Paul Lachance was born and raised in New England, but just three days after his 1959 high school graduation, he began boot camp for the United States Navy in Great Lakes, Ill. Soon after, it was off to Jacksonville, Fla. for the young recruit, where he anticipated working as an electronic technician. But that would never end up coming to fruition.
With telemetry becoming increasingly popularized, the base was already stocked with electronic technicians. Lachance was assigned to work on "the line," which meant that he'd be working with the planes out on the tarmac and rotating into the electronics shop when there were openings for technicians.
"But when my turn came, I was having so much fun out on the line with the pilots and the planes that I said, 'I want to stay here!'" Lachance said.
Throughout his few years in the service, Lachance said that the most challenging aspect of the Navy was never the physical demand. Rather, it was the discipline: The sailors were responsible for scrubbing their own laundry by hand and hanging each piece of clothing from a clothesline not with clothespins, but by tying them up with individual, perfectly-knotted pieces of string. Luckily, the New Englander had learned discipline at an early age.
"Fortunately, I had a mother who taught me how to do the laundry, how to knit, and how to sew," he said. "Most kids there did not know how to iron clothes, so I got myself a little iron and I was pressing their clothes for 50 cents a piece."
Life After the United States Navy
When Lachance completed his service in 1962, his earned skills allowed him to become a technical writer in the emerging field of telemetry. After serving as a police officer in Connecticut, he relocated to Florida in 1969 and became a deputy sheriff for Palm Beach County. As a veteran working in law enforcement, and as someone who generally paid attention to his health, Lachance considered himself in pretty good shape: 6 feet tall and 210 pounds.
Then, the deputy sheriff pivoted to academia, obtaining a bachelor's degree and a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from Florida Atlantic University, working as an assistant professor at Palm Beach Junior College from 1973 to 1976, and serving as an adjunct professor at Florida State University while finishing his formal education. In 1978, he moved to Grand Junction, Colo. to head up the criminal justice program for what was then Mesa College (now Colorado Mesa University) for many years until Lachance's change in lifestyle, among other factors, resulted in him suffering a major heart attack in 2006.
"When I got into teaching, I started getting a little on the sedentary side," he said. "I shot up to 260 pounds, so when I had my heart attack, that weight impacted the condition pretty bad."
Lachance had never been one to back down from a challenge, so it followed that his recovery — and return to an active lifestyle — began the moment his heart was ready. He started at a local gym, mimicking the younger gym-goers. Then, while surfing the internet for life-improvement strategies, he discovered something called a "Spartan race."
From Quintuple Bypass to Octuple Trifectas
"Spartan came along at the right time for me because I was rehabbing from my heart attack after having quintuple bypass surgery," Lachance said. "I come across this website called 'Spartan,' and I see the A-Frame, I see somebody crawling in the mud underneath barbed wire, and I'm saying, 'Hey, I can do that!'"
So he did. In 2013 — at 73 years old — Lachance recruited his son, Sean, an Air Force veteran, and a few friends to run their first Spartan Sprint in Fort Carson, Colo.
"I had never worked so hard in my life," he said. "The Navy is a piece of cake, and boot camp is a piece of cake compared to Spartan. But when I finished and was able to cross that fire, I was 73 years old and got to say, 'I did it.' It's been nonstop since then."
An Unexpected Obstacle
In 2015, Lachance completed his first Trifecta. In that same year, doctors diagnosed him with skin cancer on his lower lip and he underwent immediate surgery to remove the cancerous lip entirely, necessitating subsequent reconstructive surgery by a specialist. After that, Lachance returned to racing only to be diagnosed once more in 2017. This time around, he received extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments in the early months of 2018, during which he lost 30 pounds, his sense of taste, and his ability to eat and drink with ease. To this day, his symptoms — including no hair growth on his left jaw — still linger. But throughout the entire ordeal, the Spartan had one question for doctors: "When can I get back to racing?"
The following year, he did just that, bagging six Trifectas in 2019. Then, the wheels in his head started turning.
