An alternate title for this post could be, “When Nancy met Cheryl.” It was not only the start of a running partnership, but also a lifelong friendship. Nancy was newly married when she moved into Cheryl’s neighborhood and they met when Cheryl, with her toddler in tow, delivered the community newsletter to her house. Cheryl invited Nancy to join her and another neighbor on a morning run. Cheryl is mom to three children (ages 22 to 29) and Nancy has five children, ages 17 to 24. Cheryl recalls how they “ran through Nancy’s five pregnancies and my next two! I always knew when she was pregnant because she couldn’t keep up our usual running pace!” Eventually the running group dwindled to just the two of them, and 25 years later, they are still running. And, that toddler that tagged along with Cheryl on her delivery route? He is a 29-year old lawyer!
Welcome to the neighborhood
“There was no better way to be welcomed to the neighborhood than joining a running group,” recalls Nancy. “We ran at 6am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and over the years our morning run has crept up earlier to 5:15 am and we now run daily, but my one partner, Cheryl, has stayed constant. She absolutely won’t run in the rain, but she does do cold…we just layer from head to toe! Our distance is about 4.5 miles, it’s a 45-minute run door to door.”
Benefits of early morning exercise
They preferred morning runs because they can get in their exercise before work; Cheryl is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator who works for Laureate Medical Group (self-disclosure, Cheryl was a former student of mine at Georgia State. She switched careers from dental hygienist to dietitian, making her a mature student who was inquisitive, motivated, and super smart!) Nancy works for Lactation Consultants of Atlanta, helping new moms at a crucial time in their lives to promote good health for both moms and babies. Morning exercise also gave them more time in the evening to prepare healthy meals and spend time with their families.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
The dynamic duo also do spin and body sculpt classes on the weekend, and occasionally do longer runs at the river. “Yes, we exercise every day,” emphasizes Cheryl,” we need it both physically and mentally.” Cheryl says that the “morning runs are just not a run. We talk about everything from family, to the meaning of life, and even politics. We always have something to talk about. We are each other’s therapist. My morning run with Nancy helps set me up for a good day. It’s a daily practice that grounds me. Even when I’m at a conference or on vacation; I start my day with exercise. It’s particularly important for me now that I am in my early 60s, as most of my work day involves sitting.”
Nancy agrees, “running is our savior, both mentally and physically. When life is good…it’s great, but when life gets a bit challenging, one needs that daily ‘check in’ with a friend! At a time when suicide rates are on the rise I would stress the importance of everyone checking in with someone. I love starting my day with exercise and a friend.”
Challenges for older runners
Cheryl, who is 7 years older than Nancy, admits there are challenges with aging. “I have knee pain with higher mileage, so I stick to 10-K distances (the annual Peachtree Road race is a must, and occasionally a 15-K, but no more half marathons!). I do some cross training, but plan to do more when I retire.”
Nancy adds, “It’s more important than ever to be mindful of your daily routines in life and never, ever underestimate your abilities, no matter your chronological age. I’ve had an ACL repair from skiing and a few other health issues, but staying positive, and having a friend like Cheryl makes a big difference. I also encourage folks to try new exercises, like kick boxing, spinning, barre workouts, or Zumba, it a good way to challenge your body and mind.”
I hope we can check in with Cheryl and Nancy many years from now and find they are still running; or at the very least, fast walking!
Find out more about the benefits of exercise and social support in Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon.