Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reaping the Rewards of Years of Running

Jannine Myers

As I gathered the information for this post, my intent was to write about running and it's potential to ward off osteoporosis in aging female runners, but you will see however, from the questions and answers posted below, that I went off on a completely different tangent! Please keep reading, as I'm certain you will find my interview with 73 year old Tricia Moss, both enjoyable and inspiring.

When I was last home in New Zealand, visiting my family (and running a horrendous mountain-climbing ultramarathon with some crazy like-minded friends), my father told me about his friend Tricia. He and my mother got to know Tricia through mutual friends, all of whom meet most weekends to walk along one of the popular hiking routes that wind through the beautiful Waitakere Ranges near my parent's home. Tricia loves to spend her mornings walking, but not too long ago she was running half marathons, and as my father was keen to boast about, she was still winning age-group awards in her early 70s. Tricia and I have never met, but we have struck up an online friendship, and like many other women around the world who seem to easily bond through a common love of running, so too have we.

In one of our recent email conversations, Tricia mentioned that her doctor was impressed with her good health and in particular, her strong bones, which he attributed to her many years of running. Excited by Tricia's news, I immediately began to research the correlation between running and the prevention of osteoporosis. I also sought further information from Tricia on her running background, as I wanted to try and determine how much running a female needed to do to maintain good bone density throughout the latter years of her life. But as I began to read through Tricia's answers, I grew less interested in the osteoporosis/running concept, and far more interested in Tricia's life as a late-bloomer runner. Her words gave me a glimpse into a life that I believe many of you will be touched by, not because of Tricia's talent as a runner, but because of the choice she made (in her 40s), to turn her life around and say goodbye once and for all to the couch potato that had kept her from leading a healthy life.

Me: When did you start running and for what reason?
Tricia: I started running when I was about 46 - I had gained a little weight, which I dieted off fairly easily but I was left with typical New Zealand thighs and was told the only thing to get the thighs back in shape was to run! Gosh, I had never even raised a sweat in all my 46 years. Anyway, I started very slowly, running about 4ks, and every time I got home I told my husband that I would die of a heart attack if I kept it up. He was very good and said not to be so daft and just get on with it. I was amazed that after a month or so I could run all the way without gasping for breath! And one of my girl's boyfriends at the time suggested I endeavour to increase my run, so from there on in I was hooked.

Me: Were you ever active in any other type of sport?
Tricia: I had, until this time, never been a sporty person. My parents were older and more academic - although when my girls were around 10 and 12 they asked for a horse each. We got one horse, and this involved Rod (husband) and I in some fairly physical activity.

Me: Can you provide a brief history of the races you've done, and which races you have won awards for?
Tricia: I am a little hazy about the early days. I know that this really began when I changed my job and met a lady (who is now a very dear friend) who was a runner - she asked me to join her and her friends to run the pipeline (the pipeline is one of the beautiful trail routes in the Waitakere Ranges). The first run I did with them was very nerve-wracking, as I thought they would be so much faster than me. But when we had finished I was so pleased that I had managed to keep up with them, and happy that I now had other people to judge myself against. As I began to run more and more 10ks, recreationally, I saw a 10k race advertised and thought I would give it a go. It all went well - I can't remember my time but this gave me a lot of confidence to continue and so I entered a half marathon. My girls were appalled as they thought I couldn't do it, but I surprised them and myself by completing it quite easily (would you believe they turned up at the finish line with my slippers - how embarrassing, ha ha!). So then I really got into the stride and as I turned 50 I began winning my age group - I couldn't help bragging about this with my relations who considered me a couch potato. I remember clearly the first prize I won - I had left the race as soon as I had finished and the next day at work my friend ran to my desk with a package telling me I had won my age group - we laughed and laughed when we opened it - it was an IRON!!

