(Sep 2022) There probably aren't many runners out there who can say they have won more than 500 races. Kitty Consolo is one. A PhD in exercise physiology and qualifier for the first U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984, Consolo, now 65, lives on Cat Run Road in Granville Ohio. (Yes, Kitty lives on Cat Run.) In her prime, she had a marathon best of 2:42.46. Today, she's still running about 30 miles a week and winning (in her age group) most of the races she enters. This, despite severe asthma and allergies. She follows the advice of legendary basketball coach John Wooden: "Do not let what you can not do interfere with what you can do.” And also her mother: “Leave people and things better than you find them.”
Career-profession? I have been teaching at the University/College level since fall 1979. I have a PhD in Exercise Science from Kent State University (1990) and have taught at many places. I have been at Ohio University Zanesville since 2002 and am very proud and pleased to report thatI was named Outstanding Professor for 2022. Teaching is my passion, and I am fortunate to teach courses across a variety of disciplines. I am also very proud that I created UC 2900 a special topics in wellness 1 credit class that I offer every semester in just one afternoon giving students sound info and experiential exercises to improve their physical, emotional and mental wellness. I hope to teach for many more years.
|With her mother and father at the|
1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
When did you start running and why? I started running in 1972 when my family spent a semester in England. We lived by the English Channel and every day I would go out and run a mile or two when the tide was out to embrace the sunrise and feel calm. However, it was May 1975, right after I read about Steve Prefontaine and his untimely death, that I decided to embark on distance running. I thought it would continue to help my anxiety and keep my weight down so I could continue to eat lots of healthy carbs. I created a hilly 15-mile course that I ran several times that summer.
I also entered my first road race, a local 5 miler in my hometown, the Granville Firecracker Five because my dad was running it too. After the race I went right home. My dad came home later with a big red, white, and blue trophy and I said “Dad, way to go.” I was shocked when he said, “This is your trophy.” Before running, I did not feel like a skilled athlete. I was always picked last, no one wanted me on their team. With running, I felt free and a spiritual connection to the universe. I felt this is where I belonged and I loved how I felt not only when I ran, but when I finished.
In college at Wake Forest, I decided to go out for the men’s cross-country team as I had been running with my boyfriend at the time and because Wake Forest had no women’s team, Title IX allowed me to run on the men’s team. I was shocked to qualify in a men’s race for women’s nationals by running three miles in 18 minutes.
However, the women’s athletic director did not want to send me to nationals as she thought competition was unladylike, (horses sweat, men perspire and women glow). But I went to the Wake Forest school newspaper, and they did such a revealing article that the entire athletic department stepped in and sent me to the women’s nationals. When I won the 1977 Charleston Distance 15 miler, Nike shoes contacted me and asked if I would run for them. That began many years (1977-2001) of shoe sponsorships and competition all over the US and world (St. Lucia, Bermuda etc)
How much did you run in your peak years? I would build to as much as 70 a week but preferred to average 50 miles a week.
Top races and achievements? I am very proud that my first attempt at the marathon was the Toledo Glass City marathon in 1977 which I won. I blew out the first half in 1:25 and then crawled in at 3;15 but still won the women’s overall. I have won well over 500 races from the mile to the marathon since 1975 if you count overall and age group, and last year won all 9 on my races in the 60-64 age group.
I won the Cleveland Revco marathon both in 1982 and 1985. The 1985 race was won just six weeks after having major surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. I also qualified for and competed in the First Women’s Olympic marathon trails in 1984 finishing around 150th place.
My best marathon was the 1982 New York Marathon where I placed 15th overall for women and 7th American in 2:42.46. My second fastest marathon was at Boston in 2:45.08.
I had to give up running marathons in 1998 as my asthma and allergies just could not handle the distance but am happy to still be racing today at 65. However, since then, I have continued to race 5km-10km since then usually winning my age group and occasionally placing among the top overall women.
Last September (2021), I was very proud to have captured the senior trophy at my favorite all time 5km the Ken Keener Classic 5km run in Millersport, Ohio with a time of 26:04. The trophy is almost as big as me!
Any estimate of lifetime miles? This is purely an estimate as I did not always keep track but assuming for 23 years I ran around 50 miles a week for each year 23 x 50 x 52 =59,800. And then the next 24 years I averaged 30 miles a week for each year 24 x 30 x 52 = 37,400. So the grand estimated total would be 97,240 miles.
How much are you running and cross-training now? At 65 years, I run 30 miles a week all on roads. A training week will be 6 miles on Wed with 1-3 timed miles and sat a 6-8-mile-long hilly run and then the other days are 3-4 miles easy.
I was able to install my own year-round outdoor hydropool last year and I swim 5 days a week 20-30 min but do not know distance. I stretch every day after my runs while I am still warm and make sure to stretch my soleus, calves, hamstrings, quads, IT band and the with an orange spikey roller I gently roll my legs and feet.
Twice a week I do strength training with bands up to 50 pounds, focusing on my legs. I also do 2 x 30 squats against a wall.
Any recent race results? This year I kicked off my 65th birthday (April 16, 2022), with a second place overall in the Kiawanna 10km in Lancaster, Oh and hope to run many more road races this year. I just placed second in the 60-69 age group (first time I have been beaten in a few years) in the Jack Roth 5km 26:48.
