Culture

This Runner Proves You Can Win Races At Any Age

One runner proves that no matter your age, you can still accomplish anything you set your mind to.

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On May 15—at 53 years old—I won The Colfax Marathon in 03:10:41.

I ran this race to, first, raise awareness and to try and help take away the stigma and shame associated with mental illness. I feel that there is, perhaps, a segment of the population who know they need help, but don’t because of this stigma. Our society as a whole would benefit with being educated so that everyone has a chance to get the help they need.

Second, I ran the race to stress how important it is not to give up on yourself at any age on any endeavor, running or otherwise. It has been so refreshing to have liberated some of the people from what I am now calling the ‘age cage,’ who now come up to me and introduce themselves by their name and age!

Some will say, “I felt that after 40, I did not really count in being marketed to in sports or otherwise. Thank you!” In thinking this through, perhaps there is somewhat of a feeling of being in a forgotten demographic, which is suppressing—and not helping—to fuel their dreams.

On the other side of the spectrum, I hear 20- and 30-somethings tell me, “You’re 53 and won a marathon? Imagine that!” “Yes,” I respond. “Imagine what lies ahead. Enjoy the journey and make it count!”

Finally, I ran the race to raise awareness for The Mitochondrial Foundation (a cause near and dear to my heart). My beloved nephew, Christopher Schindler, died of this disease at 11 years old. I dedicated, ran and won The Houston Marathon Master Title in 2010 in 02:56:12 to him.

I have also ran and won (on my first attempt) The Master Title in Boston 2007 (02:56:03) during some of the worst weather conditions. A nor’easter had come in and there had been talk of the first possible cancellation in the 111 race year history. I am proud of this achievement as well, not only because Boston is well, BOSTON!, but because I weathered the storm. I conquered the conditions and won a hugely monumental race.

In running, for having started in my mid- twenties and being primarily self coached, I have run 15 marathons and 10 consecutive sub-three hour marathons. I have won races in both the open and master divisions in distances from the 5k to now, the marathon!

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My own personal journey to strive beyond the boundaries of my mind did not come easy. I was originally born in Colombia, South America. My mother, two younger siblings and myself immigrated to the United States when I was 13 years old. This was possible due to the generosity of my two aunts who had already moved and established themselves here.

The move was not without its growing pains, as none of us spoke English. The ‘all hands on deck’ approach certainly applied, as we assimilated to our new culture and learned the English language. My mother worked , at times two jobs, and did not have the luxury of going to school to learn the language. She learned it on her own (and I am very proud of this). As the oldest sibling , I helped care for my younger brother and sister, while also attending school. Sports were never on my radar.

In my mid-twenties, I decided to start running and competed in my first marathon in Houston in 1990. Running felt very natural and freeing for me. I continued running casually while attending chiropractic school.

I got married in 1994 and graduated from chiropractic school in 1995. I worked as a chiropractor for almost 10 years. While working as a chiropractor, I decided to learn how to swim (or as I sometimes refer to as: how not to drown) at 40 years old. I competed in 7 full Ironman races (4 in one year!). I missed qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in my first Ironman in Florida in 2003.

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I was able to break 11 hours at the distance with a 10:58:00, also in Florida, an achievement which I am also proud of. The personal challenge of enduring coming out of the swim portion and seeing that most bikes were already gone only helped to strengthen my resolve, to continue striving and to never give up. My day and the work ahead was just beginning and I was ready to imagine what laid ahead and to make it count.

I returned to compete solely in what will always be my first love—running—in 2006. I am grateful beyond measure to have been given a gift which started being about me , but has slowly and most importantly morphed into running for causes much, much greater than myself!