I think I began to get too confident, as after winning  three half marathons in a row I entered the half marathon at Huntly and convinced my husband and kids to drive down with me. Well as you know, Huntly is very flat and I ran my heart out - time I finished was about 1:47 hrs (nowadays, this time in 50plus would be nothing but then it was quite fast) - we sat around after the race with me being absolutely sure I had won - - - well, surprise surprise I never came near - my husband had tried to tell me that other ladies in my age group had come through before me, but I was adamant that I had won - this did me the world of good. I later found out that the Rotorua Marathon runners used this event as a forerunner to their races. On the drive back I was just so sick and felt so bad that I said I would never do another half marathon - and I didn't. I just ran for fun. Until I retired and I needed something to keep me running, so I entered the Auckland Half Marathon in the 65plus age and I came in second. My daughter also ran this race with me and we had such a lovely lovely day. We then ran about another four or so, with me coming in 2nd in one race and 1st in another. Then I found out that a 70-plus category was added, so my daughter decided (now having 3 kids) to run it with me. Wow, what fun we had and I actually won this one and made it my swan song.

Me: You mentioned in a previous email that you are now walking 10k every day - when did you transition from running to walking and why?
Tricia: The above leads into my walking - I ran the 70plus race in 2hrs 27mins, which was 3mins less than I had thought I would. After the race I did not run for about a week and when I went out for a run I found my legs had just about seized up!!! Anyway I got them back on track and went on running about 13 ks a day but realised I was getting just so slow, so decided to 'retire' and take up walking. I had been walking for about two weeks, when one day a runner (real runner) stopped me and asked why I was walking - I told him I was now quite slow. He was so funny, as he said not to be so silly - and my problem was that I was running with marathon runners (which I was every so often) and that I should stop that and run alone at my own pace, no matter how slow. I did that for about another two years, but I now find that some days I run part of my route, but mostly walk. I do push myself though to keep up a brisk pace and walk about 11ks every day, except Sunday.

Me: What advice, if any, would you give to many of the young woman out there who want to get out and run, but lack the motivation to do so, or they feel that they have no time?
Tricia: My advice to all young women is to get out there and just jog. One, my own experience has shown that my health is so much better than my peers - even my bones have proved (after having a bone scan), that they are as strong as that of a 25 year old - all due the doctor said, to my running. Also - I feel women have very litte 'my time' - they can make this part of their day 'their own time' with no one continually asking them for help -eg husbands kids etc ha!ha!

Also, I must say I got a bit of a kick out of a situation - I had taken a big fall and cracked the top of my arm where it sits in the shoulder socket. The doctor said he was amazed as most women my age would have had to have a steel plate put in as their bones would have shattered, whereas mine was just a little crack. Then he wrote on the medical form - ATHLETE - can you imagine how my head just swelled - I drove all the way from Ponsonby to Titirangi with a huge smile on my face.

Add-on: the following email excerpt is from a conversation that Tricia and I had earlier this year, when I asked her if she was done racing:

Ran my last half when I was 70 and promised my husband that that would be that - but found that it was like giving up an addiction and although I do not compete at all, I am back to 'slow jogging' ha!ha! My granddaughter and my daughter have convinced me to do the Round the Bays fun run in March, so I am back in full training - how funny is that, training for an 8.4 k run! Had to laugh the other day as I was going full pelt - I swear I was ha!ha! Two people stopped to ask me what was I training for - it was so embarrassing saying I was training to run 8.4ks. 

After the 8.4k race:

Hi Jannine - as you were kind enough to ask me to update you on my 'Round the Bays' run - - - well it all went very well - - - my granddaughter (age 11) was amazing - we (me and my daughter) gave her so many instructions about watching her feet so she did not trip over - not to go too fast - watch out for the other runners etc etc - well the gun went off and so did Mollie - we did not see her again and here she was running with about 50,000+ runners. I told my daughter not to wait for me but to get to the finish line as soon as she could so Mollie was not there worrying about where we were! Well luckily it was a good day weatherwise, but a slight headwind - the start was 'very dangerous' with young men doing their utmost to beat everyone, but of course causing great havoc as they jumped and lolloped around everyone. I just got into my normal jogging speed and tried never to break my slow jog ha!ha! Anyway I was so happy when I saw the finish line and just ahead of me saw my daughter, she was only about 10 metres ahead of me!!! Wow I thought - my time clocked at 1hr 3mins, so not bad for me I thought. 

No, not bad at all Tricia! In fact, amazing says it better!

What is there left to say after reading this ladies? Certainly no more room for excuses - Tricia was in her mid forties when she started running, she had no previous sports experience, and she was a full-time working mother. She proved to both herself and those who knew her that dedication and perseverance pays off, and the rewards are evident in the quality of life she has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy. Thank you so much for allowing me to share your story Tricia - I want to be just like you when I grow up :)

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