"Christmas Hit Maker Runs Like a Reindeer" December 2016 Athlete of the Month

HUMANA Hero: Elmo Shropshire, 80, Novato, California

While visiting the 2016 Florida Senior Games, we found an athlete whose name may not be familiar, but whose voice is instantly recognizable. That’s because Elmo Shropshire is the man who gave the world the smash hit holiday novelty song “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

The 80-year-old runner hails from Lexington, Kentucky but has lived in Novato, California for many years. He has competed in Senior Games in the Golden State, and in 2012, he won his age division in the U.S. National 5K Cross Country Championship in San Diego. In 2013, he won a gold medal as part of the USA 4×400 relay team in the World Master's Games in Porto Allegre, Brazil.  

When he and wife Pam were planning a visit to Clearwater, he discovered the Florida Games would be going while there. Time to lace up. Elmo was rewarded for his effort, winning a gold medal in the men’s 1500-meter race and taking silver in the 800-meter event. He also finished second out of seven in his age group in the 5K road race. “I felt good on the track today, and met some nice people,” he says, beaming a smile. “The organizers did a great job running the events.”

“Dr. Elmo” is no stranger to earning gold in popular music either. A veterinarian by profession, he opened an animal hospital in San Francisco, but also pursued playing in a bluegrass band and ran competitively as a hobby. He recorded the quirky tune in 1979 and it didn’t catch on immediately. “People either loved it or hated it. It really didn’t go anywhere outside of my region at first, and Dr. Demento played it on his radio show,” he recalls. But it kept popping up every year, so he made a video and recorded an album. MTV picked up the video in 1982 and the race to the top was on. “It’s amazing how big it got. For six years, it replaced Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ as the most popular Christmas song. Wow!”

The tune obviously impacted his life in a major way, but Elmo is no less excited to earn his running medals, saying that they represent the good health and quality of life he continues to enjoy. When informed he had qualified to compete in the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana, his eyes lit up. “I got my veterinary degree from Auburn University. If I can make it, I’d like to come. This is just so much fun!”

Before he had to run on, Dr. Elmo made time to share his Florida experiences and sing a bit of his song with us. Click here to enjoy the video clip.


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