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Cheryl Bridges Treworgy — December, 2014
Cheryl Bridges Treworgy is best known for winning the 1971 Culver City Marathon in a World Record time of 2:49:40. She is the first woman to break 2:50:00. Cheryl represented the United States five times at the World Cross Country Championships with a best finish of fourth place in 1969. Truly one of the pioneers of women’s distance running, she received possibly the first women’s athletic scholarship from any university to Indiana State in 1966, though it was technically classified as a ‘Talented Student Scholarship.’ At the inaugural women’s collegiate D.G.W.S. (Division for Girls and Women’s Sports) Championships held in Texas in 1969, Cheryl won the mile and half mile and anchored the winning medley relay team in leading Indiana State’s team of only four women to a second place team finish. She raced at a time when young women had little opportunity to run and race in high school and college. Cheryl started running for fitness in high school and was prevented by her local school board from training or racing with the boys. The legendary Bill Dellinger, who was Steve Prefontaine’s coach, guided her to her World Record marathon. Cheryl was inducted into the Indiana State University Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, before her more celebrated ISU alumnus, Larry Bird. She is a professional photographer for her own company, Pretty Sporty, and was recognized in 2010 as Track and Field Writers of America Photographer of the year. Cheryl is the mother of Shalane Flanagan, one of America’s top distance runners, who has a best marathon time of 2:21:14. She resides in Graham, North Carolina with her husband, John. Cheryl was gracious to spend two hours on the telephone for this interview.
GCR:You had your running heyday back in the 1960s and 1970s. For anyone under the age of 40 or 45, it is difficult to fathom the lack of opportunities that girls and women had to compete in sports until sometime in the mid-1970s. What it was like for you as a teenager starting to run in the 1960s and how decide to start running?
CTWhat has to be realized with me is that it wasn’t so much that I wanted to be a runner as it was that I wanted to transform my body. That was the whole idea and running happened to be the activity that was accessible. Back in the sixties acceptable sports for girls were being on a swim team, playing tennis, doing gymnastics or ice skating. You just did not see people out running on the streets, period. There were high school teams that were all boys. AAU was available for girls, but that was in the summer and wasn’t associated with the schools at all. For a lot of it, running was in age group clubs. Nothing was available in high school in the Midwest. I had read an article in the Sunday supplement to our newspaper by Bill Bowerman. He talked about how he and his wife had travelled to New Zealand and Australia and there were people hiking and walk-jogging. He discussed the benefits. I bought in that this was something I could do and that I didn’t need anyone else to do it. So I thought I’d give this shot. For me it started out as just wanting to have a body like the gal I idolized, Maddie Ellis, who was a swimmer. That’s where it all started.
GCR:What were the opportunities to train and race at your high school?
CTI was fortunate that I had a Social Studies teacher, Charlie Riley, who was coach of the cross country team and track team. I don’t know how it even came about, maybe I asked him about training or he saw me on the track after band practice, and he asked if I was interested in running. Back in the 1960s women weren’t very forceful in public. We really didn’t push the envelope much. We were expected to follow the same path that our mothers did – you know, a get married, have kids and take care of the house concept.
GCR:When I interviewed Ruth Wysocki she mentioned that there wasn’t a girls track team at her school so she ran with the boys track team, boys cross country team and did some club running. Were you on a similar path?
CTYes, and Ruth is quite a bit younger than me because I remember her as a 12 year old in some races. For me, Mr. Riley had invited me to come out and run with the boys, but the School Board prevented me from doing so. They had a big meeting to ban me from being able to train with the boys, so I pretty much had to run by myself. In the summer I hooked up with a club and one of the coaches took interest in me and continued to coach me my senior year. But that first year I was basically out there on my own.
GCR:There are limited archives of racing information from back then, but there were the foundations for girls’ competitions. How did the opportunities to race evolve while you were in high school?
CTI entered my first cross country nationals and went to the meet in Cambridge. I think I got seventh place the first year. I loved cross country. That’s always been the one thing I was really good at as opposed to track. I wasn’t quite as good because there weren’t any barriers. I think I would have been a good steeplechaser. I was able to train with my coach. There were no girls to train with. Pretty much my whole career I was training by myself.
GCR:Did he have you doing mainly steady runs or did he include intervals and fartlek running?
CTI did all of that. He was knowledgeable and had been a runner at Indiana State. He knew what he was doing and I benefited from that. There was no feeder system so I was coming out non-athletic other than I wanted to lose weight, and the weight did come off. There was an athlete underneath but it took some time for the body to convert to something that was fit enough to maintain and compete. My early trails weren’t good but I got better.
GCR:What were some highlight races in high school and what kind of times were you running?
CTMy times were terrible. I think when I hit a 2:30 for 800 meters I was thrilled. 800 meters was about it when I started. Then a mile was as long as they would let us run forever. When we finally moved up to the mile it was hard to even find anyone who would run it. It’s like when we first started with 10k races, we had to recruit people. It was like that with the mile back then. It was too long. Everyone was a sprinter back then. If you weren’t a sprinter it was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ My whole freshman year in college I ran in high school boys cross country meets. We had to make it okay with all of the other coaches. They made me wait until five seconds after the gun went off to start running because they didn’t think I knew what I was doing and I would get in the way. But I never got worse than third place.
GCR:What were you planning to do as far as collegiate studies and athletics and how did you become the first female athlete in the U.S. to receive an athletic scholarship to a public university from Indiana State?
CTLarry Bridges was my club coach who had attended Indiana State. He had coached me through the club and then he coached me my senior year in high school. He had this bright idea that I could get a scholarship. Well, no one was giving athletic scholarships to women in 1966. But we tried it anyway. We pitched it at Ball State and Indiana State. Fortunately, Dr. Eleanor St. John, who was the head of the Physical Education Department at Indiana State, told us about a ‘Talented Student Scholarship’ and that it was sort of a slush fund for students that weren’t earmarked for any one talent. You could be good at anything – violin – so that’s where the money came from to give me a partial scholarship.
GCR:So it wasn’t technically an athletic scholarship, though with your running talent that is how it was used.
CTDr. St. John was really forward thinking as she was with a group of women who put together the first women’s collegiate track and field championship in 1969 at San Marcos, Texas.
GCR:So when you were first running at Indiana State in what type of meets were you competing?
CTI had to run in AAU age group meets. I would go to St. Louis, Cleveland or up to Michigan and compete wherever there were teams. We always had to hope that one of the age-groupers would go out of her age group and jump up to the Open Division to race me as I was the only Open racer. We got Francie Krieger-Johnson to run the mile against me and I think I was the only runner to ever beat her on Michigan soil. But it wasn’t at a distance she relished.
GCR:You mentioned the inaugural women’s collegiate D.G.W.S. (Division for Girls and Women’s Sports) Championships held in Texas in 1969. You won the mile and half mile and anchored the winning medley relay team. Were there a lot of schools there and was it a large event?
CTThere were 24 teams and most were from Texas. Terry Crawford from Tennessee and I had raced at many AAU meets. We plotted to run different events so that we wouldn’t get second places. We worked it out so I could run mine and she could run hers.
GCR:You led the Indiana State women's track team to a second-place finish – was the team camaraderie an added bonus to your individual success? And what stands out more, the team or individual results?
CTThe great thing was the team Indiana State sent was only four girls. We all tripled and as a team we did tie for second. I was the oldest one on the team at twenty-one or close to it. I had also travelled the most so I was the chaperone. The other girls had been recruited through an open call. They had maybe been in physical education in high school. I think our hurdler also threw the shot put and was on the relay. Everyone did everything. It was strange and didn’t come together until my senior year. For all the out-of-town competitions I went alone and they stayed locally. When we got to the national meet I was kind of like the mother hen and tried to help my teammates. But when a meet was being put on for the first time you don’t know what the schedule would be like. It was pretty exciting to tie for second place with just the four of us.
GCR:Do you remember anything from the actual competitions?
CTIt was long ago and I don’t recall at all. My times weren’t spectacular. All I remember is that it was darn hot!
GCR:1969 was also the first year in which you represented the United States at the World Cross Country Championships. You mentioned that cross country was your first love, so could you tell us about the race in Scotland where you finished fourth?
CTI always knew that if I got on the team I could do well at the World Championships because most of the races were on golf courses that were pretty flat. I also did well on hills. The course in Scotland was as perfect as could be because it was really hilly. It worked well for me, though I finished one second out of third place, which was so close to getting a medal and was unfortunate. That was the main thing for me – training really hard to make the team – and then I went to work doing what I knew how to do.
GCR:That was one of the years that Doris Heritage-Brown won in her five-year winning streak. How do you remember her racing strategy and was she a mentor to you?
CTShe was just out there so far ahead of people. It’s interesting because Doris is about five years older than me and the two of us were usually the two oldest on the team except for the year that Vicki Fultz made it. Vicki was more our age and all the others were much younger. I always felt that Doris was so savvy and the rest of us had our eyes wide open and our jaws were dropping about this international competition. We always got to the races just before competition time and I didn’t adjust to the time change as well as Doris did. She was also a really focused, focused person. She trained like an 800 meter runner because that’s what she was. She could just take that pace out. I always admired that and wished I had that ability. But I didn’t and maybe that is why I ended up being a marathoner.
GCR:You ran in five World Championship Cross Country events – do you still have your USA jerseys and sweat suits?
CTNo, I gave those away a long time ago. None of them really fit very well. They always had us coming to New York right before we went overseas in March and they had the end of the year’s pool of uniforms. They were getting ready to unveil the new batch for the upcoming season, so mine didn’t always fit very well. I got rid of all of those.
GCR:You were versatile, setting U.S. records in the 3 mile and 5,000 meter distances. How was the competition and how was it focusing on lap after lap rather than the variety on a cross country course?
CTThe hardest thing is that there was no one to run with. It wasn’t until the Drake Relays added a women’s’ 10k that there were women to race with. In that 3-mile and 5k I was pretty much solo. That was a real drag. I didn’t ever run what I could have because those races were like time trials. The year Drake added the women’s 10k on the program they had us run before anyone even arrived at the stadium. I remember pole vaulters coming down the steps as we were finishing up the 10k and they were wondering what was going on. It is hard to know what is in people’s minds, but maybe they didn’t think we could do it or that it wouldn’t be interesting. People come with their own concepts of what they think women can do or should do. It wasn’t until later in June when we were out in Eugene for the Olympic Trials for the men’s marathon that they had a twilight meet that included a women’s 10k. A lot of us went under the American Record set by Peg Knepple at Drake. There weren’t many opportunities to run 10k so we didn’t train for it.
