What is the secret to a long and satisfying life? Ask Harold Green. The 77-year-old moved from Suffern to Wyckoff last fall, but Harold is no stranger to northwest Bergen County. If you’re a member of the Wyckoff YMCA or into endurance sports, you may already know him.
Harold grew up in Beacon, New York, about 60 miles north of New York City. He attended Temple University in Philadelphia and saw success in two different professions during his lifetime, teaching high school for 16 years before transitioning to a 30-year career in the apparel industry. “A neighbor of mine encouraged me to get into the garment industry,” says Harold. “I worked for a couple of companies and then decided I wanted to start my own business.” The pressure of leaving the security of an established business gave him pause, but Harold went on to establish a successful dress company located in New York’s garment district.
“I started from scratch, borrowed money to get going, and paid it all back six months later,” he laughs. “Everyone was shocked.”
Over the years, the garment industry changed as production moved out of the U.S. “I was a domestic manufacturer, and I didn’t have the funding to go overseas,” he says. “I had to close. I couldn’t compete anymore.” Harold went to work for another clothing company for ten years before they, too, closed their doors.
“I decided to go back to teaching,” says Harold. “So, I got a job teaching high school biology and forensic science at Ramapo High School in Suffern. It was a tough but satisfying job.” When Harold’s wife, Janet, was diagnosed with cancer, Harold retired to care for her and help her achieve her lifelong wish to visit all 50 states.
“We were all over—St. Augustine, Florida; Acadia, Maine; and Burlington, Vermont,” he says. When they visited Lake Placid, Harold spotted signs for the renowned Ironman competition. “I mentioned to Janet that I would love to try it, and Janet told me to ‘go for it!’ She passed away a month later.”
Harold had played team sports growing up but hadn’t attempted any endurance sports until later in life when he ran the New York City and Boston Marathons. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Harold registered for the Lake Placid Ironman consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
“I signed up and started training,” says Harold. “The best part was that I made great friends through the process. I met my friend, Paul, through the Racefaster training group in Ridgewood, led by Aidan Walsh (see the September, 2021 issue). Eventually, a group of my friends came to support me at my first Ironman race in 2015 at Lake Placid. “You can’t believe how great it is to have the guys come to cheer for you and then take you out for a beer after you’ve crossed the finish line!”
Harold followed up the 2015 race with two more Ironman races in 2016. “I came in second in my age group in 2015,” says Harold. “I could have been first, but I stopped mid-race at my hotel to use the bathroom. Then I changed my shirt and combed my hair before continuing the run. The guys didn’t recognize me wearing a different colored shirt. They couldn’t stop laughing!”
COVID canceled his most recently scheduled Ironman competition and led Harold to determine that it is a good time to move on to other activities. “I’m fortunate that I made it this far, but now I’d like to do some different things,” he says.
Harold notes that the highlight of his racing days was the people he met along the way. “I meet my friends every morning for coffee. Several years ago, a group of us (this Editor included) had the amazing experience of going on a cycling trip to northern Italy. That will go down as one of the most incredible memories of my life.”
Harold enjoys being outdoors and is an avid reader. He exercises at the Y, works out with a strength-training coach, and spends time with his girlfriend, Karen. “The number one thing that keeps people alive is sociability. That’s the key,” he says. “It’s important to have a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself. Hold on tight to your circle of friends. Enjoy life, take trips, and smell the roses. I’m very fortunate to have been able to do that.”