My Turn: ‘Little old lady’ chalks up a marathon

I completed the Pasadena Marathon six months ago. I am 68 years old, 5 feet tall and have short, chunky legs. A stranger would consider me to be a “little old lady,” as in the song, “the little old lady from Pasadena.”

But looks can be deceiving.

When the organizers of the Pasadena Marathon announced their event for 2010, I had already completed six half-marathons. I thought about signing up for their half-marathon again but decided I needed more of a challenge. Just the thought of a full marathon was scary, though. What was I doing? My family was not completely encouraging, because about three years ago I had a serious knee injury from a half-marathon and had to limit my running and walking for a year in order for it to heal.

And in the beginning I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was doing, because then no one would know if I quit or failed.


I decided to follow an advanced marathon training plan devised by Jeff Galloway, Atlanta-based running coach and former Olympian. I had to adapt the program because of my knee problems; I cannot run for prolonged distances, but I can run/walk. I started my training, fast-walking for nine minutes and running for one minute, then worked up to fast-walking for 81/2 minutes and running for 11/2 minutes. I knew that if I could keep up that pace, I could finish a full marathon in 61/2 hours or less, well within the designated time. I did my run/walk routine twice a week for an hour at the gym, gradually building up to two hours twice a week, and did the prescribed long run/walks on weekends.

As part of my training, I managed to fit in the Santa Barbara half-marathon in November and the Santa Monica half-marathon in January.

My first mishap occurred five weeks before the marathon. At a busy intersection with many spectators, I tripped and fell while doing a 17-mile weekend run, falling and sliding on my left knee, upper arm and side of my face. What a shock! My water bottle went flying. I quickly checked myself, picked up my water bottle and continued; I was 3 miles from home and I needed to complete my run. Fortunately, I was not seriously injured and only had ugly road burns from the fall.

My second mishap occurred two weeks before the marathon: My old knee injury flared up. It was very painful, and I could only limp around slowly. I was devastated. I had been training so hard for so long. I started icing my knee regularly, still hopeful. The week before the marathon, my knee felt better, and on two occasions I walked at a leisurely pace on the treadmill for an hour.


The night before the marathon, I was nervous. I had not fast-walked or run in two weeks. As I drove to the marathon, it was raining. How was I going to be able to complete a full marathon in the rain?

But the rain stopped before the race. It was a perfect day for running — cool temperatures and overcast skies. I was excited and optimistic. I was able to follow my plan to fast-walk nine minutes and run one minute almost all of the time except when going up one of the killer hills, of which there were several. My pace was slower than I had planned, but I knew I would finish.

Then, as I was looking for the mile-25 marker, I heard someone shout my name. It was a work colleague who had finished the marathon in 3 hours and 41 minutes. He had gone home, showered and then tracked my progress on the live feed on the Internet. He calculated when I would be at mile 25 and met me there.

I was dead tired, mainly walking by then. He accompanied me for the remaining distance, and I did manage to run as I approached the finish line. I wanted to finish running — and I wanted my finish photo to show me running.

The training and being in the marathon were wonderful. I loved setting a goal and working toward it. I did something that I never ever thought I would be able to do. My only complaint is the painful muscles I had afterward. But I knew this pain was only temporary, whereas my pride in completing a marathon will last a lifetime.

I must be crazy, but I am considering doing it again next year. I will be easy to spot; I am the “little old lady,” not from Pasadena, but from Simi Valley.