GCR:Do you recall any of your times from back then at 3 miles, 5k or 10k?
CTI really don’t, but they weren’t good. I don’t know because we didn’t train much for it. We did distance and some interval workouts.
GCR:What changes in coaching and training really helped you to step up and become a much stronger and faster runner?
CTIt wasn’t until I was coached by Steve Prefontaine’s coach, when I got him to coach me by mail that I made the decision that I really wanted to go out on top. I was at the age of twenty-three which was when most runners retired.
GCR:So Bill Dellinger started working with you then. How did that process work and what did he do to help you move forward?
CTWe mailed back and forth every two weeks. I send the results of my workouts and in the meantime the next set of workouts came in the mail. I had never done workouts like his before. That is when I did fairly well at cross country nationals that year.
GCR:With your track and cross country success, somehow you decided to race an all-out marathon. How did that come about?
CTThe week after nationals was the Culver City Marathon. Before that I had jogged and walked a marathon with some of the guys I trained with at Cal-Poly in 3:15. I decided that with the new-found fitness Bill had given me I wasn’t going to walk, I was going to find a good pace I could maintain and that’s when I ran the 2:49:40.
GCR:So when you won the 1971 Culver City Marathon in a World Record time of 2:49:40, you weren’t even training specifically for the marathon distance? It was just a decision to take advantage of your training and to race it hard?
CTExactly. And it’s funny because Jacqueline Hansen always says, ‘Why didn’t you continue running marathons?’ It’s because my coach was a track coach. It wasn’t important to him and because there weren’t many opportunities. I guess it also wasn’t important to me.
GCR:That’s interesting as I had wondered why you didn’t run the Boston Marathon or New York City Marathon like some of the other women in your time such as Jacqui, Nina Kuscsik or Miki Gorman.
CTMy environment was not conducive to marathon training and racing. I taught physical education and I was on my feet all day. Track was important, not marathons, and I wasn’t steered in that direction by my coach. In retrospect, it would have been a good way to go, but in order to do it well would have been hard for me to do and to teach.
GCR:Even though you weren’t training specifically for a marathon, what was your training like in terms of weekly mileage and long runs before Culver City?
CTI was doing sixty miles a week and training for 3k to 5k. I August Bill took me up to 100 mile weeks for a couple of weeks, which nearly killed me, because I was training by myself. I always did all of my training by myself. That’s another whole factor as I didn’t have a team to train with. You know how hard it is to get out some days, and it was like that every day where it kind of mentally wore on me. Once every month or every three weeks I would do a two hour run in the hills overlooking the minimum security prison where Timothy Leary was holed up. It was over railroad tracks and I would see wild turkeys. It was a Sunday run.
GCR:What type of intense stamina and speed sessions did Coach Dellinger include in your training plan?
CTHe mixed it up like I had never seen anyone mix it up. Some days he would have me go out and do a tempo run for maybe three miles. Then I would go on the track and do repeats. After that I would do cut downs, like fast 200 meters. Each one was faster until I was supposed to be doing my PR on the last one. I would think, ‘He’s got to be kidding!’ What he was doing was training my mind to accept the fact that I had more than I thought I did.
GCR:After the Culver City Marathon, when you trained for track and cross country, what were some of the highlights of your racing career on the track, grass or roads?
CTI won Bay-to-Breakers twice which is about all I did on the roads. Sixth was the best I did on the track in the mile at nationals which was at UCLA. Cross country was where I was the best. I could just never put it together on the track. Steeplechase is where I think I could have done well as it replicated the same attributes needed in cross country. When I was training at Indiana State as a freshman and in each year, Larry Bridges had me running over steeplechase barriers. Francie Larrieu used to come and train with me periodically before she would go race in Europe because she knew I would give her the kind of workout that was hard for another female to give her. Granted, I was never as fast as Francie, but strength was my attribute. We would manipulate the workout so that there were so many 220s that she wouldn’t want to go any faster. Thirty-two 220s at a certain pace with a 220 was enough that both of us were tired at the end.
GCR:Your contemporary, Jacqueline Hansen, was training under Coach Lazlo Tabori, when Bill Dellinger coached you. Did Lazlo ever help you with your training?
CTNo, it was funny because when we were coached by men we picked up on how they didn’t want us to get chatty with ‘the enemy.’ I was pretty shy at the time, though I don’t know how others perceived me and I’m not that way now. I was extremely, painfully shy at that time and didn’t really talk to too many people. I was by myself and didn’t have a team and I was older than other runners so that was another barrier for me.
GCR:Switching gears for a bit, you passed the distance running torch to your daughter, Shalane Flanagan, who earned Bronze Medals at the 2008 Olympics at 10,000 meters and 2011 World Cross Country Championships and is currently the top U.S. marathon racer. First, with this genetic gift through two generations, I’m wondering how athletic were your own parents?
CTMy mom participated in any sports in which women were allowed to participate, which were primarily field hockey, baton twirling, being a majorette and all acceptable sports in the 1940s. My dad was a high jumper at the University of Indiana and was a basketball player. So, he was very athletic. He was six feet, six inches tall. He is in their athletic hall of fame.
GCR:How rewarding is it to see Shalane succeeding at the level she does?
