I am a senior grand master runner (this sounds so bold!) and excited to join this wonderful community of women runners. In 1976, when I was twenty-five, I started running. It was still eight years before the women’s marathon was an Olympic event! I was self-taught. I wore baggy cotton shorts, tee shirt and Keds shoes. I was often the only woman in the male bastion of joggers at the Polo Field at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Regardless, I loved running, the freedom, the ease of movement, and the friendships made.
Almost thirty years later, having raised two incredible boys (one with a NYC Marathon PR of 2:44 and the other with Tucson Marathon PR of 3:26), worked as a corporate lawyer, moved more than twelve times with my husband, and with the running world an entirely different beast than in the late 1970s, I ran my first marathon (California International Marathon) at the age of 58 (at that time just a grand master). I finished, qualifying for both the Boston and the New York City Marathons. I was pale, stiff, tired, and cold; yet, I couldn’t wait to run again!
I thought about my next goals. If I trained with a coach, focused on intervals, hill repeats, endurance, core strength and flexibility exercises, all those things I should have done the previous fall, I wondered if I might be competitive at local or regional events in the then grand masters age group.
This was clearly magical thinking. Within weeks of more intense training, I suffered a debilitating, almost five-year, hamstring injury, a major hiatus for a life-long runner. I didn’t run for almost two years; three or four times I’d start again, slowly moving up to four or five, maybe seven mile distances, and then wham, the sharp, spear-like pain of my hamstring stopped me in my tracks. I’d start another round of physical therapy, massage therapy, new sports medicine specialists, Pilates, acupuncture, waiting, impatiently, to put on my running shoes and run!
Despite the setbacks, the constant rehabilitation, the progression to senior grand masters category, the additional time it takes to do strength and stretching, to warm up and cool down, to use my foam roller, to practice proper nutrition, and to stay in tune with what my body is telling me, something deep inside compels me to want to excel at this sport. I see talented runners not much younger than, or even older than me, running 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons, even ultra-distances. Could I do what they are doing? Or is it too late? Am I too old? An outlier? Should it matter?
I am now in the W60-64 age group. Where did time go? Only a month ago I was training for a half marathon, the first in over five years, but decided to drop down to a 10k, concerned that my right hip flexor wouldn’t withstand 13.1 miles. My massage therapist, a triathlete, said to listen to my body, just like Salty’s blog! Shocked and surprised, I ran 47:07, a PR of over 2 ½ minutes! I don’t know if it’s repeatable but I’m going to try.
My primary running goal, besides staying reasonably healthy, is to complete a half marathon; truth really, I just want to run until I can no longer move. Each day that I can lace up my running shoes, head out the door to the trail, and run with an economy of movement and steady breathing is a good day. I would like to run longer distances, shave seconds off each mile, and make myself proud of what I can do. I wish I’d been a constant runner for the past almost forty years, but I am thankful I am a runner today, even if there are months in which I do not run. I read about running, I follow runners, I write about running – it is essential to my days. Ask my husband and two sons; my mood is significantly lighter when I run.
I joyfully embrace each mile run, as a runner, not just an older woman out on the narrow roads and trails of Sonoma and Boulder, in colorful running shoes with a green Garmin watch and red ID bracelet on her wrists. I look forward to sharing my progress with you, learning about your trials and tribulations, feats of willpower, and celebrations of successes. I hope I have some wisdom to share, gained through my many years of running (and swimming, bicycling and hiking) and friendships made while doing this empowering sport.