Read this story.
David Hunter called me last week and we caught up, as we try to do once a month. He has been busy announcing cross country races this fall, including the NCAA Cross Country. He wanted to get back to writing once a week for us, and told me he was working on this piece about this really amazing Masters women, who I had never heard of.
That is the thing about David Hunter. David finds someone or some event that intrigues him, and then, shares it with you the reader. We come off with a better understanding of the athlete, the event and of ourselves.
Barbara Broad shows what hard work and talent can do at all ages. I can not wait until she breaks six minutes for the mile. With a range from 800 meters to the marathon, Barbara Broad is having lots of fun, running hard and taking on new challenges.
The essence of our sport….
Mastering Her Craft
Super Senior Barbara Broad Is Aged-Graded Phenom
Barbara Broad didn’t start running until she was nearly 40 years old. She’s been making up for it ever since. “I started running right before my 40th birthday,” explains Broad, a slender, attractive, mature, 64 year old woman you wouldn’t guess to be a world class age-group athlete.
Broad completed her schooling in the pre-Title IX era when women had very few athletic opportunities beyond cheerleading. But the northeastern Ohio speech pathologist, like many
women of her era, found a way to stay active and develop some modicum of fitness as she aged. “Before I started running, I was doing mostly the aerobic dance and the step classes that my recreation center offered. That was fun,” offers Broad. “But one day in the summer, I was in the recreation center and it was beautiful outside and I didn’t want to be working out in the stale air inside. I was a little fed up and a friend suggested, ‘Why don’t you just start running? You can do that whenever you want.’ I bought a pair of running shoes, I went to a nearby high school track, and I ran around the track two times and I thought, “Huh. I like this.'” And with a smile, she adds, “And I started really running then.”
Without any significant guidance, Broad transformed herself into a respectable recreational masters athlete – even posting a 3:46 in the 1995 New York City Marathon as a 45 year old. She returned the next year and trimmed her finishing time down to 3:41.
After another decade of unsupervised training, a critical moment in Broad’s running progression occurred when she attracted the attention of grand masters runner/coach Glenn Andrews. “I started running with Glenn when I was 56 years old in 2006,” notes Broad. “Barbara was basically a fitness runner,” Andrews explains. “And one day back in 2006 when I was running with Barbara and I asked her, ‘What do you want to do now? Do you still just want to be a runner? Or do you want to be a competitor? Let me help you.'”
The catalytic moment may well have been when Coach Andrews took his new running companion to the track for an interval session. The pupil recalls that turning point this way: “Glenn said, ‘Why don’t we go to the track. I know that you have more speed in you and I think speed training is really going to help you.’ I had never been on the track before,” admits Broad. “And the first time I did a track workout, I ran an 800 and I thought my lungs were going to just explode. I had that burning sensation in my lungs. And I said to Glenn, ‘You know, I don’t think this is going to work. I’m really too old to start at 56 on the track. I can’t do it. I’m just going to die out here.'” Her newly-emerging coach remembers what happened next. “On her first 800, she went really hard on the first lap and died. So I told Barbara, ‘I’m going to pace the next one,'” Andrews recalls. “And we ran basically the same time as her first 800, but with two even laps. She said, ‘I can’t believe it!’ And at that point she looked at me and said, ‘OK, what do we have to do?'” And with a grin, Andrews adds, “I told her, ‘We’re going to build your fitness; we’re going to build your speed.’ And we went from there. And I just saw her improvement – both physically and mentally. And we just kept going.”
That was the beginning. Andrews continued to give his new-found athlete weekly training plans. In short order, the Tuesday night track workout was joined with a tempo run on Thursday. “Running with me weekly on those two workouts, Glenn was able to see the vision for me. He said, ‘Barbara, you’re not going to be running marathons anymore. You’re going to be racing them.'” Andrews – an accomplished runner in his own right with an 800 meter PR of 1:50 – recognized quickly what he had in this eager, mature athlete who came to running in the later stages of her life. With her unbridled thrill for her newly-discovered talent and leg-speed, Barbara Broad was, in essence, like a vintage automobile with low mileage.
Before long, Andrews incorporated Broad into his stable of serious athletes – Cleveland Elite Development – and fed her a steady training diet right off the Lydiard menu: weekly servings of track work, tempo runs, and long weekend runs. Barbara Broad ate it right up. With his patient yet supportive approach effectively channeling the boundless energy of his golden-ager protÃ©gÃ©, Andrews was slowly molding an eager and compliant pupil into a properly-prepared athlete just itching to perform. He was turning a runner into a racer.
