Ode to my running mother

My mother, who lives in the French Alps, is a runner. She is 61.
She grew up in small towns, including La Grave, a village above Grenoble that would get cut off from the rest of the world for days during snowstorms in the 1950s.
She didn’t do any sport until the summer of 1978, when my parents rented a chalet in the mountains with another couple.
She followed her friends, both athletes, for rides up the hills on an old bike they’d loaned her. “It was hell,” she said. “It didn’t deter me.”
She was 31, the mother of two young daughters.
She returned home, down in the valley, and began running, on her own. She ran few hundred yards the first time and then alternated between walking and jogging.
She walked less the second time. She ran the full 5k loop the third time.

She was the only runner of the area at the end of the 1970s. “People looked at me like I was a `bête curieuse,” a strange animal, she said. “They thought I was a lunatic. A woman who runs!” She almost feared for her safety.
She gave the running “virus” to my father and our family doctor, a close friend. My parents left the house every Saturday and Sunday mornings for runs of 9 km, 12 km, 15 km or 20 km (12 miles), depending on how much time they had. “What are you running after?” I once asked them.
My mother is a modest runner.
She doesn’t brag about her times, even though she could. In her life, exercising is normal, like breathing. When she talks about running, it’s usually because she couldn’t run and she’s frustrated.
She ran her first marathon in 1995 in Paris in 4h04, at 48.
She ran her best marathon in 1999 in Paris in 3h36, at 52.
She ran SaintéLyon, a 69km (43 miles) night race, twice. The November event starts at midnight. Participants, wearing head lamps, run and walk on muddy, hilly dirt roads in the woods and arrive 9 hours later, just in time for breakfast.
She’s run several marathons in just over 4 hours in the past two years. “I’m getting old,” she said. “I’d better get used to it.” She doesn’t seem to be aware many young men and women are only dreaming of completing a marathon in 4 hours and many more fail to finish the race.
She was first of her age category in the Turin marathon in March 2007, finishing in 4h05. It wasn’t impressive, she said, because there were “only” seven women over 60.
She ran the NYC Marathon in 3h58 in November 2007, finishing 10th among women 60 to 64. She was happy about her time, but not impressed by her ranking. “There aren’t that many women in that category,” she said. There were 231.
She was first of her category in a 10k race of Monaco in March, completing the hilly course in 49 minutes, at a pace of 7:53 per mile, or 12.2 km/h.
She plans to run her 15th marathon in New York in November. Every year, she says it may be her last.
She’s just happy to be able to run. “When I started, I would never have imagined I would still be running at 60,” she said.

My mother is an inspiring runner.


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