CTIt’s almost hard for me to grasp at times. There are a lot of parents over the past ten years who will ask questions like, ‘What was your daughter’s time in the 400 meters when she was eight years old?’ And I don’t know as she was swimming and playing soccer. We didn’t worry about that kind of thing. But when she found out that she liked cross country it made my heart sing. It is such a freeing event that I was so excited. Her sister, Maggie, is kind of the one who introduced her to it. She was a year behind Shalane in school and she joined the cross country team when she was in middle school. Shalane was a freshman in high school and was playing soccer, but there were so many girls out for soccer that she wasn’t getting enough playing time. She was getting a little bummed. She was a midfielder and halfback and could run all day long. The next year she went out for cross because she could run free. So I ‘blame’ Maggie for doing that for her. It’s one of those things where I’ve been there to a degree and I have so much respect and admiration for what she does. People really have no idea what it takes in dedication and lifestyle and sacrifice. I know they have no clue. I know how hard it was for me and I didn’t achieve what she achieved. And I stopped short. She’s in a place where she was able to make this her own and she has been able to chase these dreams of hers. I remember in high school she ran the mile one year and it was time to set goals. She said, ‘I came down ten seconds last years so I think I’ll come down ten seconds this year.’’ I was thinking that at some point ten seconds is impossible, but I didn’t say a word because so much is mental. If you think you can do it, my god, you will figure out a way. That is part of her legacy because with all of the emphasis of European heritage runners not being able to hang with those of African background, she is out to prove that wrong. She doesn’t accept that.
GCR:It’s interesting that both you and your daughter, Shalane, race well on the track, the roads and in cross country. Is there something similar you share in your personalities that drove you and drives Shalane toward a variety of challenges?
CTIt’s funny because in October Shalane was scheduled to be at a Nike promotional event with the Nike Half Marathon out in San Francisco. She told me to come with her, but to not bring my camera and work taking photos. I thought, ‘We haven’t done this since she was in high school.’ She didn’t have a lot to do, but fulfilled her obligations. We were supposed to meet some people for dinner, but I told her I wasn’t going to make it and that I was hungry and tired because of the time change. She said, ‘I’m not feeling it either. Let’s just blow it off.’ I said, ‘Really? There’s a burrito place around the corner.’ So, we went and got burritos, got in bed, watched television and had a ‘girls night in.’ Girls complain, yes we do, and listening to her sound off that night I realized that we were more alike than I had any idea. I’ve always felt connected to Shalane because of our drive. And I know that drive can make people around you really crazy. But without it neither of us would be who we are.
GCR:Shalane has been racing at an extremely high level for at least fifteen years. How does she keep physically and mentally at the top of her game and avoid burnout, and does she need specific down times to recoup and revitalize?
CTParents never really know how much their children are listening to them. But from the get-go when she was in middle school and high school there were some things her dad and I both said which were you are in charge of your own body, decisions are yours, only you know how you are feeling and you can’t give away your power. You can’t always have someone telling you what to do. You need to think on your feet and decide what is good for you. I think that’s it. She can look at a piece of paper and know if she can do the work. But if mentally she isn’t sparked up we have to make a change. And she needs to figure out why she isn’t sparked up. It may be as simple as needing a day home in her jammies watching the sunrise or a day in her own bed and not on an airplane going somewhere. It’s always the little things. She learned to trust her instincts. That’s been huge in taking back her power. For anybody, when you start listening to yourself, instead of ignoring it. There are times when you have to ignore to break through a barrier, but there are times when it is really important to listen to what your body is telling you. I won’t say she’s mastered it, but she is pretty good at it.
GCR:Do you see her slowing down or retiring from competitive running maybe after the 2016 Rio Olympics or is she on a path similar to Deena Kastor as an ambassador of women’s running?
CTI think she will always be an ambassador. I don’t see her stepping away from that. She loves motivating kids. She likes being a role model. She realizes she is a role model and she takes that to heart. I don’t know what she will end up choosing but she is at a stage in her life too where she isn’t sure what is going to happen, but she isn’t ruling anything out. It’s important to go with the flow and she’s thought about what she’s going to do later on, but nothing’s grabbed her yet. There are still opportunities coming her way. As she is out in front of people it’s like they have visions for her that maybe she hasn’t thought of. Her future, no matter what she does, is going to be good. If she does step away from the top level of competition, I know it’s going to be extremely hard because, unless there is somebody better than you to take your spot, why walk?
GCR:Shalane and Deena Kastor are ambassadors of women’s running, but when we look back I retrospect, you are in a group of women in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as Doris Heritage-Brown, Jacqueline Hansen, Miki Gorman, Gayle Barron and Nina Kuscsik, that are referred to as ‘Pioneers of Women’s Distance Running.’ Back then were you more a disjointed group, though now we look back on you as pioneers? Did you realize this was happening and that you were setting a stage or do you look back now and think, ‘Wow, we were the ones!
