It takes courage and determination to change at any age, but taking up running later in life to increase one’s health and fitness level is not what the every day person does.
Meet five incredible athletes all in their 70s who are not interested in joining any senior’s classes soon. Their passion and joie de vivre: running.
Last year while training for California International marathon, my third marathon since I started running, I had the pleasure and honor to meet these four amazing women Charlyn, Barbara, Carolyn, and Linda all in their 70s – so driven, radiant, humble, and truly inspiring.
We met during our Fleet Feet Fit track workouts led by our amazing coach Chad Worthen. Being the gregarious and curious person that I am, I made friends with them and started asking questions. Charlyn amazed me first, as I talked to her and learned about her transformative and inspiring fitness journey . I even used her story on my mom to get her moving, which worked. My mom started running with me short half a mile distances the summer of 2016. I have to say that her form was perfect and that she did not want to run slowly. In 2017, a few months later after getting to know all these wonderful women, I have decided to interview them and learn about their extraordinary journeys.
Charlyn Frazier’s beginnings and progress as a runner
Charlyn Frazier started to run in February 2011 at the age of 66 after joining a local gym. She had played a lot of tennis in Southern California in the 70s and 80s, but after moving to Sacramento in 1990, she became inactive and put on a lot of weight in the next 21 years. Luckily, her trainer at the gym suggested that she kicked up the cardio and try running.
Charlyn ran her first 5K race in 39:33. It was so exhilarating and she couldn’t wait to do it again. Soon after that, she ran her first 10K in July 2011, her first half in October 2011, and her first marathon California International Marathon in 2012. This was just the beginning of her enthusiasm and passion for running. As of February 2017, Charlyn has run 104 races, four of which are marathons.
Her breakthrough in running came in January 2014 when she decided to join Fleet Feet Fit program. She immediately loved having coach Chad Worthen hold her accountable and give her positive feedbacks, while reminding her to get in her miles and stay focused during workouts.
Charlyn’s advice to other new and seasoned runners
- Taking up running for the first time means to start out slow with short distances and work up from there.
- Be ready to be amazed at how quickly your endurance and pace will build-up. For example, Charlyn finished her first 5K on May 30, 2011 in 39:33 and less than three months later finished a 5K in 36:08. Note that she set 5K PR at Run to Feed the Hungry in December 2016 with a time of 27:58.
- It is very important to have a network of running buddies. It was a major step for Charlyn in her running journey when she joined up with Fleet Feet to train for her first Urban Cow Half Marathon. The camaraderie in a training group is a phenomenal motivator for setting that clock and meeting up on the road on a cold winter morning.
- Meet and run with other runners who can inspire you to become the best you can be. Charlyn has become friends with Barbara, Linda, and Carolyn all featured in this blog.
Charlyn’s greatest accomplishments as a runner
- In 2015 Charlyn finished 9th in Buzz Oates Run-Sac competitive division. In 2016, she finished 7th being rewarded with $75.00 and $150.00 respectively. She also earned a place on the 2016 Milestone 100-Mile Club having logged 116 miles in Buzz Oates races http://runsacseries.com/. This earned her a cool shirt, hat, and jacket!
- Charlyn’s greatest honor has been receiving the Sacramento Running Association’s Award for 2015 Veteran Women Athlete – Marathon and SRA’s Award for 2016 Veteran Women Athlete – Road Running https://runsra.org/.
Barbara Rinker’s beginnings and progress as a runner
Barbara Rinker started to run at 50.
She remembers walking from the 20-mile mark of the American River Trail to the Fish Hatchery as part of a weight loss contest with Weight Watchers to lose pounds and get healthier. Then the walk progressed to a jog next to her long-legged husband. She eventually got pretty efficient at jogging and signed up with Buffalo CHIPS together with her husband. After running her first 10K in 58 minutes, Barbara was hooked by the joy of running. She also realized that running is as mental as it is physical.
Barbara’s advice to other new and seasoned runners
- The more you move, the more capable you are of moving.
- Appropriate rest days are just as important as running and workout days.
- Barbara’s advice to women 60 and older: “make yourself available to other runners; you could find them to be great confidence builders. Find a good training group and talk it up with others of like mind.”
- A proper running schedule will help you set and accomplish your health goals and increase the fun in your life. Heavy breathing is good for the soul and the lungs.
Barbara’s greatest accomplishments as a runner
- Barbara has run 11 marathons: 9 California International Marathons, 2 Boston Marathons, and 1 Avenue of the Giants.
- Total number of other races: 172, including 1 30K, 23 Half Marathons, and a mixture of 5 and 10Ks.
Carolyn Slavich’s beginnings and progress as a runner
Carolyn Slavich was 62 when she started running. She decided to try running when her daughter ran the CIM that year. Carolyn started to run around the track at the tennis club with one of her tennis friends. She doesn’t think she made it even 100 yards the first time she tried it, but kept at it until she could run 5 miles. Her first races were Susan G Komen 5K and Run to Feed the Hungry. When she was 65, Carolyn’s daughter talked her into doing a half marathon. Carolyn ran the Sacramento marathon half, which became the Cowtown and the Urban cow about five times.
