Nancy Tynes (right), of Henrico County, participated in Cincinnati’s Flying Pig half-marathon on May 1 with Donna Hackman (left) of Chicago and Diane Stevens of Cincinnati, both college roommates from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as part of a reunion to celebrate turning 50. Photo by Cheryl Crim.
My relationship with running came about gradually. At first, I got involved in the Monument Avenue 10K as a volunteer with the VCU Massey Cancer Center's fundraising effort and put together "Team Janie" in memory of my sister, Janie Blacker, who died from colon cancer in 2006. Before long, my interest evolved from participating as a walker to joining the waves of runners.
Soon after my positive experience with the YMCA's 10K Training Team, I began thinking about making a more serious commitment to running and my own health and well-being. That's when I made the decision to culminate my "Turning 50" celebration last December by running a half marathon in Kiawah, S.C. (a favorite vacation destination of mine). I quickly called to share this news with my good friend, Margie, and a few other friends and family members. Once I had done this, there was no turning back. In preparation, I bought a how-to book called Half Marathon Rookie and diligently recorded my mileage in a 10-week training journal. It wasn't long before I realized the many benefits of running. It's a great opportunity to clear one's head, plan and prioritize the day, and sort through life's ups and downs.
But there were some stumbling blocks on the route to Kiawah. Halfway through my training regimen, my father, Neal Blacker, succumbed to his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. During the stress of his last days, my workout routine dissolved into sporadic running. Also about this time, I began to notice problems with my own health. Although I had worked up to running six to eight miles at a time, I started experiencing extreme abdominal cramping that made it highly uncomfortable to sit or stand — let alone walk or run. My doctor later discovered that the pain was caused by a reaction to gluten in my diet because of celiac disease.
When the day of the half marathon finally arrived, I was feeling a bit apprehensive, though I was elated when Margie agreed to make the trip with me to Kiawah a few days before the Dec. 11 event. Supported by Margie — my driver, coach and cheerleader — I joined the throng and began to run the 13.1 miles. I was determined to finish this event in memory of my dad.
Before the first turn, I realized my overwhelming need to find a "running buddy." That's when I met Margaret Hagerty. At 87, she was the oldest woman on the course. At first, she didn't seem to want any company. But as we continued running, she warmed up and began to share her amazing story. Not only was this her 11th time participating at Kiawah, but she had run 80 marathons on seven continents. It's interesting to note that she began running at age 64, the day she quit smoking. More important to me were the life lessons she shared, including that her best years were those in her 70s!
I'm delighted to say that I finished the half marathon, not in record time, but I finished (running the final stretch with Margie). When we returned to Richmond, there was plenty of time to reflect upon the weekend — and share stories with family and friends at my 50th birthday party the next weekend.
For me, turning 50 was a valuable reminder of the importance of family, friends and faith — as well as fitness and good health. It's also a reminder of the need to focus on the future. As Margaret says, "The best is yet to come."