PROFILE--Mary Button ran 20 sub-3 marathons, and now walks nearly as much

(Mar. 2020) In her prime, Mary Button qualified for two Olympic Marathon Trials and recorded
a personal best of
2:42:11. Along the way, she ran 20 sub-3 marathons despite modest training of about 60 miles a week. Now 61, she is no longer running but often completes long, multi-day walk-hikes (caminos) in Europe. She says, "My philosophy of life (and running and walking and aging) is to savor the moment and live in the present. Always be grateful for your health, and don't put things on the back burner."

Career-profession? My husband and I operated a running apparel company, RaceReady for 18 years.
I am retired now, but I am an environmental and political activist an environmental and political activist
who serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the non-profit Friends of Griffith
Park (Los Angeles).

When and why did you start running? I running in high school in the fall of 1972 in southern New
Jersey when I was a freshman in high school. Our swim coach suggested we take up another sport in
order to become better swimmers. We had swim practice three times a week. It wasn’t called “cross training” back then, but the idea was
to stay active and do a different workout on the days we didn’t have swim practice. I decided to run. My high school didn’t have a girls' cross-country team but I received permission to run on our boys' cross-country team.

Peak running years? During my peak running years of 1995 and 1996 I ran more than 3,100 annual
miles or an average of 60 miles per week.

Top performances and/or running achievements? I am proud to have run 20 consecutive sub-three
hour marathons over the course of nearly a decade. My first sub-three was in the Orange County, CA Marathon November 3, 1991 (2:58:15) and my 20 th sub-three was in the Boston Marathon on April 17, 2000 (2:56:47). My marathon PR is a 2:42:11.

I’m also proud to have qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1996 and 2000. I ran in the 2000 Trials
as one of 17 master runners and finished 12th masters woman overall.

Estimate of total running miles? I started a running log in 1989 and recorded the estimated mileage of each run
(this was long before electronic devices to track mileage). I tallied 50,128 recorded miles. In addition, I ran in high chool and college, and off and on before I kept records. My best guess is I ran more than 55,000 miles. This number does not include thousands of hiking miles.

How much are you running and cross-training now? I don’t run anymore because of bone-on-bone
arthritis on my right knee. However, I exercise nearly every day. I’m an avid hiker and also enjoy cycling and Body Pump (a strength building exercise class). I’ve done five different annual caminos in Europe. In 2015 I walked 215 miles from Leon to Santiago, Spain over the course of 14 days. In 2016 I walked 252 miles from Porto, Portugal to Finisterre, Spain (16 days). In 2017 I walked the Kerry Way on the Iveraugh Peninsula in Ireland – 149 miles in 9 days. My 2018 camino was a 200 mile two-week walk from Siena to Rome. And this past summer I walked 246
miles from Geneva to Le Puy, France in 18 days. My husband accompanied me on all 5 of these
caminos. I’ve been an endurance athlete most of my life and hope to continue my active lifestyle for the rest of my

How do you deal with the inevitable aging process? Ten years ago I was advised to stop running
to prevent further damage to my knee. It bothered me a great deal, and it took me about a year to accept that I was no longer a runner. Gradually I realized that I will always be a runner at heart. As long as I can keep walking and hiking I am satisfied. I’m grateful to live an active lifestyle. I tend to look at age as “just a number”. I am inspired by people like my sister’s father-in- law who rode his bike at 98 years of age and lived to be 99.6 years old. I accept the inevitable aging process but also realize it is more important to maintain an active lifestyle with each passing year.

How have your diet and weight changed through the years? I weigh about the same as I did in
high school, maybe even a few pounds less. (I was a swimmer in high school and had broader shoulders and more muscle.) My diet and taste buds have changed as I’ve gotten older. When I was running 60 miles a week, I needed a high carb diet and much more calories than I do now. These days I tend to eat more protein. I take a daily multivitamin and that’s about it as far as nutritional supplements go. I alter my diet depending upon the circumstances. For example, when I am on a multi-day camino I will eat probably triple the calories at breakfast than normal and I will eat dessert every evening (which I usually don’t do).

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? How have you dealt with
these? I’ve had an “on again / off again” knee ever since 8 th grade (1972) when I had the meniscus
of my right knee removed. Back then, it required a week’s stay in the hospital and six months of recovery /
recuperation. Throughout my running career, my knee would flare up and I would have to back off the
mileage and take a break from running. Although I qualified for the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials, I did
not participate because of an “off again” knee. I also never ran the 100 mile weeks that some of my
competitors did because of my knee. I ran relatively low mileage for a competitive marathon runner.

Favorite quote or two? “Give it your very best every single day. And don’t be so hard on yourself
come nightfall.” “The key to success is to focus on the goals and not the obstacles. Believe in yourself and be your number one fan.”

Three quick tips for other lifetime runners?
1--Try to run on soft surfaces which are more forgiving to the joints. A dirt trail is far superior to asphalt.
Concrete is the worst.
2--Listen to your body. It will let you know when it is time to take some time off. Taking a day of rest when
needed can often prevent getting injured (and missing several days if not weeks of running).
3--Most importantly, keep it fun! Enjoy yourself and look forward to your running. It’s not a chore or
something you have to do, but an activity you want to do and is good for you.

How does running and fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? Running (and now
walking and hiking) improve my life on a daily basis because it helps me focus and relaxation. I always feel better after a run or walk. It clears my head and I appreciate the “me time” – being out in nature and being in motion is good for my body and my soul.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? The greatest lesson I have learned from running is that our bodies are meant to be in motion, and to walk and run. An active lifestyle has its perks and benefits. I’ve learned to respect my body, with both its strengths and limitations.

Philosophy of running? My philosophy of life (and running and aging) is to savor the moment and
live in the present. Make the best of each run and make the best of non-running moments as well. Always be grateful for your health. Don’t put things on the back-burner. Travel, explore, run and participate in life to its fullest, and have no regrets. Do it all.

Personal Addendum: I am inspired by all of the runners and writers who came before me. I am an
avid reader and have amassed quite a collection of autographed running books, including:
-Living Well, Running Hard by John Ball
-Jim Thorpe Never Slept Here by Richard Benyo
-The Competitive Runner’s Handbook by Bob Glover and Shelly-Lynn Florence Glover
-Hills, Hawgs and Ho Chi Minh by Don Kardong
-Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr. (early printing copy)
-Runners and Other Dreamers by John L. Parker Jr.
-Run Down, Fired Up and Teed Off by John L. Parker Jr.
-Running for Women by Joan Benoit Samuelson
-Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer
-My Life On The Run by Bart Yasso
In addition to these ten autographed books I have an additional ten unsigned books in my running library.
Most recently, I added to the collection with my own memoir, Running and Me: Then and Now.