When Carolyn was 70 years old, she decided to try a marathon. She looked for the perfect training program, but they all were for people faster than she was. Then she found Harry Tortuga training for the Urban Cow half and was able to combine that with a marathon training program she found on line. Carolyn completed her first CIM at 70 in 5:39.
Carolyn’s advice to other new and seasoned runners
- Running is very personal for everyone and the desire to start running has to be there for an individual.
- Carolyn encourages everyone interested enough to give running a try, because the end result is an amazing feeling, especially once runners reach their goals.
- Running certainly keeps you fit.
- Runners are such great people and running is such a wonderful social sport.
Carolyn’s greatest accomplishments as a runner
- Carolyn has completed 6 marathons and Boston will be her 7th.
- Carolyn is not totally sure, but she thinks she ran 100 races.
- She attributes her running accomplishments to her coach Chad Worthen and the Fleet Feet FIT training.
Linda Hall’s beginnings and progress as a runner
Linda Hall was 32 and just starting her first job as an assistant professor of biology at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts when she started running. She was working in a high stress job, setting up her own research laboratory, competing for grant money, teaching really bright students, and living in a big city. Linda had a husky-shepherd dog (Nikki) who loved running around Fresh Pond in Cambridge. Once Linda started running with her dog to and from work, she was hooked. Linda has been running for more than 40 years.
Linda did not run any races until she moved to New York City in 1979 when she joined the faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was a professor of molecular genetics and neuroscience. She joined NYC road runners and also Prospect Park Track club. Linda’s first race was Leggs mini marathon, which was really a 10 k race in Central Park. That year Dustin Hoffmann was in the movie Tootsie. He ran in that race in drag and was just ahead of Linda. The crowd was cheering for him, which was an indelible moment.
Linda’s advice to other new and seasoned runners
- Buy yourself a pair of good running shoes and vow to wear them out (it takes 300-400 miles).
- Then buy another pair of shoes and keep going.
- Running is a great way to relieve stress and to solve problems.
- Running can teach us patience and to approach problems systematically: one step at a time.
- Nothing seems bad after a nice run alone or with friends.
- Listen to your body and don’t try to do too much, too soon.
- Find a group of friends who are a little faster than you and stick with them.
- Running is a great way to maintain your weight, but you still can’t eat everything.
- Have fun with running, but listen to your body and you can keep running for many years. …more than 40 years for Linda!
- Running teaches you the importance of running your own race, but also the importance of encouraging others.
Linda’s greatest accomplishments as a runner
- Linda has run 7 marathons: NYC marathon (4 times), Marine Corps, Grandmas (in Minnesota), and the San Diego rock n roll marathon
Besides these wonderful and dedicated women athletes, I also had the honor to meet and interview David Ghent, who competes and wins in the Senior Games in the 70-74 age group, which used to be Senior Olympics.
David Ghent’s beginnings and progress as a runner
David Ghent is a different type of runner; he is a 73-year-old sprinter who loves sprinting due to the fact that it is over quickly. David has attempted distance running, but found out that he didn’t have the mental fortitude for it. David started sprinting for exercise and fell in love with it. He was sprinting at American River Junior College one day when this man asked him if he ever thought about sprinting in the Senior Games, which used to be Senior Olympics. The Senior Games are divided into 5 year increments from 50 years on up. David had never heard of it before, but started checking into it and decided to enter his first competition in 2014. He won three gold medals and has competed ever since.
David’s advice to other new and seasoned runners
- It is never too late to start something.
- People put too much weight into numbers when discussing age. It is almost expected that when one reaches a certain age, one is to stop living and “take it easy,” which is a big mistake.
- If more people could experience the feeling of when endorphins are activated into the pleasure center of one’s brain and the positive effect that endorphins have on the thoughts and feelings of the person, maybe more would choose to run.
- Joining a running group is such a positive and motivating environment. It is more enjoyable to participate in doing something with other like-minded people than alone.
- Completing a marathon doesn’t have to be the end all of a goal. Just go into it with the thought of moving, as they say from couch to 5K.
David’s greatest accomplishments as a runner
- To medal is the ultimate goal, but to be a participant and take in all that the Games have to offer and meeting the athletes is truly a privilege. To witness a 92 year young woman shot put and a 101 year young man shot put, throw both the javelin and discuss, and to run and finish both the 100 and 200 meter dashes is truly inspiring.
- Every two years there is the National Senior Games which are held in a different state each time. One has to qualify to participate and each state has their own qualifying events. David was fortunate enough to have qualified in 2015 which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota and again this year in Birmingham, Alabama. He will be participating in the 50, 100, and 200 meter dashes. He failed to advance to the finals in 2015, but that is his goal this year in Birmingham.
- David has run many 5K races and finished 2 half-marathons.
- David’s big goal and plan for this year is to run and finish the CIM, which will be his first marathon. He hopes to erase that from his bucket list.
When it comes to running and exercising to stay healthy and happy, running can be a great outlet. After all, life is rarely a sprint; it is a marathon, so why not run your first marathon at any age and find more inspiration from others who have done it and have transformed their lives, one step and mile at a time.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, and if you have your own amazing stories to share, please comment here.
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