You’ve likely never heard of one of the fastest septuagenarians in the world — or that his diet is key to his record-breaking speed.
At 72, Charles “Buddy” Allie holds nine world records for sprinting, and he’s not done yet. He’s currently training for the Masters Indoor Championships in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in March, followed by the Masters Outdoor Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, in July.
In 2018, he broke his own record for the 400-meter in Spain, reaching the finish line in 57.26 seconds. No one in Allie’s age group came close to hitting the under-a-minute mark.
“I’m always training,” Allie said. “I try to work out four days during the week, but at this age, I need to give my body enough time to recover.”
He likes to train on a track in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, not far from his home. He stretches, warms up with a run, and then works on his speed. (His training isn’t mile-based because he doesn’t run long distances.) Afterward, he hits the local YMCA and uses machines for upper- and lower-body workouts.
No supplements. No protein shakes. No energy bars. Just simple food in moderation.
As an athlete, you would think he keeps track of what he eats and monitors how many calories he is burning in a day, but Allie’s approach to eating is surprisingly simple: No supplements. No protein shakes. No energy bars. Just simple food in moderation.
“My whole outlook is that I use food for fuel,” he said. “I’m not on any certain diet.”
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. Besides a small sinus flare-up this year, he doesn’t remember the last time he was sick. Last year, he had a minor injury to his Achilles tendon, but it is completely healed now. He doesn’t take any medications, and rarely even reaches for an Advil.
Allie participated in a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study a decade ago, comparing active and inactive 60-year-olds. He said it revealed that he burns more calories at rest than most people his age. “I have all the genetic makeup of an athlete,” Allie said.
Still, consistency is vital for Allie. He starts his morning the same way, every day: a glass of orange juice, old-fashioned oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar, fruit, and green tea (with two tea bags and a bit of honey). He has been eating the same breakfast for the past 25 years.
“I put bananas and blueberries in my oatmeal,” he said. “Sometimes raisins, walnuts or pecans, too. And I like to eat grapefruit on the side.”
On a running day, especially on the road, he might add some eggs and bacon into the mix. He views his breakfast as his pre-run meal, holding him over for most of the day.
“Sometimes he won’t eat again until dinner,” Allie’s wife, Jackie, said. This year, they’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They started dating in junior high, around the same time when Allie began running track, and she’s been watching him win championships ever since.
“She makes sure I eat healthy,” Allie said with a smile. “She does all the cooking.”
Together, they eat simple meals of mostly proteins and vegetables, with the addition of grains like pasta and rice. Allie’s favorite dinner is salmon, sweet potatoes (with a little butter and cinnamon), and broccoli.
They prefer to make dinner at home. This past week, they ate pasta and a salad (Allie’s dressing of choice is honey mustard), and chicken, potatoes, and baby lima beans boiled with a ham hock.
But when they do eat out, they place an order for a lamb chop and rice at Salem’s, a Middle Eastern market and grill that’s always packed with regulars. Between the spices and tender texture, the lamb chop is something they can’t replicate at home and like to leave to the pros.
For special occasions, they splurge on fresh seafood from Wholey’s, a legendary local fish market in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
“We love it,” Jackie said. “We will do lobster tail, crab legs, scallops, and my daughter will do the shrimp. We prepare it all ourselves and usually serve it with a baked potato and a salad.”
It’s a stretch from what they grew up eating; the only seafood they had as kids was fried fish on the weekends.
“We ate whatever was on the table,” said Allie, the oldest of nine kids. “My mother knew how to stretch a meal. We’d have mashed potatoes one night, and then she’d make potato pancakes out of it the next day.”
Today, they are both a little burned out from years of eating soul food. Still, during holidays, traditional dishes show up on the table, like collards, kale, and turnip greens, which Jackie likes to cook with smoked turkey.
It wasn’t until Allie was a teenager and began competing in regional championships that he started to be more mindful of his diet. Back then, he would try to eat things like wheat grain to gain weight. For recovery, he never really took to nutrition trends, like chocolate milk, which is touted as an ideal post-workout drink for its combination of protein and carbs. If he needs a boost on the track, he likes to snack on a banana or orange.
As he gets older, he’s thankful for all that his hard work has brought him: good health and great experiences. Through his competitions, he has traveled all over the world, including trips to Australia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and South Korea.
“I’m capitalizing on it now,” he said. “I go dancing and belong to a Corvette club. I feel blessed that I was able to put this time in, and now I’m reaping the benefits.”
When Allie’s not training for his own competitions, he coaches a youth track and field group, Nadia, which he’s been involved with since he was 40.
“I’m more of a hands-on coach,” he said. “I’ll run with them. So if I don’t get my training in during my time, I’ll go and get my workout with them. They really appreciate it.”
As a retired industrial-arts school teacher, Allie loves being able to have this experience with kids, from elementary to high school ages, and it helps to keep him young.
“I guess the competition part was always in me,” he said. “When you’re young, you want to prove yourself, and track is more of an individual sport. It’s you, the gun, and the guy next to you. As I got older, I had that stay with me. The health benefits are really important to me now.”
But it doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself completely, he said. After a race, he and the guys will sometimes go out for a beer to celebrate. While they don’t drink alcohol often, Allie and his wife enjoy a glass of sangria as much as anyone else on a hot summer day. For dessert, he prefers nostalgic treats, like a slice of apple or sweet potato pie.
“Moderation is my key,” he said.