You’ve Gotta Hear About Betty

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Once over 200 pounds and concerned she might not live to see her daughter grow up, Betty Smith is now 73 and enjoys running 24-hour, 48-hour and even 6-day running events. (She set the record for 48 hour runs under USA-TF for women, age bracket 70-74 and her 6-day race record is in progress of being approved.)

Betty, what inspired you to make changes in your life?

Many years ago, when my daughter was little, she tagged me and said, “I’ll bet you can’t catch me!” And, I couldn’t. I could not run. I had been a skinny kid and loved basketball, but after having my daughter I gained a lot of weight and couldn’t lose it. When I hit over 200 lbs I threw away the scale.

I discovered Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s radio show. He would talk about health, fitness and nutrition. He made complete sense to me!  I’d listen to him every day while I was preparing dinner and I started making changes.

He saved my life. I have cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes in my family. He explained exactly how to lose weight and keep it off forever. One thing he recommended was walking or running. So, I started a walking program.

My family did not get it. My husband, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles all said “What are you doing?” but I felt the difference almost immediately. 

It was a gradual change in my lifestyle. Eventually, I noticed I didn’t want the junk food, not even Lays Potato chips!

One day I started running a little bit. And I remember feeling, “Gee, I like this, this reminds me of how I felt in my old basketball days.” I was walking 3 days a week. Very gradually I would run a little bit more than I walked.

My family finally realized I was serious because I kept at it.

Soon I was running 2 miles a day, every day. Just like breathing in the morning without thinking about it, I just got up and ran 2 miles. This was not overnight. It took some doing and it took some time, and it took some sticking to.

I ran 2 miles every day for eight years. It had to do with my health. I was not competitive.

Dr. Mirkin repeated the same things, over and over. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds. He suggested very little red meat. He advocated seafood. Once I stayed with Dr. Mirkin there was no more yo yo dieting. But it was gradual. It took years. But it was sticking.

He related lifestyle to certain conditions. He was wonderful. This was in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Betty, you’ve now run on all 7 Continents and a Marathon on 6 of the 7. You ran a half marathon on the Great Wall of China. You now run in multi-day events. What happened to 2 miles a day?

I was never competitive, but my brother said, “there’s a 10K coming up, why not run it”. I really enjoyed it! The camaraderie and meeting other people with the same passion, was great! Was fun to be with other runners. So I started running local races because it was fun.  I joined the Montgomery County Road Runners in 1989.

I ran my first marathon in 1988 – The Marine Corps Marathon. My second marathon was the Moscow International Peace Marathon. I just got on a plane and went. Today, I use marathons to train for ultra-marathons.

Over time my nutrition caught up with my fitness. No one would believe how much nutrition affects their fitness. I now call myself a Yucky Vegan. My grandson one day said the food I was feeding him was “yucky” but then immediately said, “can I have some more”. It’s Functional Eating which is for my body, not for my emotions.

I have a 2-hour routine in the morning that consists of strengthening, flexibility, balance and relaxation exercises: then I finish up with T’ai Chi, and then I meditate. I’m then in a different state of mind.

I run 24, 48, 72 and 144 hour (6-day) events and people want to know how. But people don’t want to hear about a 2-hour routine (before I run) but they want your outcomes. 

Betty, is there any concern about you running these long distances at your age?

The doctors are amazed: I am carefully monitored by doctors. They say I am at least 20 years younger than my chronological age. My blood, bones, heart – they are all healthy. When my cardiologist listened to my heart, he was saying “wow”, not with concern but with amazement on how efficient my heart is.

I run about 3 marathons and 5 ultras a year. My current running base is 60 miles a week, with a 40, 45 or 50 mile long run.

I run totally relaxed the ChiRunning® way, so I increase my energy as I’m running. I don’t run out of energy. I don’t have blisters, nothing wrong with my feet, wearing minimal shoes.

It was about 2004 when Danny gave a talk and my sister sent me his flyer because she knew I practiced T’ai Chi. I got the ChiRunning book and I started reading it and couldn’t put it down, and then about 8 months later I flew out to take Danny’s two-day class in southern California. (There, I fine-tuned my ChiRunning technique. I went there as an 11:30 minute runner and came home a 7:39 minute runner as proven in a one mile race in the presence of my running club members!)

If I had not done T’ai Chi, I would have said, “yeah, right.” But I already knew about T’ai Chi, so ChiRunning® made sense.

You know, I don’t care about the finish line my focus has always been the start line—to get there fully trained, fully rested which allows the finish line to take care of itself. Now, I just want to give back as the first official ChiRunning Ambassador.

Betty Smith has been written about in many magazines including AARP Magazine where this 73 year old says, “I’m able to run for fun, like a kid.” 


Posted in Lifestyle, Women

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