They say it’s rude to ask a woman her age. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, it’s no one’s business; it’s private…unless you are a 58 year old “elite” runner.
In my case, race announcers will say with gusto, “And from Sacramento, California coming in at 50 something years young, is Jenny Hitchings.” Rather than be embarrassed that I’m being called out on my age, I’m proud. I can usually outrun 90% of the race entrants and run times that are age graded national or world ranked (or records). So sure, announce my age.
As I approached 50, 53, 55, etc… (and believe me there were some mental struggles here, more symbolic than anything else) I would get the once over glances, finger wags and “just you wait” comments from other women who had already crossed over to the “other side”. “Just you wait, when you turn 50 and menopause is around the corner, you will lose that muscle tone, you’ll get a muffin top, body parts will sag, you’ll slow down, you won’t have as much energy…You’ll be just like us! You can’t defy age and gravity.” Oh yeah? Watch me. (This is what I thought, and no, I couldn’t defy some aspects of aging, but I could try my best.)
Though I’m certain genetics and body type play a role in my running success, so does my passion for running, consistency, determination, motivation, a degree of mental toughness and yes, ego. I’m not ready to surrender to the biological clock, and being one of the best “senior” runners in the world is what drives me.
My athletic “story” is not very interesting. I started running for fun/fitness at University of California Santa Barbara. I ran 2 marathons before I was 25 with little training in about 4 hours and I did not really start running competitively, or realizing my potential as a faster runner, until my late 30’s. Things turned interesting when at the age of 47, I started to have personal best times and missed the marathon Olympic Trials Qualifier by 10 seconds.
And now at 58, I am still getting faster and still running PRs. My time at the Boston Marathon on October 11th, 2021 of 2:45:32 was a lifetime PR. This is where people ask, how? I wish I had an easy answer that I could deliver in a box with a bow. But I don’t. I do train hard and smart with the assistance of my Coach, Jenny Spangler and my teammates. I run on the SRA Elite team, a rabbitCLUB team. I’ve been told I have great form (helps with efficiency), I don’t make many excuses, I fully rest 1 day a week, I should slow down my easy days more, I don’t do much strength, or let too many people mess with my body. I stay healthy, eat well and still live a balanced life. And on race day, it’s simply a combination of things, and a lot having to do with how the stars align on that day, my preparedness, the right elements, the right course, the right frame of mind and how I feel physically.
But…Balance. This is the key. Not over doing it and enjoying all the other aspects of my life, like family time, my friends, weekend getaways and travel, coaching my runner clients, Middle School XC, and a youth running club, food and drink (especially fine wines and a cold martini), restaurant culture, cooking, cycling, walking…and in February I’ll be a Grandmother!
I realize what I am accomplishing is special and I don’t take it for granted. So, yeah, this is me at 58, and I hope to be running, breaking records and inspiring others for a long long time.