Fit Forever
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Fit Forever

Fit Forever

by Don Norcross

Two days shy of 48, at the 2003 Los Angeles Marathon, Ukraine's Tatana Pozdyakova etches history, becoming the oldest person to win a major marathon. At 62, San Diego's Harold Tolson sprints 100 meters in 12.08 seconds. At 70, Japan's Yuichiro Miura ascends Mount Everest. At 81, New Jersey's Gerry Bloch scales Yosemite National Park's famed El Capitan.

Even President Bush is in on the "oldies but goodies" act. Barely 18 months into his presidency, George W., then 55, gave his Secret Service agents a workout, covering three miles in 20 minutes, 29 seconds.

For you older runners looking for inspiration to get out the door for a 5 a.m. workout, meet five RAC members, with ages ranging through five decades, who exemplify a commitment to fitness by qualifying for the 25th Ironman World Triathlon Championship in Hawaii.

Fittest at 40
With her college swimming career at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University history, Tina McDonie did not tiptoe into the real world. There was the engineering job, classes at night to earn her MBA and a part-time high school coaching gig. To satisfy her exercise bent, she turned to running. "It was time efficient," recalls McDonie who joined RAC in 1992, became a VIP member in 2001, and lives near Chicago.

Eventually, her body protested the 50-mile weeks, with injuries that kept her from racing. In 1998, a friend talked McDonie into a triathlon. In 2002, at Ironman Wisconsin in Madison, she made her debut in the famous race. The woman's got game, she finished second in her age group in 10 hours, 31 minutes, qualifying for the Ironman World Championship.

McDonie, runs about 25 miles a week and thanks to the cross-training, her body's fine. "In '02, during Ironman training, that's the healthiest I've ever been," she says.

She coaches cross-country, swimming and track at Lake Forrest College. Many of the same athletes she coaches cheered her on at Ironman Wisconsin. "It helps them see that what I talk about isn't just words," McDonie says. "It's about a lifestyle and what's important."

Feisty at 50
The picture was not flattering. There he was in his bathing suit, and as he stared at the snapshot, Dick Tomlin frowned. "I was getting a little puffy," says Tomlin, who lives in Kingman, Arizona. "You can get that way when you're playing softball and drinking beer."

That was nearly 30 years ago when Tomlin decided to lace up his running shoes and hit the road. By 1984, he ran a 2:42 marathon, his PR, and he has since turned to multi-sport. A lifetime RAC member since 1992 and a VIP since 2001, one of his best seasons was 1997. He finished second in his age group at the ITU Olympic-Distance World Championships in Perth, Australia and won his division at the Duathlon World Championships in Spain.

At Ironman Hawaii, he boasts second- and third-place medals. "I've yet to win a Triathlon World Championship," Tomlin says.

His advice to other older Baby Boomers wanting to shape up: "Think how long it took you to get out of shape. Start slow. Buy good equipment. And consult knowledgeable people."

Her Secret to 60
Mickie Shapiro's daughter didn't want to be confined inside with the other girls in her kindergarten class. She wanted to be outside, running races, where the winners were treated to M&M's.

Shapiro put her daughter in a Southern California track club, the same one that produced Mary Slaney and Ruth Wysocki. Of course, if your daughter's enamored with running and you want to bond with her, then you buy your own running shoes and pound the pavement alongside her.

As it turned out, Mom became quite the runner, too. Shapiro counts more than 30 marathons to her resume. In recent years, Ironman races have been her lure. The past six years she has raced two a year. Her only regret? There aren't more women her age racing. "I don't know what's happened to the women," laments Shapiro, who lives in Costa Mesa, California and is a new member of the Run America Club.

"The secret," says Shapiro, "is really loving what you're doing and feeling alive. It becomes your lifestyle, it becomes your passion and it becomes who you are."

The 70s Sister
The priest talked about running, how it harmonized the mind, body and soul and Sister Madonna Buder was captivated. Later that evening, on an Oregon beach, Sister Buder put foot to sand. Of that night over 25 years ago, Sister Buder, RAC member since 2003, says, "That happened on April Fools' Day. I've been a fool ever since."

Sister Buder might be the world's fittest nun. The Spokane, Washington, resident has run 37 marathons, with a 3:30 PR. But her biggest public relations splash has come at Ironman Hawaii, where she holds two age-group records, 60-64 and 65-69. "I'm not just fanning the breeze," she says.

Greeted by a near-midnight raucous ovation last October, Sister Buder became the oldest woman to complete Ironman Hawaii, finishing in 16 hours, 48 minutes, 4 seconds. Sister Buder's training is based on practicality. She walks to and from mass five days a week, over a four-mile hike. And while she owns a car, she logs most of her cycling training riding about town on errands.

In recent years, she has had to cut back her running from a high of 70 miles a week to 25. One thing has not changed though: The woman loves to train-not surrounded by four walls, but beneath the heavens. "Outdoors is just God's cathedral," says Sister Buder. "And I'm perfectly at home in it."

Awesome at 80
The man in his 30s, wanted to speak to Bill Bell; wanted to thank him. After watching Bell cycling about the Queen K Highway during NBC's coverage of Ironman Hawaii, the man decided he, too, wanted to try the tri. It was a courageous goal because the man was battling cancer. "My doctor said no way I'd do Alcatraz," the gentleman told Bell at the June 2003 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. "But I'm here, and I'm doing it."

Bell's tale has inspired dozens if not hundreds of athletes. Diagnosed with a heart murmur at 59, Bell, with a doctor's encouragement, began to run. Within six months he ran his first marathon. Now over 20 years later, he has completed 158 marathons (including ultras), 32 Ironman races and is an honorary member of the Run America Club. He's the oldest person to officially finish an Ironman, at 78, coming in just minutes before the midnight 17-hour deadline at the 2001 Ironman California.

Joking about how he missed out on sports as a kid because he was delivering two paper routes, Bell, who lives in Indian Wells, California, says, "This is my letterman's sweater 55 years late."

Bell had a pacemaker inserted into his heart last November to regulate his heart rate. His new goal: to become the first octogenarian to finish Ironman Hawaii. "To me," says Bell, "that'd be like the four-minute mile."

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