Age is But a Number: Running Keeps San Francisco Venture Capitalist Feeling Young

neal dempseyYou get the feeling Neal Dempsey might be a bit of a success story after Googling his name. The first links that pop up are Neal Dempsey/net worth, followed by Neal Dempsey/Forbes. Proving that Google values business before pleasure, scroll further down the links queue and there’s Neal Dempsey/fitness.

The man has run more than 100 marathons, and at 74, he was the oldest male running in last Sunday’s Transamerica Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco.

The CliffsNotes version on Dempsey reads something like this: he’s a technology venture capitalist who in 2012 offered three IPOs, the companies eventually selling for around $3 billion.

His fortune was not spoon-fed by a wealthy family. He worked his way through the University of Washington selling shoes. By his 30s, Dempsey was globetrotting, running a worldwide computer sales company.

With healthy food difficult to come by at 30,000 feet, Dempsey put a few pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame. What was 150 pounds swelled to 160, 165.

“Maybe 170,” says Dempsey, who lives in San Francisco.

So he took to the 80-hour-a-week executive’s time-efficient form of exercise – running.

“My philosophy is always do something that scares you, which includes investing sometimes,” Dempsey has been quoted as saying. “But that’s when I feel most alive.”

The adage says “age is but a number,” and the cliché fits for Dempsey. He looks more like 54.

“I feel like it, too,” he says.

Running encapsulates but a snippet of Dempsey’s adventurous feats. He sailed around the world in three legs and has climbed six of the seven highest peaks in the world.

The goal to leave his mark in life struck when he was young. By 15, he wanted to become, in his words, a “corporate titan.”

“I thought it’d be a cool job,” he said. “You have a lot of responsibility, you make a lot of people happy and you produce good products.”

That drive was fueled by insecurity.

“I was running with people who were brilliant when I was young,” he says. “To be a peer, I thought I had to be smart. I had to overachieve so we’d have something in common.”

Dempsey does make one concession to age. He runs only two marathons a year. But, for the past couple of years, those marathons arrived on back-to-back weekends.

Boston, followed by Big Sur, the two races approaching in April.

He says his marathon count eclipses 100 because, “It’s a challenge. Not everyone can do it.”

As for what it feels like after crossing the finish line at Big Sur, jogging 26.2 miles, twice in six days, with a cross-country flight thrown in between, he offers: “You feel pretty beat up. You also feel like you’ve conquered the world.”

“Half marathons,” he says, “are training runs.”

Dempsey was among 11 men participating in the 70-74 age group category at the Transamerica Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco on March 29. He finished sixth in his age division with an impressive time of 2:33:29, particularly given the hilly Bay Area course.

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