CTWhen we were going through the throes of it we had no clue. We just know, and I’m speaking for myself, there was a desire and a passion. And I was just following that passion. The fact that few others were doing it was a little of a barrier. But, on the other hand, it felt good I didn’t have to ask permission as it wasn’t popular. I didn’t have anyone else’s permission to do it as no one else wanted to do it. It was sort of neat as it was all mine. I talked to Amby Burfoot about this opportunity for me to get out of a pretty bad childhood and to move on. It took me a couple of tries to move on in my life and to become the person I am now. This is not who I was then. Running has taken me places I never imagined and without it I don’t know where I would be. It’s an activity that is really good for women because of the empowerment part of taking charge of your life and learning how to say ‘no.’ Learning that your dreams are attainable and finding support. This sport does all of that for women. It does for men to in a way, but because of the expectations of females in the 1960s I wasn’t looking forward to what was expected of me and I was considered sort of a rebel. I was inside myself. I didn’t feel accepted by other groups so that was a real safe place for me. I didn’t even know people knew I ran. It wasn’t talked about. I just went off and did my own thing. I think you always want to get your hands on something to tell you how you are doing in comparison to somebody else. That helped me to dream bigger.
GCR:When you discuss how you got started running, it reminds me of Gayle Barron telling me that she started running to get in shape and to lose a little weight and her longest run was about three miles when someone told her about this 10k race she should run. It ended up being the first Peachtree 10k, there were only three women and she was the first women’s champ. I don’t know how many women competed when you won Bay-to-Breakers, but it must have been a similarly small number.
CTExactly. I remember Joan Ullyot lining up at the start, coming up to me, telling me she had written a running book and how she liked that I was there. She was part of the women’s running movement and I did just there not really understanding her role in the whole thing. I think it was Joan that lobbied for the women to have a place on the starting line – women and children – and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this could be a disaster.’ Even back then there were throngs – lots of people – and kids could get trampled. I don’t think any of us knew where it might go, but I laugh when I hear a reference to the current running boom. I heard it the other day and thought, ‘Wait a minute, we had that in the 70s and 80s – where have you been?’ Maybe not born yet!
GCR:We’ve talked about your running and a bit about Shalane’s, but you have coached others and helped them to strive toward reaching their athletic potential. How rewarding is it to help others succeed compared to your own personal accomplishments?
CTAnytime you can help others discover their passion there is a reward right there. In some instances it’s almost like giving them permission and once they have that from somebody else they can take it to the next level. It’s interesting because the year that I was coaching at Michigan State, I now stay connected to all of them on Facebook. When we were out in San Francisco at the Nike Half Marathon in the VIP area along with Joanie Samuelson and her daughter, there was a lady and her daughter who were talking with Joanie. They were introduced to Shalane and that always brings a big ‘Wow.’ Then Joan said, ‘This is Shalane’s mom, Cheryl.’ The daughter goes, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ and I got the big wow because her high school coach was Marianne Dodds, whom I coached at Michigan State. She said, ‘I know all about you. Marianne talks about you all the time.’
GCR:Let’s get your opinion on a number of training elements based on your personal knowledge as an athlete and from coaching others. What range of mileage is typically appropriate for an average high school runner to build their base and to stay away from injuries?
CTI think that cross training is crucial. I’ve come to that conclusion as a physical education instructor as well. We send kids out there and a lot of them don’t have the musculature to keep from getting injured. A lot of times I think we should just send them out on hikes for a couple weeks to get them used to using muscles going up and down hills. We should also send them out in the woods as you can’t go fast when running in the woods. It uses your upper body too. I’m a real proponent of getting out and playing and cross training that way even if it’s in a pool. Kids need to develop some kind of base. When my girls were in elementary school I volunteered with the track team and was surprised at some of the drills the girls could do. It’s not like the guys can do it all. If kids do more running drills efficiently it can keep them away from injuries like ACL problems. I tore mine two years ago and from talking with my physical therapist she was telling me that many injuries are because no one has really taught the kids how to do the drills correctly so what they are doing is straining ligaments and getting injuries.
GCR:Another thing I think of when you mention the need for walking and cross training harks back to when I started running back in the 1970s after watching the 1972 Olympics and getting inspired by Dave Wottle, Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter. There was a real high school running boom, especially among boys, and many of us went to high mileage quickly. But we were so used to playing outside whether it was street football or sandlot baseball or basketball or tag or kick the can – we were on our feet for five to ten hours a day. When we started running and went to 70 or 80 or 90 miles a week, we were able to do so because we had such an amazing fitness base that kids today don’t have as they don’t play like we did.
CTI agree. Everything now has to be organized by adults. I remember when my girls started playing soccer and their skill level really was bad, but it was more of a social thing for my daughter Maggie. When Title IX went through lots of people were upset as girls weren’t good athletically, but it was because they weren’t allowed to play before. It only took one generation for girls to be as awesome athletically as they are now. If boys started at that level where would they have been? So, you are right as we didn’t encourage organized sports as much back then. We were outside. When dinner was over we went back outside and played kickball and other games. Now everyone is waiting to be carted off to wherever the game is that is organized by all of the adults. We couldn’t wait to get out and play when I was a kid. I remember my mother saying, ‘Could you just walk to the neighbors?’ But what fun was that? I wanted to get there quickly. I wanted to go and play. I ran to the grocery store – I was sent on the bread run.
GCR:You and I were both cross country runners and ran on trails. How important is running on soft surfaces for high school and college runners and even continuing into adulthood?
