ST. PETE BEACH — Just after enduring open-heart surgery in 1991, Buzz Hoge measured the tiles on the hospital floor. He needed to know how many he would have to cross to walk a mile.
The next year, while recovering from a kidney transplant, Mr. Hoge took part in a 3,000-meter charity walk. Still hooked up to an IV and with a nurse at his side, he was first to reach the finish line.
Skin cancers, a pacemaker, gallbladder removal. The list goes on. But none kept Mr. Hoge, an avid marathon runner and triathlete, from training.
While in his 50s, the St. Pete Beach resident who made a career in business management turned to endurance sports, seeking a healthier lifestyle.
His proudest moment came in 1996 at the Boston Marathon, the pinnacle of American road racing. A month after being hospitalized with a staph infection, Mr. Hoge and his wife, Rose, ran in the world-famous event. He finished the 26.2-mile race in four hours and 47 minutes. "He said it was the greatest feeling of his life," said Joe Burgasser, head of the Forerunners Track Club.
That year, he ran and biked at the World Transplant Games in Australia. Mr. Hoge's perseverance through countless medical problems and operations inspired others to run, bike and swim.
"We've gotten an outpour of people saying, 'The only reason I'm healthy or fit today is because of him,' " said his daughter, Jenee Lampasona.
As a member of the Forerunners and the St. Pete Mad Dogs Triathlon Club, Mr. Hoge was known for welcoming newcomers.
"Buzz would be the first person to walk up and introduce himself," said Burgasser, 70. "He wanted all new people to feel very much a part of things right away."
Although he trained in some capacity until his last stint in a hospital, Mr. Hoge became more of a spectator toward the end of his life. He was proud that nearly all his kids and grandkids are active in endurance sports, and he loved to watch them race.
On July 12, Mr. Hoge woke up with severe abdominal pain but insisted on attending the Morton Plant Mease Triathlon on Clearwater Beach, where his granddaughter would compete. Too ill to leave the car, he had his wife report back with the results.
"If he couldn't compete, he encouraged us to compete, and he wanted to be there," Lampasona said. "He would not leave the race until he found out the results."
Mr. Hoge never made it home after the race. His wife of 55 years took him to the hospital that morning. On July 17, he died from multisystem organ failure as a result of septic shock.
At age 75, he still hoped to make a comeback and race again. Six days before he died, Mr. Hoge completed a light triathlon workout.
"He was going to keep trying, even at the end," Burgasser said.