Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cool Running: Inspiring Women Over 50

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post on running (which embarrassed me as I was writing it, and does even more in retrospect -- who am I to gave any advice at all on running motivation?!)

Here's a photo of then 80-year old Betty Jean McHugh, taken from an article in the North Shore News last January 2008. A nurse, mother, avid skier and tennis player, the article says, McHugh began running at 55 and has set several records. Since then she has run many marathons and went on after the article was written to set the world record for 80+ at the Royal Victoria Marathon.

I think her photo makes a very nice complement to the ones Duchesse posted the other day, and although genetics limits our ability to follow McHugh's lead, just as it does our ability to look as good as Inès de la Fressange, we can identify elements of her success to incorporate in our own active aging.

For example, while the North Shore News article points out that McHugh credits her successes over the years to "good genes," she also credits a healthy lifestyle, as well as her ability to set and meet goals.
"You have to have a goal. I've always had goals and I don't like to not finish them," she says.
In terms of advice for others, she wants people to not let their age slow them down. "Many people think they turn 50 and life is over which is totally untrue in this day and age," she says.

A brilliant example of women over 50 setting goals and living active, exciting lives is my friend Alison, who today celebrates a 50+ birthday painting where VanGogh painted on a South Pacific island she reached after sailing there with her husband, Kim, and two young crew members.

Writer, painter, naturalist, blogger, and soon-to-be a once-again student, Alison inspires everyone she meets. When I think (and write) about running, I think of all the miles we've covered together, and I look forward to running more with her in future. Happy Birthday, Alison!


  1. I really admire anyone who can run, as a teenager I could sprint but I am so 'heavy' that longer distances put too much presure on my hips. I do love the gym however,especially weight traing although I try to balance this with the bike and the ski machine.
    When I think back to how unfit my grandparents were, I think this generation has come a long way in terms of keeping fit enough to look forward to a healthier retirement.
    I am equally impressed that you can jog and talk!
    I really like your window images,especially the one with the green lamps hanging down. I have a bit of a thing about reflectins in shop window's as you may have gathered! I would have commented sooner but I still have no access to my blog account at work and so I am snatching odd moments on Kitty's computer.

  2. Oh i definitely agree with what McHugh says.A person who turns 50 above should not be affected on their ages,specially about their health.As a matter of fact when they reach that age,they should take care a lot of their body and health.And every person should really have a goal,and we need to get that,no matter what.;D

    Great post,have a great day.;D

  3. Indigo: If you saw the pace I run at, you wouldn't be surprised that I can chat as I run;-)
    I think it's really important to find an activity that feels comfortable whether it's running, walking, weight-training, rowing, cycling, swimming, skiing, riding, dancing, yoga, or Pilates. Just get out there an move! We can get some exercising licking those windows too, can't we!
    Summer: Goals are important at any age, aren't they!

  4. I've just taken up jogging again, in a very non-fast way, but by this time next year I hope to be able to run the whole way round my local park!

  5. Very inspiring. My spouse is a runner - currently working towards a sub-3-hour marathon - and I've often wished I could be too! Maybe I'll give it a go ...

  6. This is one of the most inspiring post i've ever read.;D
    And Goal is very important in one person's life..;D

  7. Indigo: Talking while you jog is a useful measure of whether you are jogging for recreation at a good (not too fast )pace; it's sometimes called 'running within your breath'. If you can't talk, running coaches advise you to slow your pace till you can.

    She's a wonderful inspiration; and some people are just not built to run, or have injuries that running provokes. So I am most grateful for your advice to "just move"!

  8. She is a great inspiration. And I like the comment about sticking to goals. I have always been a list and a goal person, and get very frustrated when I let myself get waylaid. I have a strong desire to finish (not necessarily to win anything, just to finish)

    And I agree about not giving up after 50. Gosh I just turned 50 a year ago and I feel like a new phase of life is just beginning -- better to be gung-ho than fearful.

  9. Imogen: I'm a nonfast runner as well! It's about the moving, right?!
    Tiffany: Wow! sub-3hours?! That's hardcore. Very impressive, although more daunting than inspiring for me. My husband runs -- obviously not as fast as yours, but much faster than I do -- and we rarely run together 'cause I can't bear the feeling of holding him back, altho' he assures me it's not a problem.
    Solo: Yes, goal-setting is important!
    Duchesse: Isn't she amazing?! I have no illusions I could be that active, but I love knowing about people who shatter our images of the senior years -- P.K. Page, the poet, is another one, still actively writing great stuff way past 80.
    Mardel: Goal-setting is important for me, altho' I have to be careful not to get too focused -- or at least, I have to be careful to keep the focus reasonable.
    So far, and I'm more than half a decade in now, I'm quite enjoying my 50s, altho' I have some quibbles with the machinery. . .

  10. I changed my life when I turned 50. Trail hiking has become running and I feel like I am holding my breath until I get the day's run in. But...the distance running, 13.1 and 10 miles, are taking a toll for 3 or 4 days post race. I'm not sure "distance" is going to be a priority in the future. I'm thinking making the 10k "my race" and working at improving it. Is this giving up?

  11. Hi Kathleen, and thanks for commenting. I don't think that's giving up at all. I'm currently assessing what I want to do, and much depends on some discomfort I've been experiencing in one leg. I may drop down to less distance myself for a while. And I recently surprised myself by finishing an 8K in a decent time, making me think there might be some fun in working at that distance. So far, I've done the distance running because I can manage the endurance and assumed I had no speed. But I'm getting faster, even 'though I'm approaching 60. Exciting what we can do, isn't it?!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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