CTI like the soft surfaces, but where I live now is very hilly and out in the country. In my housing development there is a two-mile loop that I can do. The way I look at it is because of my ACL injury I need to stay on a more even surface like the roads. I tried running in the woods the other day and there were just too many roots and rocks covered by leaves that I couldn’t see. I do like the idea of running on a surface that is softer. In my case I run the up hills and take it easy on the down hills. I feel that on up hills I’m meeting the ground as it is coming up to me. And I’m not going that fast. Right now it is better for me to run solidly. People ask me if I run with Shalane and I have to tell them I don’t because even if I ran her warm down pace it would be a record for my age group.
GCR:You talked about getting coached by Bill Dellinger and you see what Shalane does in her training. What do you feel is the relative importance of quality versus quantity in training to get to your best?
CTIt’s interesting because as one gets older we are more aware of what used to be easy and what isn’t any longer. It’s just been this fall that I can bend my knee because there was so much scar tissue behind it. What I do now is when I start losing my running form, I start walking. I think form is more important than anything else. It’s like that with kids who are running. There are some who it’s a wonder they don’t knock themselves out. I think if they had help with their form it would be a lot more fun for them. I feel that the quality training as you get older you need the recovery more than the quantity of training. I always told Shalane it was better to be under trained than over trained. If you’re over trained, I don’t care how hard you’re digging, it’s not going to be there. But if you’re under trained, a lot of times your mental side can get you there when your body says, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for this.’ A lot of kids leave it on the track and there is nothing left when they get to their race. It’s important to do that dig periodically but if there is too much then how much can you ask your body to do?
GCR:You talk about the relationship between your body and your mind. How important is the mental part of training and racing and developing the ability and to learn how to push through it to beat someone else?
CTRealizing that everyone else is in the same boat and that if they are going this fast then doggone it they have to be hurting too is one of those things you have to tell t yourself. The mental ability to displace yourself, to go someplace else in your mind, is huge especially when it comes to longer running. Shalane’s talked about that when she first stepped up to 10k. She just went to a different place in her mind. As a distance runner, you can go on long runs and not even remember going past certain points because in your mind you were someplace else. The mind is a wonderful thing. It can be your best friend because it can take you someplace else where you can hardly feel what’s going on which is amazing. I took a physiological psychology class when I was doing my graduate studies. There were two wrestlers in my class and when they talked about how guys could walk on a bed of nails, we all wanted to be able to go there. I wanted to be able to go someplace else in my mind, to teach my body to go through the motions and ignore, not even be aware of pain. That class taught me and all three of us tried to do it in our sport. They tried in their wrestling and I did on my long runs – to go somewhere else and ignore the pain or discomfort. That is when good form will help.
GCR:What have been the positive effects of the discipline and tenacity learned from running on other aspects of your life?
CTOne of the most rewarding is when I run into other coaches who are much younger than me and when they find out how old I am they can’t believe it. That’s happened more often than not. When there are comments about my fitness I tell them that it is all a game and part of it is that I don’t want to embarrass my daughter. I want my daughter to be proud of me. I don’t want to disregard my body to the point where she goes, ‘Mom, you used to look pretty good, but you’re not looking so hot now.’ It would be so easy to slack off and not be fit. But the memories are there about how good fit feels and I’m not even close nowadays. I know that I started running because I liked that look and, if that keeps me motivated, then by golly that’s good enough. Coaches used to ask me how they could get more runners out for their girls’ team and I would tell them to make sure they have good looking uniforms. The laughed and I told them I was serious. You don’t always know what motivates people. There are days when I don’t want to do this Then I think that I don’t like boxy hips so I get my butt out there.
GCR:You are a photographer who films a variety of subjects including many different sports events through your Pretty Sporty company. How enjoyable is it looking through a lens and capturing these moments and is there a sport which has surprised you as a photographer rather than as a spectator?
CTAny time you can use your camera to freeze the action you see so much more that the eye cannot see. I just shot the North Carolina versus Iowa basketball game last night and these guys are huge. And they are so quick. I hear people saying things like, ‘The coach missed this or that’ and when I look at my pictures he did miss it, but it happened so quickly that how was he expected to see that? I’m really lucky that I discovered the camera, which was a brain child of how I could continue to be in my kids’ lives as they go on as athletes? I looked at my experience of not having any photos of myself from all of the years I competed and at the level I competed. Back in 2000 there weren’t many websites that had pictures. There were photographers, but they all worked for magazines. It all exploded about the same time. My reason in taking up the camera was so that I had pictures of my kids and other parents at the meets had access and that is how it started out initially. Then I thought that since I was going all over the country to take pictures that I ought to get better at it and get better equipment. That just changed my life once I made that commitment. It was basically like buying a car. Photography has taken me to so many places and has afforded me the opportunity to share what I get to see with parents and athletes. I still get e-mails asking if I have pictures from an event back in 2001 as that person knew I was there. It’s funny because being behind the lens is very much like being a distance runner. You don’t talk to people. You are always working. You’re always thinking about where you should be so as not to miss this kid or that kid. You’re always looking at the schedule to see if they are behind. It really wears me out, but I love capturing the faces of the athletes. You can read so much in those faces. I enjoy capturing those moments that are all theirs’. Some people ask me why I put so many pictures up on my website, but how am I supposed to know what will speak to you? If I eliminate three out of four pictures, one of those could be the one that you loved. I don’t know that. So why not show it to you?
GCR:Evidently what you are doing is commanding attention because in 2010 you were named Track and Field Writers of America Photographer of the year. How gratifying and surprising was it to be so honored?