The Ultimate Goal
"I was thinking, 'In 2020, I can get seven Trifectas,'" he said. "Then all of a sudden, a light went on: In 2021, I can get eight, and I'm also turning 80."
After telling a few friends about what he planned to accomplish, one of Lachance's friends came up with the "8 at 80" shirt idea. They decided to do a fundraiser, and his training and racing intensified.
His 100th Race in Dallas, and his 8th Trifecta at 80
The 80-year-old former professor currently runs his own real estate appraisal business, still working seven days and over 60 hours a week, and uses his races to "recharge [his] life batteries." As part of his training to do so, Lachance regularly completes a four-mile loop along the Colorado River. But the experienced Spartan knows that training for a Trifecta (or eight) would be incomplete (and ill-advised) without plenty of hill sessions. As such, he regularly frequents the Colorado National Monument — a vast landscape of red rock canyons and expansive plateaus near his home — for hiking and running. (This is how he has prepared for the most mountainous venues along his journey, like Telluride.)
On Saturday, Oct. 23, Lachance showed up in Granbury, TX to take on the 21K, 30-obstacle Beast. As daunting as that sounds, this weekend was about so much more than just one Beast. Lachance was laser focused on the enormous milestone that he was poised to reach that weekend: completing his 100th Spartan race.
Though the conditions were — in his own words — "hot and miserable," the Navy veteran completed the dust-laden course in just over six hours. When he returned to the race venue for the Sprint the following day — the 5K, 20-obstacle race standing between him and 100 races (and eight Trifectas in 2021) — Lachance said he just knew that Sunday would bring something extra special.
It marked the third time he raced alongside Richard "Monty" Montgomery, who Lachance said has now become an incredibly close friend.
"Everybody was there," he said excitedly. "We probably had about 40 people with our T-shirt on. But for me, my 100th race was highlighted by another participant in the race: a gentleman named Monty Montgomery, who is a 94-year-old World War II veteran. Just having him there with me was phenomenal."
Finishing Alongside the Person He Started With
In addition to Montgomery, the dozens of "8 at 80" shirt-wearers, and hundreds of fellow Spartans, there was one additional person that made Lachance's milestone, personally, so much sweeter: his wife, Davida.
"On the Sprint, we had it arranged where I got my 8x Trifecta medal ahead of time, because I wanted to give it to my wife so that she could give it to me when I crossed the finish line," he said. "I think she deserved that for putting up with me through all of these events, and I wanted her there for that."
On the Dallas Sprint course, the A-Frame Cargo — the very first obstacle that had enticed him to try a Spartan race years ago — was the final obstacle. To his surprise (and amazement), four female Spartan friends of Davida's had enticed her out onto the course and up the A-Frame. Lachance, Sean, and Davida then joined hands to complete the final leap over the fire in an incredibly special moment together as a family.
"She was so amazing, watching her go up that A-Frame," he said. "The smile on her face was just incredible. I mean, wow. It makes me happy."
What's Next for Paul "8 at 80" Lachance?
On Oct. 28, 2021, Paul "8 at 80" Lachance presented a $2,000 check — funded entirely through T-shirt sales — along with $3,000 in additional donor funds to the American Warrior Initiative, an organization devoted to educating and giving back to veterans and their families. And, after attending the 2021 Arizona Super 10K and Sprint 5K Weekend (and despite the T-shirt's tagline), Lachance has now actually completed nine Trifectas in his 80th year of life.
Though the Navy vet and Spartan favorite plans to scale back on the more mountainous, technical terrain in the years to come, he has no intention of quitting any time soon. It turns out that, after all of his years of service, training, and racing, it has been (and continues to be) the special bonds between racers — above all else — that keep Lachance coming back to Spartan racing time and time again.
"There are thousands of people out on the course, but you know that you have camaraderie and you have family," he said. "You have men, women, white people, people of color, gay people, straight people. No one cares who you are, because it's one family and everybody is out there to help you.
"I know that I can do this by myself, but it's so much more fun to go out there with other people. My motivation is to help motivate younger people. I thoroughly enjoy hearing them say, 'Paul, if you can do it, I can do it. Let's go out there and do it together.'"