Home > Blogs

How I’m drawing inspiration from my older running heroes who recently passed

When one writer feels her age is becoming a factor in her running, she looks at the older running heroes who paved the way

Ed Whitlock
Ed Whitlock
Ed Whitlock at the Dec. 10, 2016 “mob match” between the Ranelagh Harriers and the South London Harriers.

Running is a lifelong sport. It’s a beautiful statement in its simplicity.

Unfortunately, it can be far too easy to lose sight of this as we often get caught up in our runners minds obsessing about paces, upcoming races, and placing pressure on ourselves to arbitrarily meet certain times by certain dates.

Over the past few weeks, there have been a handful of news items, and personal events in my life, that have served to remind me that there’s no clock on my running career. I can run competitively for as long as my body allows me to. The word competitively is important here, because running for me is both a meditative activity and an outlet for my competitive nature.

RELATED: VIDEO: A tribute to Ed Whitlock

Some of my most frustrating times as a runner have come when I slip into the trap of believing my days of competing are going to be over before they even begin. It’s a defeatist mindset, and it’s not true, but on those bad days this thought gets to me. I’m learning to dismiss those negative thoughts as I see more and more evidence of runners kicking butt well into their later years.

Harriette Thompson, for example, started running in her seventies and at 92 years of age, she became the oldest woman to ever run a marathon – that’s remarkable, as is her character. She passed away on Oct. 6 in Charlotte, N.C. after falling down a flight of stairs while delivering presents to a retirement community. The kind of vigor, kindness and passion that she lived with is a model for us all.

Then we have the great Canadian runner, Ed Whitlock, who passed away in March just after his 86th birthday. His life was celebrated at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this past weekend with pace groups set for the times of his monumental races. Ed was a competitive, committed man. He religiously trained and took to the streets of Toronto and beyond to race with all of his heart. He set numerous world records, including running a 2:54:49 marathon at the age of 73. He’s the only person to ever run under three hours, over the age of 70.

I looked up to him in a similar way as I admired my grandfather, who passed away this year as well. I’ve written about him a couple of times in this blog, and I find myself returning to thoughts of him again. He was a fierce competitor, and he ran for as long as his body allowed him to (my guess he ran beyond even what his body really allowed – just because he was that intense). I was fortunate to come across one of his running journals while at his home in Santa Barbara, California earlier this month – where family gathered to say goodbye.

It has been a joy to read through his running journal. I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration in seeing his commitment to getting the most out of himself in his later years. His journal reflects mine, and probably most journals of competitive runners. It has his paces, miles, goal races, and scribbled notes recording how he felt on any given date. How cool is that? The idea of being that focused, and loving the sport that much into my latest of years is completely uplifting.

These runners, who have recently passed away, leave behind their legacies; giving us hope for what’s to come. I can’t help but to smile when thinking someday I’ll be that “old lady who’s running all time.”