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!!”
The traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule`a docked at Waterfront Park in Old Town Alexandria on Sunday, greeted by local hula dancers, traditional musicians, regional indigenous tribesmen, and curious passersby like myself. Erected canopies toppled in the same wind that set the U.S. and Hawaiian flags on the boat to snapping. A tent selling New Zealand-style lunch pies did a brisk trade. Audience members wove through each other, changing vantage points, greeting friends, and murmuring “mahalo” as they ducked past their peers. Hokule`a is on the Malama Honua world tour.
Hokule`a, the boat, is named for Hokule`a, the “Star of Gladness,” known as Arcturus in English astronomy. Hokule`a sailed the main routes of the Polynesian triangle, bounded by Hawaii, New Zealand, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in six major voyages between 1975 and 2000. The crew charted those courses with traditional navigation techniques and the trips inspired increased interest in and dedication to traditional Hawaiian culture. Hokule`a’s current epic journey subtly encourages other indigenous cultures to value their own histories. Before the public welcoming ceremony in Old Town, Hokule`a docked at the tribal lands of local Native Americans, honoring the first peoples of the canoe’s latest port.
Nainoa Thompson is the current chief wayfinder of Hokule`a. Back in 1976, he managed to convince Mau Piailug of Satawal, Micronesia, to teach him traditional Polynesian navigating techniques despite their differing ancestry.
In its most basic translation, Malama Honua means “to care for our Island Earth,” but the deeper meaning encompasses broader notions of sustainable environmental stewardship. These ideas include ways of monitoring all natural resources as if they were truly limited, like they are for one living on an island (or out of a canoe).
I left Sunday’s festivities with a smile, a new appreciation for Hawaiian culture, and a renewed commitment to compost. That last especially seems a reductive interpretation of Malama Honua… but surely, every little bit counts.
Hokule`a is in Washington, D.C. for a week! Head out to the Washington Canoe Club (3700 Water Street, NW, C&O Canal National Historic Park, across the canal from Georgetown University) on May 20th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., May 21st from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., or May 23 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for tours of the Hokule`a and conversation with crewmembers.
This Thursday, May 19th, attend the “Navigating by the Stars” lecture at the National Air & Space Museum at 10:30 a.m. Hokule`a navigates the oceans by interpreting the stars and signs from waves, birds, and other elements of nature.
The National Museum of the American Indian is holding events throughout the end of May celebrating Hokule`a and the Malama Honua journey. Check out their calendar here.
Chief navigator Nainoa Thompson is giving a lecture on Monday, May 23rd at 11 a.m. in Bethesda at the National Institutes of Health, hosted by the National Library of Medicine. Members of the public are advised to arrive at 10am to allow for time to get through security. “Thompson will discuss the rich history of deep sea voyaging, exploration, and oceanic wayfinding, the indigenous system of orientation and navigation at sea, and the efforts to use these experiences to revitalize Native Hawaiian culture and health. He will explain the symbiotic relationships between land, sea, sky, and people, and their cultural, ecological, and personal health.”
The next stop is New York City. The official welcoming ceremony is Sunday, June 5th at 9 a.m. at North Cove Marina. Check out the Holuwai website for more information on NYC events.