I reached 199,534 miles a week ago, and with my 21-miler today, hit 200,018 miles. Here's my story:
I grew up in the South in the 50's and 60's when girls were not supposed to sweat. I never considered running although I asked Tim Singleton ( founder of the Peachtree 10K) about 20 years ago why he had not gotten me interested in running in the early 70's when he was the Dean of Men at Georgia State and the Student Government Advisor, while I was a student and treasurer of Student Government. I told him I could have been Gayle Barron but he never mentioned running and I was quite unaware of Peachtree.
I started running in the summer of 1978. I went from being a full time wife and Mom, middle school teacher and coach, and going to school at nights to finish my master's degree to moving into a coed dorm for the summer to finish my degree. I only had a dorm room, my meals were in the cafeteria, and I only had to go to classes.
I was quickly bored and started riding my bicycle in my spare time. But the University of South Florida is an urban campus and riding a bike was very risky with all the traffic (this was well before bike lanes). Since I had coached my middle school girls to three championships and had once told them anyone can run around the track once--the 880 was the furthest distance the girls were allowed to do in the mid 70's in Florida--I decided to start jogging. I bought a pair of Converse tennis shoes and to my utter dismay could not run around the track one time.
I enlisted my suite mates in the dorm to start going to the running path with me. A few weeks later I saw a five mile race advertised on campus. I decided to enter. I knew absolutely nothing about pacing and actually met Fred Lebow at the start ( I had no idea who he was). I got on the front line being a type A gal and went out hard for about half a mile. Then I died a slow and painful death. At two and a half miles I saw my dorm and nearly went straight there. But I finished and got a ribbon for my age group. I was 29 at the time. You would have thought I had won the race. I was so thrilled to get a prize. A runner was truly born that morning.
When I reunited with my family in Tallahassee that September , I was hooked. But my husband at the time did not want me running. I was barely 100 pounds and he did not wanting me losing weight. We made a deal that I could continue to run if I kept my weight at 100 pounds. I actually gained weight (muscle) and have been around 113 ever since then.
One of my twin daughters started running with me and we did a 5K in Panacea,Fl that September. We finished dead last but got an awesome Blue Crab Festival 5K tee shirt. My husband and the other twin wanted one, but we proudly told them that you have to earn it. By the way I won the same 5K the following year in 18:45!!
Once settled in Tallahassee I started working in research for a professor and began my PhD studies at Florida State in education leadership and research and statistics. I went to the track to run as it was right next to the building where most of my classes were held. I met Tim Simpkins who coached the Tallahassee Lassies for the Gulf Winds Track Club. The ladies I trained with were not fast enough to run for Racing South (with Janice Gage, Laura Ledbetter, Shirley Silsby, etc) but we had some ability. Tim was a tough coach but we all improved dramatically. I got my mile time down to 5:30 and my 5K's were always under twenty minutes.
But I was working on my doctorate and quickly discovered that I could solve problems with my dissertation on my runs. I quickly began doing pretty heavy mileage and Tallahassee was a great place to run. I began training for a marathon and wanted to qualify for Boston although I had no idea what that really meant except that it seemed something every runner I knew wanted to do. In the fall of 1979 Boston changed their standards to sub 3:20 for all women and sub 2:50 for all men. I had lost ten minutes before I even started. But not to be deterred, I finished second overall female at the Joe Steele Rocket City Marathon in 3:17:23. I did not run Boston as I only wanted to qualify. In fact I never ran Boston (even though I was invited several times) until we lived in Boston and I ran for the BAA in 1989.
My first decade of running I averaged over 4000 miles a year. Then the mileage began to creep upwards. I hit over 100,000 miles in 2001 but never knew it as I had not tallied my mileage until Steve, my second husband, asked me to do so in 2008 or thereabouts. I started running over 6000 miles a year in 2001 and by 2006 I was going over 7000 a year, hitting my all time high last year at 7579. It was a wicked bad year, due to Steve's death from cancer, and I only got through it by running. My chosen daughter , Colleen De Reuck, always kids me that I go out after breakfast and return after lunch.After Steve and I married in 1987, that was pretty much my life. Before that I managed to get up every morning at 4 am to run before going to work.
I have now completed 132 marathons, hold the Georgia state records for 5K, 4 miles,half marathon and 50K. My fastest marathon was 2:51:40, and I missed qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Trials by 16 seconds. Of course I never knew what the standard was until I was told I missed it!! My pr's are 5:30 mile, 18:28 5K, 31:00 five mile, 37:12 10K, 1:21 half, and I won the overall title at the Passing for Sane 50 miler in 1986 in 7:03. It is the only ultra besides the 50K that I have ever done.
I must admit that I love to train but hate racing and have never really pushed myself too hard. I know Colleen has told me that when the going gets tough you dig deeper and get through the pain. In response, I have told her many times that if you back off, you feel much better.
So I have discovered that I can run for hours and put in hard sessions to this day, but I am not mentally tough. I want to continue to love running. Despite my wimpiness, I still run competitively for the Atlanta Track Club Elite as I have done for many years. In my early years I ran for Asics Tiger for a couple of years. I can still manage to pop a low twenty minute 5K and have run a 1:38 half the past two years. But what speed I had is going quickly.
I must admit that I have never thought much about all of my miles. I was amazed that there are so few people who have run as many miles as I have. My good friends all know about my miles, but I guess I never thought it was special. I have learned not to tell strangers how much I run. I am sure most of my family and many of my acquaintances think I am certifiable.
To celebrate my 65th birthday I ran a marathon a month. I even ran one in Allentown just down the way from your RW headquarters. I do most of my runs by myself. I really do not know anyone as crazy as I am. Besides I run in rural north Georgia in the foothills of the Appalachians and there are very few runners here. When the Olympics came to Atlanta, my neighbors were certain I would be competing.
Our home is filled with medals and trophies. Steve even insulated the wine cellar he dug with some of my plaques.He loved having all of my stuff on display. Personally I think it is just alot of stuff to dust!!
I am fortunate that I had some talent and I have met runners all over the world while running and volunteering and doing press coverage. I have never been a streaker or 50 state person or whatever. I just love the freedom of running. It has added so much to my life. I went from a woman who could not run around the track to a woman who sometimes believes I could run forever. However I do see my mileage decreasing in the next years as it takes me much more time to do 20 plus miles a day than it used to take. I have been blessed to be injury free but I believe that is because I listen to my body. I do not ,heaven forbid, run with music or use a GPS watch. I believe in the simplicity of our sport.
Fortunately for most of my running life I have had access to shoes and clothing so I do not go broke replacing shoes all of the time. I am currently sponsored through the Atlanta Track Club by Mizuno. Having completed probably well over a thousand races, I have tons of shirts and jackets. Steve used to tease me that my one eighth Cherokee heritage is what gave me such an ability to run. I figured he meant I was always on the warpath.