PROFILE--Gail Waesche Kislevitz has been running for 50 years

(7-18) Gail Waesche Kislevitz was born September 29,
Finishing 2014 Boston Marathon.
1951. A Libra, she likes to keep her life balanced and running is a big part of that.  She grew up in Oradell, New Jersey, and spent her summers in New London at the family home on Long Island Sound. It was there on the beach that she watched her older brothers who ran cross-country and track for River Dell High School, run sprints in the sand. She wanted to do the same thing, to feel the wind and splash of the surf, to push herself and come back sweaty and jump in the water for a cool down. As girls back in those days were not encouraged to run, she started running under cover of darkness when she was sixteen, the summer of1968. She pulled on her Keds and took the family dog with her as her first running partner. And she never stopped. She’s run 26 marathons, did a half Ironman, and continues to get a thrill every time she steps out the door for a run. She’s not a streaker, doesn’t hold a record, isn’t fast, but she is a lifetime runner.

Started running/years: August of 1968, 50 years. And counting.

Why did you start running? I was a tomboy and loved
With Grete Waitz, on right.
being outside, playing in the woods or the coves along the beach. Watching my brothers run made me envious and I wanted to have that feeling of freedom that comes with running. Back in those days, prior to Title IX, most girls didn’t have access to track and cross-country. So I ran on my own through high school, college, graduate school, marriage, two pregnancies and full time work. My first race was the NYRR L’eggs Mini Marathon in 1975.

Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you? My first running mentor was the exceptional Toshika d’Elia, the first woman age 50 to break three hours in a marathon. She lived in my town and we became very close. She taught me how to race and introduced me to many running legends such as Ted Corbitt, Nina Kuscsick, and Grete Waitz. Toshi passed on many truisms of running such as to thank your feet after a race for carrying you and to never run injured because, “there will always be another race, but if you are injured, you won’t be there.” Grete became my second mentor and I was fortunate to become close friends with her. Underneath her shy demeanor and steely reserve was a funny lady with a dry sense of humor and quick wit. 

What were some of your better races? I’m not sure any of my races were “better” but two stand out as the most memorable. I ran the 2001 NYC Marathon, six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the Trade Towers. I was given a writing assignment by NYRR were I worked, to cover the race with a fireman who had been on site on 9-11. I covered his days at the firehouse leading up to the marathon and ran with the FDNY team on race day. He gave me a FDNY singlet to wear and I have that framed. I cried for 26.2 miles as we passed the many firehouses along the route with the American flag hanging from the fire engine ladders and bagpipes wailing their mournful sound. The other most memorable race was running the 2014 Boston Marathon, the year after the bombing. Again, I cried for 26.2 miles, lifted by the crowds who thanked us for coming back and also by Meb’s win. An amazing day. 

How do you train? I was putting in 40 miles a week up until two years ago and now it’s averaging 35. Funny, that now that I have more time to run as I retired from NYRR two years ago, I run less. And I need more recovery time. I still like to get in a long run of 10 miles on the weekends. My marathon times have also dropped. I was a consistent 3:50 finisher for years but my last two were 4:30s. Disappointing but I will still run them.

Diet? I’m not the best example for eating a healthy diet. I don’t eat meat except for chicken and fish. I love my yogurt with a banana and nuts and chia seeds and salads with everything plus the kitchen sink thrown in. I’ve always been thin and weighed 100 pounds (5’4” and shrinking) on my wedding day in November of 1973. I now average 96 pounds. I’ve been told I should eat more protein.

Alcohol: I never drink beer or "brown" drinks or anything sweet. I do enjoy a glass or two of NZ sauvignon blanc. Since I tend to be a control freak, I never drink more than that and usually only on weekends.

Cross-training? I love to swim and do laps two-three times a week year round at a YMCA. I also do strength training at the Y and work on my arms (I hate that flabby under arm women get) and abs and some leg stuff like squats. I love planks. In the summer I ride my bike 1-2 times a week for 25 miles. I’m not into yoga but like Pilates.

Social running: One of my jobs at NYRR was coaching a marathon team of mostly first-timers and I loved the social aspects of that, getting to meet the new runners, finding out about their lives and why they wanted to run a marathon. I miss that camaraderie and have stayed friends with some of the runners and other coaches. It was a part of my life for many years and I haven’t found anything to replace it. I like running with friends and talking abut our lives, our kids, our husbands, but I’m also a solo runner. It’s my time to be peaceful, reflective, work out problems, and figure out my life.

Obstacles: I’ve run through two pregnancies without a hitch and bounced back to running two weeks after delivery. I remember the doctor saying how strong my legs were and what a good pusher I was! The only setback I had was a mystery. About 5 years ago my legs just gave out. Couldn’t run a step and they were painful and inflamed all the time. I remember trying to run and got about two miles out and had to sit down on a curb and stop. I sat there and cried and walked home. I went through multiple tests to figure out what was wrong. Some of the possibilities thrown at me were Lyme, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis to name a few. The tests were horrible, especially the nerve ending test, which was a series of bolts of electricity administered up and down my legs. After a year, whatever it was just went away. The doctors decided it was a mysterious virus. 

A favorite quote:
“Never underestimate the marathon.” Bill Rodgers
“Don’t back down.” Tom Petty
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” Eleanor Roosevelt

What are the biggest lessons learned from running? Running is truly the best problem solver of all time. I can start a run feeling sad, depressed, worried, anxious and by the end of the run all that is gone, replaced by a clearer vision and a path to follow. It’s also the happiest of times. Running brings out the child in me, as I splash through puddles, run through the first snow fall or plunge into the ocean after a long sweaty run feeling exuberant and cleansed.

How has running helped you with the aging process? Running keeps me feeling young, keeps me fit and looking young(er), and gives me a calmness that I need as I age. It’s my best friend and never lets me down at a time in life when I question what I am doing next and how I will circumvent the circuitous journey of aging. On the other hand, it can get me in trouble as I don’t feel or look 66 and try to run like I am 40. An eight minute mile? No problem, till I pull something and end up limping home. It also keeps my mind sharp and focused so I can do the New York Times crossword puzzles – at least through Wednesday.

What has running given you in life? Running is my life. It has given me 50 years of pure joy, better than most relationships, my husband of 44 years being the exception. It has given me a career in journalism at New York Road Runners and Runner’s World. It is my best friend, my religion, my center. I don’t know what my life would be without running. As I make the transition from racing and competition to running for enjoyment, it’s been pretty easy. Some days I don’t even wear a watch to time my miles. And that is another lesson running has given me. To relax, to exhale, and let running for the sake of running be it’s own reward.

Aches and Pains? Yes and yes.