Staying healthy and active while continuing to run into our golden years requires balance and perspective and albeit a certain amount of luck. At 69 years old, Durangoan Emily Irwin epitomizes all of these components, maintaining a schedule many people half her age would find challenging.
Emily started running in her 20’s after struggling through chronic asthma as a child.
“When I got into my 20’s my asthma got worse,” she said. “I started running then because I wanted to, and for some reason the asthma went away.” She surmised the stress relieving effects of running were possibly what made the asthma go away.
In those early years of running she would go out and run 3 miles every day. Then, in 1990, she moved from the Animas valley to downtown and met a neighbor who was a big runner and encouraged her to step it up.
“She said, if you can run 3 miles then you can run 6 miles, and she got me going on the longer things,” Irwin said.
That was the beginning of a progression from running the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile race each year to eventually training for and completing a marathon.
In 2002 when the first Durango Marathon was being organized, part of the incentive to enter the race was to participate in a marathon training program which utilized the Jeff Galloway walk/run method. Irwin signed on for that program and completed her first marathon that October.
“I keep entering races just so I have something out there to keep me going,” Irwin said. “I love the way running makes me feel, and I also have a good attitude when I run regularly.”
Although Irwin has not stepped up to beyond marathon distance, she has done the Imogene Pass Run a total of 13 times since 1998 and plans to tackle it again next year as a 70-plus age grouper, an age bracket that had no women competitors this year.
She truly is in a league of her own as a competitive runner and continues to tackle new and exciting age-defying adventures.
Her goal for 2016, in addition to continuing to run regularly, is to do a complete thru-hike of the Colorado Trail in July.
“I am really excited and am preparing for a thru-hike; running helps me to prepare for that,” she said.
In addition to running 20-25 miles per week, Emily bikes, skis, does spin classes and participates bi-weekly in a strength and endurance class, all while continuing to work a full-time job.
She recommends remaining active as we age and emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet to go along with that.
“I am really into healthy diets, and I think you just need to get out there and enjoy,” she said.
This past October, Emily tackled the Durango Double for the second time since 2006.
“I thought this year’s race was fantastic,” she said. “Initially I was kind of dreading the road – I’m not big on roads – but it really showcased Durango. It was just a beautiful weekend.”
That positive attitude is a testament to her success and continued pursuit of all that life has to offer her.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.