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Learning from the Masters

Write what you know, they say. And I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some runners who are much faster and run longer than I ever will. Just because they aren’t vegan doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. Given that I haven’t known many vegan runners during my 34 years of running, I’ve learned much from meat-eaters. It is, as I often say, all about finishing without injury. Here is an excerpt from an article I’ve written for my monthly column in the “Running Journal.” For those who are not runners, age group awards at races are given in 5 year increments. Special awards are given for 10 year increments: 40-49: Masters, 50-59: Grand Masters, 60-69: Senior Grand Masters, 70-79: Veteran Grand Masters.

maggieMaggie Miller has been a fixture of the Sarasota/Bradenton running community for almost two decades. She is a force to be reckoned with in any race, and not just her age group.  In recent years, I’ve seen her get Overall Female Finisher in at least one race. She’s known for her modesty, encouragement and endless energy and cheerfulness.

Q: How long have you been running?

A: 22 years, but not competitively until 1998. I’ve always been active and went to a gym tried to stay active.  The reason is I ran to stay active is because Karen, my daughter used to play competitive tennis. I used to work out with her during her playing years. We still continue the mother/daughter thing now. I would always try to show her and encourage her, that if I can do it, you can too.

Q: Did you move here for her to play tennis at IMG Academies?

A:  Yes. We moved here, Karen is 36 now, we moved here when she was 7. How that happened is when Karen just turned 7, we came to Bradenton because there was a national tournament. Karen played 12 and under and had won a couple of rounds even though she was small. Nick Bolleteri came up to us because they gave out 2 scholarships for a boy and girl. There were 2000 participants, and out of all the age groups, Karen got that scholarship. They approached us and said we’ll pay for all your expenses because they thought she had potential to be the top 10 in the world. We lived at the academy at a condo. I was Nick Bolleterri’s nurse, and we lived in the condo for several years. Then they put us up at house until Karen turned professional. We decided we love it here. That was 28 years ago.

Q: In 1998, when you started running competitively, how did you train?

A: When we played tennis in New Jersey, I had friends who ran. I didn’t start training until I got here. I joined a running club, but mostly I did training on my own. I still do light weights, arms, legs, sit-ups 30-40 miles a week. Even when I was training for a marathon, I didn’t do that many miles because that’s when I would put get some injuries.  I was never planning to do a marathon, but a couple of local runners said in October 2002, “We’re doing Jacksonville in December. You can do it,” they said. I’d never done anything longer than a half marathon. With the marathon 7 weeks away, I only did 2 14’s and one 17 miler and that was it.

Q: Did you place?

A: I not only placed, I had negative splits and in the 45-49 age group, I was 17th female overall and 1st in my age group. I did a 3:29 marathon.

Q: I’ve heard local runners say that you got the title of the fastest woman in the state. What is that legend all about?

IMG_8583A: I don’t know about that. (Maggie is always incredibly modest.) In 2002 I did get the RRCA (Road Runners Club of Amerca) Masters Runner of the Year. They paid for my trip to Washington, DC to get the award. In 2003 I got the Southern Master Runner of the year, and in 2004 I got the Florida Runner of the Year award. I’m sure there were people faster…you had to be nominated. It was for a combination of all the races I ran those years, from 5Ks through marathons. Joan Benoit got it one year on the Road Runners Club website.  I was 48…8 years older than the beginning age of masters qualifications. There’s always someone who can beat you. There are so many nice people. If I can’t run any more, I hope at least I have their friendships. I hope I can run until I’m 100.

Q: I think that’s everyone’s goal, for sure! What is your training program now?

A: I try to do 25-35 miles a week because I work full time. And I cut the runs up. If I get off at 1 p.m., I’ll do 3-4 miles then, and after work 6 miles. I’ll go to the gym 3 times a week and do sit-ups and light weights and the elliptical.

Q: What is the key to staying injury free?

A: I try to stay on soft surfaces as much as I can. I wish I would have known that when I first started. I try to stay on soft trails especially. I really avoid sidewalks. I think that will help keep people injury free. I wish I could tell younger people so they can do it. When you keep pounding your feet, you put so much weight down, it stresses your body. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s hard for younger people to hear this when so many popular races are on streets. Humans are better designed to run on soft surfaces.

Q: Do you do speed work?

A: I’m just coming back to doing that since I’m coming back from an injury. It does help, even though I hate doing it. A lot of time, I’m cramped for time, so I do it on my own. I measure out the distance on my GPS watch to do it on my own, if I can’t get to a group. I’ll do a quarter mile. I’ll pick a place with my watch and measure it out. I try to work out and do normal stuff with different groups too. Best times I ever did were in a 5K 19:45 at 48. Best 4 miles was 27:50, 10K 42:35, 15K 1:04, half 1:34, and the only marathon 3:28 which got masters.

Q: So what are the totals?

A: From 2001-2014 present, I’ve won:

Overall female Winner – 22 times

Master Winner – 92 times

Grandmaster Winner – 72 times

Senior Grandmaster – 3 times

1st place in age group 222 times.

Q: Running over decades means for most runners an injury or two. How you deal with them is key. What injuries have you had and how have you treated them?

A: The worst I’ve had is a Morton’s Neuroma. I got a shot for that and didn’t race for 4-6 months. Same goes for plantar fasciitis.  I’ve just learned to take little breaks.

Ellen Jaffe Jones (www.vegcoach.com) is a certified personal trainer and running coach on Anna Maria Island, and travels on book tour speaking at food festivals about her cookbooks, “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” “Kitchen Divided,” and “Paleo Vegan.” She is in the same age group as Maggie, and will rejoice when she moves out of Maggie’s age group in exactly 3 1/2 years. Runners rejoice in getting older for reasons just like this. wink