World War II Airman, 9-Time NYC Marathoner Still Seeking Challenges at 94

Roscoe Brown hustles across the room to greet a reporter at the door. He is 94 years old and still recovering from surgery to insert a pacemaker, but he prefers to keep moving.

That explains those bright blue sneakers with neon green laces.

On a shelf in Brown's home sit World War II-era model fighter planes and a black-and-white photo of a young pilot emerging from the cockpit. A feathered newspaper clipping reads: "Son of Dr. Roscoe C. Brown First to Shoot Down Nazi Jet Plane."

Brown flew 68 combat missions for the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. history. 

"Fighter pilots are like athletes," says Brown, a Mets fan and Jets season ticket holder whose display shelves are filled with team collectibles. "And I was a pretty good pilot."

He was also a pretty good athlete. Brown ran in nine New York City marathons and still looks for that thrill of racing when he steps onto the treadmill that sits in front of his 13th-floor bedroom window. The problem is, his appetite for exercise never changed as his body aged.

"As I got older, I tried to do a lot more than my body would accept," admits Brown, who treats being on the treadmill like it’s a competition.

His body nearly failed him this winter, when he became critically ill. His heart rate slowed to a dangerously low point and doctors at Montefiore Medical Center put in a pacemaker in the middle of the night to support his life.

"If he wasn’t as healthy and in such great shape, he probably wouldn’t have made it through this," said his physician, Dr. Daniel Sims.

"Most 94-year-olds are not this active, but Dr. Brown is just remarkable," he said. 

That's right: Brown also holds a Ph.D. in education. 

Brown arrived for his first follow-up visit on a mission: He complained that his heart rate wasn’t going up enough. Sims was incredulous – "I have not had a patient tell me that before" – but dutifully checked. Sure enough, the pacemaker settings needed an adjustment.

Now he is easing back into daily workouts by lightly working out on his treadmill with the aid of a fitness trainer and the advice of Sims, who suggests even nonagenarians find some way to stay moving.

But with sights set on getting back to MetLife Stadium to watch his Jets, Roscoe Brown will try to pace himself.

"You can’t run too fast in the beginning because you won’t be around at the end," he says.

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