CTIt’s one of those things where I was off in my own corner doing my own thing and didn’t think about how good I might be. The big agencies don’t hire me. I’m not sure if I’d want to work for a big agency because that might squash my creativity and my ability to go and shoot who I want to shoot. It all ties into that freedom of being a runner. I can make a decision at the drop of a hat if I see that someone will be in town for a race or meet. I can go and capture it and maybe someone else doesn’t think it is important. I never thought of myself as a free spirit, but that is probably who I am. Starting a website and becoming a photographer without knowing how to do either is sort of like deciding you want to run when you don’t know how to do that either. I had a patent on sports bras, which has expired, because I was the buyer for the Frank Shorter running stores in the 1970s and 1980s and when I had Shalane, gained weight and was nursing I couldn’t run. After I had Maggie I thought about how no one was doing anything about larger breasted women so I could complain or do something about it. So I put together a patent. I couldn’t get anyone to manufacture it because back in the 1980s no one thought that larger cup sized women wanted to exercise. It was because they didn’t have the right equipment. They thought shoes were all a woman needed, but it was more. So it all fits for me , it is what I’m passionate about and what helps others enjoy the sport with the sports bra and then continuing to encourage and support other women to get out and to do something they’ve never done and they think it’s a crazy idea like those 25,000 women who ran that Nike Half marathon. My lord, some of those women had never thought about running until something spoke to them and they were moved to run for somebody else. They were given the gift to want to run for somebody else.
GCR:It’s been thirty years since you were inducted into the Indiana State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984. You’re an honoree along with great athletes like Larry Bird! Is it both rewarding and humbling to be so recognized?
CTI was in there BEFORE Larry Bird (laughing). It was great. To be inducted at such a young age was special because I was inducted with people who had been a part of Indiana State for a long time. I had so much support when I was there. It was really ratifying. I think that is why they invite me back every year for the cross country nationals. They are the kind of school and the kind of people who don’t forget who made a difference at their college.
GCR:We are shaped by our childhood, both the good and not so good parts of it. What stands out from your formative years?
CTI don’t remember a lot of childhood. This is the hard part because of the abusive household in which I lived all I wanted was to get out. I just spent the NCAA cross country weekend with my sister who is ten years younger and she keeps bringing up all of this stuff and I do not remember any of it. It’s a coping mechanism I know. It just isn’t there. It is absolutely important for people to hear this as without running I don’t know where my life would have been. It was my stepfather as my parents were divorced when I was two and my mom remarried when I was seven or eight. He was abusive to my mom and my half-sister too but I took the brunt of it. That’s why I married early. I married Larry even though he was ten years older, had been married and had three kids. I knew it probably wouldn’t last, but he got me out. That was not wasted on me. I knew exactly what was going on. And I was just grateful that it worked out.
GCR:How did this continue to affect you? And what about the health issues you developed in your early forties that compounded things?
CTI’m on my third marriage. I was married ten years to Larry, ten years to Steve Flanagan and I used to beat myself up a lot about that. Finally when I was forty I had a seven and a half year bout with ventricular tachycardia which is an accelerated heart rate that will not come down. So I was in v-tach for over an hour and had to be cardioverted and the EMTs who saw me said they didn’t know how I survived. They said my pulse was at 275 and they couldn’t even count fast enough. It was congenital as I was born with a rebel cell in my heart and it chose to act up when it did. I spent seven and half years on beta blockers which make you kind of like a zombie. So I’ve already been eighty-five. I’ve already been old being on those meds.
GCR:How did you overcome that serious health issue and how did it affect the way you live life?
CTI lived through that and got it fixed by radio frequency ablation which is kind of like microwaving the bad cells forms scar tissues so that the electrical impulses go around it and continue. I was 47 when that happened and, I’m not a religious person but a spiritual person, and the whole time I was on the meds I didn’t change. Typically a female at forty starts falling apart. But I didn’t run then. I tried running but was always exhausted from the beta blockers. After the treatment I realized my body hadn’t changed and had sort of like been preserved for me. My identity was in my body. My identity was as a runner when it happened. That’s how I was known. Not for anything else. That’s why I kind of live peddle to the metal now because it can be taken away from you at any time.
GCR:So you became a changed person and met your husband?
CTThere was a lot of soul-searching that went on during those years and that is when I met my husband now, John. I told him this wasn’t me; I had a lot on the ball and a lot of energy. I wasn’t that person and liked doing a lot of stuff. Looking back, I went through two divorces and the separation from Steve happened right before the v-tach and had to be a reason for it. Lots of stressors were going on in my life and the girls were little. I missed them so much, but couldn’t be me and stay married to Steve. So what do you sacrifice? So a way to accept myself and choices I’ve made is to ask who made up the rule that you have to stay married to the same person. Those girls needed to be in this world and it wasn’t until I married Steve that they were. And if I’d stayed married to Steve I wouldn’t be the mom that I am now. They needed that too. I beat myself up for choices and didn’t know how it would turn out. But the drive that running gave me allows me to not accept things the way they are but to think and figure things out and educate myself and make new discoveries. That’s where I’m at – I’m on a journey that I didn’t choose.
GCR:Jenny Simpson said to me, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘I’m not really sure what the path in front of me leads to, but I’m excited to experience it.’ This must strike a chord with you.
