PROFILE--Jan Holmquist has been running for 37 years

Her passion for running doesn’t begin to tell the full story of World and American record holder Jan Holmquist.  Still working full time at age 74 (Assistant to the President at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), her goal as an older runner is to spread the word about positive aging through running and staying active. “I pinch myself every morning that I can run and compete and be part of the most amazing running community,” says Holmquist, who lives in Burlington MA.

Started running? Why?  I started in October 1982 when I was 38. I was at a scouting event with my son and a father dared me to run a mile in under 10 minutes (we were at an outdoor track).  I accomplished the feat and was hooked. For the next 10 years I ran nearly every day in the neighborhood where I lived, but had never entered a race until the day my post-college daughter called me. Phone rings, I pick up: “Mom, do you want to run a race with me?” We ran a local 5-mile race in Boston and
I placed first in the 40-49 age group and came home with a big trophy. 

We ran a few more races before I turned 50. Then my daughter thought we should join a club and train to qualify for the Boston marathon, which we did.  We ran four Boston Marathons side-by-side and many more individually. 

Let me backup. I was raised in Southern California, Newport Beach. Exercise was not a priority in the household, despite all those Beach Boys songs about surfer girls! Back in the ‘50s, we played outside in the street, hide and seek in the neighborhood, swam in a neighbor’s pool, informal stuff.

I graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, and later on moved to Massachusetts with my then husband (we are divorced).  I have a daughter (49) and a son (47) and grand kids, 10-year-old twins, who live in California and a 10-year-old granddaughter in Boston.
Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you?
With granddaughter
When I started going to races, I met others my age and developed friendships with them. One of the runners who still means a lot to me is Al Nagel. We ran together, trained together, and went to races together for many years until he moved away. He planned and organized everything, which made it easy for me to just show up. With my full time job and other personal challenges, his support was a huge positive influence on my racing.

How much did you run per week in your peak years? Now? When training for the Boston Marathon in my 50’s I put in about 40 miles a week. Now at 74, I fluctuate with mileage (20-25/week) as I am learning to manage racing with mileage and avoiding injuries!

How do you train now? Do you attend coached workouts? I do not attend coached workouts, although I am a member of the Whirlaway Racing Team.  I run and train as I feel, based on what distance I am targeting in an upcoming race. But on a given week, during racing seasons, I will run every other day and try to be conservative to avoid injuries. But seriously, I love running and worry that when I retire, I might run every day.

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Cross Training:  I don’t cross train now, mostly due to time.  In the past, I have done aqua jogging and biking and yoga.  I plan to do more cross training after I retire.

What were some of your memorable races?  
1)  Hitting 100.4 age-percentile at the Syracuse National Masters when I ran 22.16 for the 5K in the W70-74.
2)  At 71, running the Hartford Half Marathon with my son-in-law - what a treat - in 1:45:12.
3)  In 2002, I was nominated by my son to carry the Olympic Torch and was chosen to run out of Boston into Everett…a truly amazing life experience that will stay with me forever. 
4)  From 2013 through 2017, I have been the USATF National Age-group Athlete of the Year. This is very special to me not just because of my times, but that I was setting an example of what older runners can do with commitment and determination.
5)  Setting a world record in the mile – 6:37:21(outdoor track) at 71.
6)  Being chosen as the Female New England Runner of the Year at 71.
7)  Every race I have run with my daughter!

Has your diet/weight changed through the years? I have been the same weight for as long as I remember.  I am a vegetarian and have been for many decades now.  I am also gluten free. 

How important is social running to you? Does slowing down bother you? Social running is very important to me. I enjoy running with friends and chatting the entire time.  Yet, I am still a driven competitor.  I am a huge fan of age grading so even though we slow down, if we can still be in the same percentile range through the decades, we are only slowing due to normal aging.

Obstacles along the way:  I’ve had all the usual suspects when it comes to running injuries: stress fractures, sprained/fractured ankles, shin splints, calf muscle pulls, and Achilles issues.  I’ve also broken both my wrists due to non-running falls.  In 1985, I broke my neck (C2) in a car accident and had to wear a halo brace for nearly three months. 

I used a stationary bike to get exercise and once my balance was okay I walked everywhere. Kids would point at me and ask their parent if I was a Martian.  I explained that I was just healing broken bones and that I would eventually get the hardware off. I think that made the parent and kid feel glad they asked.   

A favorite quote: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.”  Juma Ikangaa

How has running helped you with the aging process? I don’t think too much about the aging process.  I don’t feel old.  I am still setting records.  I think my older friends and I enjoy showing by example that running is a life-long activity.  It means a great deal when young people come up to us and say they want to be like us as they get older.  I am thankful that I can run with my granddaughter and play soccer with her in my backyard.  I hope someday my daughter, granddaughter, and I will all run a race together…and if I was really fortunate, my CA family would join us.

What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned? Never give up regardless of what life obstacles may temporarily get in the way!  I feel like a cheerleader for positive aging but it is so important.  Be content with what you can do. Stay healthy and active and you won’t be a drain on our health care system. Be an example of joyful aging.

Running philosophy: Carpe diem!  Enjoy running! Be thankful that we are fit and healthy and can be outdoors and doing something positive for both our bodies and our minds.

I like to give back to the running community that has done so much for me.  For three years I served on the USATF-NE Board as the Masters LDR Chair.  I have also been on the Board of the NE65+RC for eight years and recently my 4-year term was up as President of the 750-member club.  Also, I am the Race Director for the 65+ club’s Annual Run for All Ages 5K.  We have competitors ranging from 7 years old to 94!