PROFILE--Kevin Stevens has been running (and triathlon-ing) for 46 years

(August 2019) Kevin Stevens has a fearless attitude honed from years in the military that has guided her to: set up her own sports nutrition consulting company, become a Yoga instructor, complete her first of four Ironmans at age 55, and take up ultra marathons at 62. And through it all she raised a bunch of kids. Kevin hails originally from Missoula Mt and currently lives in Spokane WA. "Running will always be there, no matter what my pace," she says. "People tell me I don't look 62, so I guess it is working."

Career/Profession: I have been a Registered Nurse for 33 years, with 24 of those years on active duty in the Air Force. I am also a Registered Dietitian having gone back to school to obtain my second masters degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the age of 61. I have a passion for sports performance nutrition and have started a nutrition consulting business as well. After retirement from the military, I went to work at a local university as a nurse educator where I still work and I do Sports Performance nutrition consulting in my spare time.

Top endurance and other accomplishments? I am most proud of the fact that if I want to do something, I don’t let
age or anything else stand in my way. I wanted to do an Ironman so I did at age 55. I wanted to coach other athletes, so I became a USAT Triathlon coach and a Certified Ironman coach. I wanted to do two Ironmans in one season so I did a Half Ironman, two full Ironmans and a full marathon in a four-month time frame at the age of 59. I wanted to be a dietitian so I went back to school while working full time. I now want to run an Ultra, so am training for my first 50k. 

Guesstimate of lifetime running miles? I really don't know, but I'd say around 60,000. Fit in with the ups and downs of work schedules, moving every three years while active duty, pregnancies, and injuries.

When did you start running (month and year) and why? I’ve been running since I was 16 as a consistent form of exercise. I played powder puff football and was a Sparkette (flag twirler) as I grew up in the pre-Title IX era when was not allowed to run on any teams. I did swim competitively from age 5-17 yrs, and I showed horses competitively as well. My father was Green Beret Special Forces member who ran a lot, as did my mother, so that influenced me. I remember Adidas being the shoe and Jim Fixx’s Complete Book of Running was the book to read. Growing up and even when I was in college, running was my salvation, my go-to when I was stressed, depressed or in a situation that was tough.

Peak training and now? Interesting enough the last 11 years or so have been my peak years. Once I took up triathlon at the age of 51 and started training for Ironman distances, I began to put in more mileage. Over the last 11 years I probably averaged 20-30 miles per week. Now? Today I am training for an Ultra 50k and am at 45-50 miles per week.

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What were some of your better/memorable races? The Governor’s Cup in Helena MT (I ran this 3 times (1982, 1984, 1985) because I ran that with my parents. It was a family road trip after my first son was born in 1980. The Bloomsday Road race in Spokane WA was a family tradition as well, whenever I happened to be stationed in the area for the military (1989-2014). The Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon are cool because they are in my hometown. The 2005 Deadwood South Dakota Half Marathon was also a fun historic run. We were bused to the top of the mountain and we ran back into town on a rails to trails with a slight downward slope all the way--fast but a quad killer! Another great race was the International Border run 10k in North Dakota. We actually ran across the Canadian Border to the finish line. Not sure that can be done now!

Has your diet changed through the years? I became a vegetarian at 40. It just felt like the right thing to do to make healthier eating choices. This was long before vegetarianism was a popular trend, so there were not a lot of choices at restaurants or grocery stores. I made it work despite my husband and two sons being die-hard meat eaters!

Cross Training? I have done a lot of gym classes such as step aerobics or Jazzercise over the years. But in 2004 when I realized all I did with running was go forward with high impact, I took up Yoga and by that I mean I became a certified Yoga instructor and taught classes. I also became a certified Spin Instructor, Group Exercise Instructor, Pilates Instructor and Personal Trainer. I was also inspired by Lance Armstrong in his early years of the Tour de France so decided to take up road and mountain biking again. I used it to help with injury management.

How important is social running to you? I like to run with others if it works out, but I have been a solo runner for many years because I have had to adapt my work schedule, especially while in the military and raising kids. A treadmill has been in my bedroom for almost 30 years now. I am still pretty competitive even at this age, but have always been a mid-pack runner and have learned to be ok with that. When I race in a triathlon, I usually make it to the podium but that is often due to my fast swim and bike times.

Obstacles along the way? Obstacles have included the birth of my kids (couldn’t run for about 8 weeks after a C section) and certainly injuries to some extent. But I never had an injury or a pain I couldn’t run through until I needed meniscus surgery in 2018. That kept me out of running for four months. Running long distances on the road seems to bother me a bit more than trail running, so the trails are now my go-to for distance running. 

A favorite quote? “She Believed She Could, So She Did” - R.S. Grey

Has running helped you with the aging process? Absolutely! I don’t feel 62 but then again am not sure what that should feel like. I have been told I don’t look 62, so I guess it is working. It certainly helps to maintain a decent metabolism to prevent the dreaded aging weight. And anytime I can outrun younger athletes to the finish line is always an ego boost. I think running is a great way to keep motivated to stay active, which is the key to aging well.

What three tips would you give a younger runner who wants to be a lifetime runner? 
1. Life is long and just because you are aging does not mean you need to stop running. There is some current research out there that running does not destroy your knees but as you age you may become more injury susceptible. Strength training is an older runner’s best friend.
2. You can PR at any age. Some of my best 5 and 10k times and even 10 miler times have been in the last 10 years.
3. If you are looking for that PR, train smart and eat smart. As older athletes we need more protein per day to obtain muscle protein synthesis, ie repair and build; we also need more recovery time, so we may need more days off during the week.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? That it will always be there. Even if I can only do a 12-min mile, I am still a runner. Even if I have to walk part of a race, I am still an athlete. Running has taken me places I would not have gone if I didn’t run and it is still the best way to drop a few pounds!