Cindy Peterson is a 77 year-old mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She’s also a marathon runner, who recently completed her 50th marathon! And she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Next year, she already has plans to run the Honolulu Marathon.
It all started with a bucket list she created over 35 years ago. It contained 30 things she wanted to accomplish in her life. Ten years later, she was down to just two items on the list: buy a Jaguar and run a marathon. She already had a company car, so she focused on the run instead. But at the age of 55, that task seemed almost insurmountable. Then she turned on the TV.
“I was watching the NYC Marathon in 1993, when the founder, Fred Lebow, ran with a brain tumor. I was so motivated that if he could run with a brain tumor and complete the Marathon, I could also run it, even though I had varicose veins, couldn’t walk a block, and was 20 pounds overweight!!”
But Cindy was determined. She joined the New York Road Runner’s Club and began training, little by little, step by step. A year later, in 1994, she completed her first New York City Marathon. Since then, she has run 18 more marathons in New York, plus literally dozens of others around the country and around the world. She is a member of the 7 Continents Club, an honor bestowed upon runners who have completed at least one marathon on all seven continents. Her conquests include Easter Island, Antarctica, South Africa, and the Marathon du Medoc, where runners dress up in costumes (Cindy was a “can-can” girl), drink wine, eat, and run through the most famous vineyards in the world.
In 1995, Cindy also helped found the Mercury Masters, a running club created exclusively for women over the age of 50. Their mission was and is to promote a healthy lifestyle, camaraderie, and mutual support. The original group of ladies still train, run, and travel together. They also stay connected with parties, emails, and birthday greetings. As Cindy says, “They are always in your corner. They always have your back.”
But it takes more than friends to stay in marathon shape. Six days a week, rain or shine, Cindy runs six to eight miles a day around Sunset Lake in Western New Jersey. She gets up at 5 a.m., eats a banana, puts on her knee pads (her route is rocky, so falls are frequent), her gators (they keep the dirt and small stones out of her shoes); and then she heads out the door for one to two hours. Her pace has slowed over the years – she has gone from a 10-minute mile to a 13-minute mile. But, she says, those morning runs clear her head and give her time to think.
“You need to be with your own self. Whatever you need to fix, you get it done. Then you feel great about your self, your body feels good. It keeps me going. If I couldn’t run, I’d walk.”
Cindy also says it’s never too late to start. Just remember to take it slow and increase your mileage by only 10% per week; get plenty of rest; and drink lots of water, no matter what the season. When I asked her at what age she planned to stop running, she laughed and replied, “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!!”