Why To Exercise Today: At 73, Zelda Runs Her Fifteenth Tufts 10K

In honor of Monday’s race, a Boston institution that is now in its 36th year and draws thousands of women every fall, we offer a bit of inspiration today from Zelda Jacobson Schwartz. She will be running her fifteenth Tufts Health Plan10K For Women at the age of 73. We may not all be able to run for miles in our seventies — or our twenties, for that matter — but we can all draw strength from the memorable wisdom she shares: “It’s okay to be at the back of the pack. It’s thrilling just to be there,” and ”The miracle is not that we finished, but that we had the courage to start.”

By Zelda Jacobson Schwartz
Guest contributor

73-year-old Zelda Schwartz is running her 15th Tufts 10K

When people ask me why I am running my 15th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women as a 73-year-old, I answer: “Because I’m so lucky I can!”

I started running when I was 40 at the same time I gave up smoking, not realizing I’d be giving up a dreadful addiction for a really marvelous one that would form the structure of each of my days.

I ran for many years as a ”master” (age 40-49). During those early years, I ran two “Bonnie Bell 10Ks”; my proudest moment came in 1982 when I clocked a time of 44 minutes. Now, 30 years later, that race is called the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women and I’m called a “veteran” (age 70-79), and I will need an hour more as I walk most of it.

In 1994, after a ten-year break due to injury, I returned to running and have since run nearly 300 races, many 5K’s, 10K’s and, since 2005, when I retired, 27 half marathons in 23 different states. I continue to run half-marathons and will complete the “Half2Run Challenge” of doing half marathons in half the United States in May.

Life never goes quite as we plan, and in November of 2009, while running two races in a weekend, I experienced chest pain. Initially, I thought it must have been the brisk wind, but with some thought asked my cardiologist husband if perhaps I should have a stress test. I did, and it resulted in the insertion of a coronary stent. After a normal stress test several weeks later, I was “cleared” to continue my training for the Carlsbad Half Marathon in California, scheduled for January, 2010.

‘The miracle is not that we finished, but that we had the courage to start.’

I guess my story really begins here. I feel that I am a most fortunate woman. I’ve learned that only 50% of females demonstrate classical clinical symptoms of chest pain with exertion. Now, with medical follow-up, my exercise program is but a part of my healthy lifestyle.

I continue to train 25-30 miles a week, look forward to races each month and especially to the high energy levels of all the younger women surrounding me. The Tufts 10K is very special for me as my daughters and their friends have joined me many years. It’s really an incredible experience to run the loops and see the winners in front of you, some behind you and so many women committed to the concept of health. I even received a 4th place recognition the years I turned 60 and 70!

I recently completed a “staged marathon” in Alaska with John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield (incredible coaches and friends now). We did four different events (not races, but they all added up to 26.2 miles). The medal we received had the following inscription: “The miracle is not that we finished, but that we had the courage to start.”

It’s okay to be at the back of the pack. It’s thrilling just to be there.

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  • oldrunner

    there are many wonderful running women who are 65 and over. It would be really great if the Tufts 10K would honor them in five year age groups

  • Linda Morse

    “It’s okay to be at the back of the pack. It’s thrilling just to be there.” My attitude exactly – I run occasional road races, but have the freeing feeling that I know I’m not very fast, not going to win and I’m there just to enjoy the experience! At 54 though, I will tell you that the number of women running in road races in the 50-59 age bracket is very small – at least 10 Ks. Keep running!

  • Lisa

    Loved this! Very inspiring!

  • Karen

    Go Mom! Thanks for inspiring all of us!

  • Anna

    Fantastic post. Thank you for the motivation to leave my computer screen for a bit to get out and exercise on this beautiful day!