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Elite runners: the old and the young

Elite runners have evolved over the years, Capt Seshadri takes a looks at the greats old and new to see how they have made history.

Running old

Young or old is not defined by age in numbers… it is the youthfulness of the mind that matters.

Muscle is, after all, under the control of the mind. Or at least, it ought to be. Here are two supreme athletes, divided in age by 30 years, who have set the long distance tracks literally on fire!

Elderly young? 43-year young Tina Husted proves it beyond doubt. Having grown up in a small town, this girl’s first love was basketball, but she soon turned to track events, excelling in the middle distance races of 800 metres and 1,500 metres. After her marriage, she was languishing until 2010, when a casual challenge by a friend to compete in the ‘Warrior Dash’ ignited the running spark in her. A three year, intensive training program followed. Tina was now destined to be the ultimate long distance elder runner.

The three year itch to train intensely, brought about several successes, with sub 3 hour marathons; but the intensity took its inevitable toll. Below par race performances connected to fatigue and injuries dented her physically, but her spirit was unbroken She enlisted the coaching services of the JFK50 miler Race Director Mike Spinnler. This experienced coach and former champion runner put her through a regular training regimen… 50 to 60 miles (80 to 100 km) per week, traditional workouts like hill running repeats, interval training and endurance runs of slow pace over longer distances. The results speak for themselves. Year 2012, and the JFK 50 Miler in 7:22:44. An incredible feat even for a sub 3 hour superstar runner. A comeback in 2014, with a personal best of 2:46:55 in Philadelphia put her right back on track. A Grandmas marathon in 2:47:27, Columbus in an even better timing of 2:47:06 and Husted was back in the reckoning.

Mother of three, wife of a very senior bureaucrat, active release therapist, real estate agent, athletics coach, Tina Husted’s commitment is a philosophy for younger runners to emulate. Balancing family life, personal commitments and life’s pressures still come easy to Tina. Focusing on short term goals and achieving them leaves her to concentrate on the bigger ones. According to her: “if it means getting up earlier than usual to do your run, then do it. Just get it done.” It is little wonder perhaps, that her 5 k race times at 43 are better than at 19!

Running young

At age 13, most young girls would be content playing video games and watching romantic serials on TV. No such distractions for Alyana Szuch, the sensational teenage runner who has begun giving experienced elite athletes a run for their money. Quite like her peers, young Alayna too was not fond of the outdoors and running and spent much of her day doing art. But her genes, derived from her Ironman and ultra runner parents, probably took over through her casual running with them and her elder brother and kid sister, on the tracks right in the backyard of their home in Evergreen, Colorado.

Age 11, year 2015. The Xterra National Championship Half Marathon saw her coming in second in the women’s field. And in the high terrain, at the US Mountain Running Championships, she came in at a very creditable seventh place. The 5k then, is literally child’s play as Alyana runs it in just over 20 minutes, over 4 minutes ahead of the nearest female competitor and most of the men, including her elder brother Colin. With such phenomenal achievements, she was quickly spotted by Ellen Miller, the US Mountain Running Team coach, who was willing to make exceptions to her age to train her for greater running heights.  

Alyana, the school student, has studies on her mind too, taking college classes way ahead of time. And alongside, competes in biking, swimming and skiing! Psychologically too, she appears way ahead of her time and age, understanding that physical and mental robustness are the key to winning performances. This young lady, whose immediate goal is to run marathons and earn scholarships to college, simply does not let the pressure get to her. Says Alyana: “It doesn’t matter your age or who you’re chasing. You just have to do as well as you can. I just realized that running makes me happy; it makes me feel really good.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

 

 

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