Does it bother you that you are slower now than earlier? I am fortunate that I asked my physical therapist (Jon Plush, ATC, PT) to help coach me back in 2009, and the first thing he did at our first race together, was to take away my watch. This strategy removed the pressure of time altogether. I ran well and focused on how I felt not the time. It also helped me quit focusing on past times and what how fast I used to run. Since I have severe asthma (we need to bring oxygen to my races as I need to mix it with my meds and no longer use inhalers) and allergies, it is safer, smarter and more fun to relax and focus on breathing well and running in the flow and not to worry about time. Once I quit focusing on my times, I had and have fun with my running.
Yes, I am slower and there are friends who I used to beat who are still running and racing much faster than I am now but my focus is feeling good and enjoying racing.
I have a different perspective too because I lost my mom to cancer when I was only 34 and now at 65, I will have outlived her by 2 years in July so I celebrate that I am still alive and still able to run despite my severe asthma and allergies. Life is short and I love this quote from John Wooden, “Do not let what you can not do, interfere with what you can do.”
The people who inspired me are some of the ones in lifetime running, Bill Rodgers, Jeannie Rice, they continue to run and race, and they are older so I am glad to have them to look up to. Bill gave me much good advice during my marathon years and I love how he always emphasized to have fun running and racing.
Any diet or weight changes? I have always had a healthy diet and never eaten fast food. Due to my food allergies and concern with additives and preservatives, almost everything I eat is organic and I never eat out. I always bring my own food whenever I travel.
I used to eat a lot of sugar and baked goods but now I just can’t tolerate them. I get headaches and pains from them, but I do rely on organic dates, and ginger chews, ginger is a great anti-inflammatory and helps with nausea too.
I am fortunate that my immunologist and allergist that I have seen now for over 22 years (Dr. Michael Waickman, Fairlawn, OH) has had both me and my husband on many supplements for years that have boosted our immune systems and kept us very healthy. Everyone should consider 5000IU D3, it not only builds bones and helps with muscle recovery but is a powerful virus fighter and boosts immunity. I have trouble absorbing B so I take a special methyl B supplement and if one is over 40 one needs to take B12 sublingually as the stomach no longer absorbs it well. We also take fish oil which has amazing anti-inflammatory properties as well as can prevent sarcopenia, muscle wasting from aging, and wet macular degeneration.
My weight has dropped some, even in spite of taking fish oil I have lost some muscle. I used to race at 112 pounds, now I am 104 pounds.
Any injuries or health issues? Besides my severe allergies and asthma, I have dealt with a lot of plantar fasciitis and use pro-tec arch supports which have really managed that as well as wear cushioned flexible shoes. My worst injury was in 2006, when I was running in the nearby bio reserve in winter and my foot caught a log and I soared 10 feet in the air downhill to land on a frozen pond. I was unconscious briefly and then I heard God say, “Get up and get home or you will die here.” I walked/jogged the 4 miles home and did not realize I had dislocated several cervical and thoracic vertebrae, ribs and my hip.
Any favorite inspirational quotes: In addition to the John Wooden quote I mentioned above, I would like to share this one from my mom, the late Jeanne Consolo, who said, “Leave people and things better than you find them.” I try to live by this.
|Tropies and more trophies|
What 3 short tips would you offer to young/midlife runners who hope to continue running many years into the future?
1--Pay attention to pain, tightness and fatigue. Using a scale of 1-10, with 1 being nothing and 10 being terrible, once you feel a 5 do not go past it, stop your workout, rest and you will prevent a lot of damage.
2--At the first sign of pain or aches, use ice packs or ice massage for 20min and avoid heat until pain or ache is gone.
3--Keep your own running log and learn what works for you. Do not follow anyone else’s schedule, staying illness and injury free is the key to long-time running. Then Listen to what you learn about your own body.
How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? Since I teach a lot of health classes and biology, starting my day with my run, then stretching and swimming gets me ready to excel for the rest of my day. I cannot imagine Not exercising daily, and I have inspired my students to be healthier as well. Being fit gives me lots of energy to still work full time, take care of my dog and husband and to go forward from loss and disappointments. It helps my mood, my outlook and I feel very spiritually connected to God when I run. It is as Eric Liddell described in Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? For me running is not just what I do, it is part of who I am. I am a runner and that means I am persistent, and in for the long haul. Running has helped me develop many attributes that help me deal with life’s challenges: persistence, patience, discipline and dedication. Running calms, me, helps me cope with life and to feel connected to God and nature. It is during running I often gain insights to difficulties, solutions to problems and inspiration to continue to live despite loss and limits. I believe one can continue to run as we age, but to do so we must carefully listen to our bodies and work with them. Less can be more.
I love racing too, but it is important to me that I am healthy enough to run daily so I am careful not to get injured racing and to allow ample recovery from such efforts. Races can also take away one’s joy of running if the only gage one uses for success is the watch.
Finally, running is a way of life. A way to greet the world each day, regardless of the weather and to listen and learn how my mind and body are feeling for the day. It is also my personal time with God, to hear any guidance I need, and to feel connected to this supreme being and the world God created.