ran the Neighborhood Art House Art & Sole 5K where he joined more than 500 runners in the annual fundraiser to support the arts for inner city children. He was the sole runner in the 76-80 age group.

“Running has given me a greater sense of self and an awareness of life and life’s potential,” Victor says. “I’ve been blessed with health when so many others around me have health problems. I’m really grateful for what I have, and I want to keep running until I wear out.”

Victor and his daughter, Rachel, both ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K.
Victor and his daughter, Rachel, both ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K.
A display of the medals Victor has won in races throughout the area.
A display of the medals Victor has won in races throughout the area.
Victor and Sister Linda Romey both ran the Neighborhood Art House Art & Sole 5K in June.
Victor and Sister Linda Romey both ran the Neighborhood Art House Art & Sole 5K in June.