And when given the opportunity, the racer performed well. After a couple of training cycles under Andrew’s watchful eye, Broad rang up a 3:29 marathon – a huge PR – on the Akron Marathon’s undulating course. For Barbara Broad, that performance leap simply fanned the flames of her desire to improve. “I said to myself, ‘Wow, all of this hard work paid off.’ I couldn’t have done it without the track, the tempo, working on endurance, and the speed. It all came to together.”
Her coach was no less excited by her improvement. And he knew there could be more to come. “Glenn believed it a little more than I did,” Broad admits. “And he kept telling me that I could get faster and faster if I stuck with the program.” Barbara stuck with the program. And she got faster. In 2010, she returned to New York – the site of her first marathon 15 years earlier – and ran 3:19:51 at age 60 to win her age group. The following spring she won her age-group again in the 2011 Boston Marathon with a 3:19:01 clocking.
But her finest road race to date has to be the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon. Racing with elites that were competing in a race which also served as the national masters’ marathon championships, Broad was not intimidated by the field. She was invigorated by it. “I lined up with the elite runners – because it was the masters’ marathon championships,” beams Barbara. “Glenn always tells me, ‘Go to the front. You’re starting at the front.’ I just lined up with Janet Baucom and whoever else was there. It was phenomenal.”
For Barbara Broad, it turned out to be one of those special racing days all runners work for and dream about. “The Twin Cities course is a wonderful course of rolling hills. But between miles 20 and 25 there is a slow gradual uphill climb that doesn’t really let up,” Broad explains. “But at mile 25 to the finish, the course is downhill. And we flew downhill to the finish. I felt like I was hydroplaning. All I could think about is, ‘Don’t fall, don’t fall.’ You’re just flying.” The 62 year old marathon racer not only won her age-group, her top chip time of 3:18:40 proved to be the leading age-graded time [2:22:04] of the entire field which included dozens of top performers of all ages – from elite Kenyans in the open division to, well, 62 year old tough cookies like Barbara Broad. “That is the race that I can’t believe,” marvels Broad. “I still
get chills when I think about that. It was a magical day.”
The following spring, Andrews guided his senior star indoors where she zestfully embraced middle distance racing. Displaying Rod Dixon-like range, the marathoner cranked out a 2:41.6 800 meter clocking – a then-American age group record for the 62 year old racer. Earlier this year in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center, the ageless, low mileage vintage machine posted a sub 6:00 minute mile. Broad – who will be 65 next September 1st – can’t wait to enter that 65-69 age group where the women’s American record for the indoor mile is 6:16.26.
Barbara Broad – who appreciates that running in general, and track & field in particular, is a sport of hundredths of a second and mere centimeters – leaves nothing to chance. “I eat pretty nutritiously. I consume about 2500 calories a day. I try to eat a little something with carbs, healthy fats, and protein every two hours. I keep a little Igloo cooler in my car and do it. I try to maintain good levels in those categories,” explains Broad who, at 5’5″, tips the scale at about 109 pounds. “Sometimes I reward myself after a hard run with some ice cream,” Broad confesses. “But basically, I am pretty disciplined. I stretch religiously after I run. I work with a personal trainer and we work on strength, light weights, foot stability, plyometrics, and core work. I have a massage every 4 to 6 weeks. I read voraciously about older runners and what they’ve done.” And revealing her all-in attitude, she admits, “I do the whole gambit.”
The four-time Boston Marathon age-group champion has her eye on goals she still wants to achieve. “My main goal is to stay healthy. That’s the big one,” proclaims Broad. And with a nod to her new love affair with her recently-discovered and developing leg speed, she adds, “And I’d like to continue to get my 5K time better” – currently a 20:48 road clocking at age 61.
Looking back on where she has been, reflecting on where she is now, and dreaming of her ambitious plans for the future, Barbara Broad offers encouraging advice for other mature runners. “Run with a running group. Run with those who are faster than you. See if you can get a coach. Train with someone. Give it a shot and see where you can go with it,” she suggests. Barbara Broad was willing to give it a shot and just look where she has been able to go with it. Ultimately, nobody beats Father Time. But Barbara Broad – exuberantly running like a champion in her mid-60’s – is doing pretty good job of holding him off.