The "marathon man" takes to Rancho Mirage: 72-year-old Jim McKenna continues to challenge himself through tennis.
© Juan Ocampo
By Noreen Javadi, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Jim McKenna, a member of the USTA Southwest Section 2.5 men’s team, has a real soft spot for his kids -- and even more so for his grandkids.
The 72-year-old McKenna, who plays with his team at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Ariz., has his grandchildren to thank for keeping him active.
Back when McKenna was 50 years old, he was watching a local triathlon with his 14-year old son Mark. His son told him: "It’s too bad you’re too old to do a triathlon." McKenna responded, "It’s too bad you’re too young!" They ended up competing together that year in a mini-triathlon.
Later, while watching the 1998 New York Marathon on television with his 12-year old daughter Jen, she challenged him to do a marathon. She reminded him how he always told her that "a person could do anything they set their mind to." McKenna ran his first full marathon that year at the age of 51. He went on to complete 10 more.
McKenna began playing tennis after his first grandson, Tyler, was born.
"I always believed that kids should get into lifetime sports -- tennis, golf and swimming. We started with tennis and he showed a little bit of interest. He got into the 10 and Under [Tennis] program in Surprise," McKenna said.
"It’s an amazing program. I personally witnessed what this program can do for young people," McKenna said. "They helped develop him and he’s been in more tournaments than I have. The more that he got into it, the more I enjoyed playing with him."
As McKenna represented his team at the USTA League 2.5 Adult National Championships at the Mission Hills Country Club, he credited his grandson.
"My children got me into marathons and triathlons, but it was because of Tyler that I got back into tennis. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here." McKenna said.
"It’s such a pleasure to have this much fun as you get older. We’ve had a great time and it’s a beautiful setting. Everybody’s been terrific, and I’ve met a lot of nice people."