CTYes, so many experiences and opportunities are there. I get it that they are a gift and it is up to me to do with them what might happen.’ I could never have come up with all of this stuff that’s come up in my life – no way!
GCR:Have you been able to take your life’s struggles and impact others positively?
CTHere is an example. David Woods is a writer for the Indiana Star. He interviewed Shalane about 12 years ago and he remembered me from Indiana State. I believe it is important to be honest about less than perfect upbringings in order to give people something to hold onto in their own situations. After I told him of my background he told me that he thought I was this blond with a perfect life and he never would have known. It is important to share that because none of us have had a perfect life. When Shalane was on television running her 10,000 meter race in the Beijing Olympics I heard that on TV they mentioned that I was a runner. When I got home I got two e-mails from kids I taught in middle school in California between 1970 and 1974. One was a minister and he heard them commentating and he knew it had to be me so he used part of my story in his weekly sermon. Another was a girl who had been into drugs and she wrote and said she had kids out of wedlock and one day she just started running and wanted me to know of the impact I had on her. So I’m all about telling beginning runners and older runners as you never know who is watching and what you are doing for them. It’s important to realize that we never know who we are impacting by our actions and our example. Somebody can see things in us that speak to them.
GCR:Thank you for that great advice and those deep thoughts that can be so impactful. Let’s lighten up a bit and talk about your fitness routine. You talked a bit about running the two-mile loop in your neighborhood. What else is in your current health and fitness regimen, such as going to the gym, doing core exercises, biking, elliptical trainer and how many days per week do you exercise?
CTLast year I did attend a strength training conditioning class at North Carolina University in the fall and up to the early part of this year and that really heled a lot. Quite a bit of travel this year hasn’t allowed me to get settled and I haven’t been back to that. In the meantime, Jackie introduced me to the fellows at ElliptiGO so I’m doing that along with walking and running. I don’t necessarily do anything two days in a row. I mix it up because I’ve discovered my body needs that at almost age 67 I need the variety. I will say that with an ElliptiGO the beauty of that machine is you can’t use bad form. I told people at the company that as a runner you can flail, your arms can go every way and your legs can go every way, but not in the ElliptiGO. Your feet are in a track and the muscle groups will tell you if they are participating or not. If one is having to do more than it should it will tell you. I love that part because we all know we have imbalances. It reminds me what muscle group need to get involved and which one needs to work. Pretty much what I’ve done is gone back to the core workouts I was given after the ACL surgery. I’ve modified some of it from the strength and conditioning class. I live ten miles out of town so I don’t go into town a lot. For a month a neighbor and I would walk four miles a night and when she wasn’t there I would run the up hills and walk the down hills. Gradually I worked my way up to where I can go two loops now, but I don’t go two days in a row. I just allow that recovery.
GCR:What dreams inspire you and goals drive you with respect to your health, personal life and professional career?
CTI don’t know – things just mind of present themselves to me. I think about what I’ve done in my lifetime as far as athletics and jobs and for the most part nothing actually made sense. Everything was always related to athletics. And I fell into jobs because I was at the right place at the right time. For example because of Title IX Michigan State had to have female administrators and Mel Jackson hired me as her Assistant Women’s Athletic Directors there I was at age 28 or 29 becoming head Women’s Track Coach and having that Assistant AD position at Michigan State. It wasn’t my thing as I loved the coaching, but as far as administration, I don’t do politics well. Then going back teaching with middle school kids is something I enjoy – to an extent. I really love my freedom.
GCR:But aren’t you quite busy this year with some of your properties?
CTThe reason after the first of the year I was so tied up goes back to our move to North Carolina seven years ago – my husband had a stroke 15 years ago – once I kind of figured out none of the kids were coming back home, they were on their own, out of college and had jobs – so we went where it was warmer. I didn’t want to fight the snow and cold weather as I have to do all of the physical work around the house. He asked where I wanted to go and I talked him into North Carolina as it is nice and it’s affordable. We never sold the house as we had renters, but this past January the renters decided to move out and buy a house. I flew up and got it ready for another renter but a realtor talked us into selling. I had to reinvest in a rental so when we sold in May I had 45 days to reinvest in North Carolina. Money goes further down here so we have two town houses and two houses that I rent to Duke students.
GCR:That must keep you busy. How do you like managing the properties and interacting with the student renters?
CTThat is my new job – I’m a landlady. But I’m not just any landlady, I want you to know. My first group of girls is from Mexico, Canada and rural North Carolina. And none of them drive. So I became house mom and took them shopping and wherever for three weekends and in between. I got there places set up and figured when school started they would get some buddies so it was a great bonding time. I decided that if I was given this opportunity to own property that I would do it my way. I wanted to make sure that I had a relationship with the tenants so that if something broke they wouldn’t be afraid to let me know so I can get in there to fix it in time. So far it’s been really good, but it’s also been a blessing I disguise because my husband hasn’t worked for seven years and my photography, supplementing by social security is pretty slim.
GCR:And a final question - are there any major lessons you have learned during your life from growing up when athletic opportunities were limited for women, the discipline of running and sharing your knowledge, your professional life and adversity you have encountered that you typically share with younger people as you give them advice and try to inspire them as they start out in their lives?
CTThe thing that nobody ever really ever told me, and that Shalane certainly gets, is find your passion. Look around and what is it that is your passion. I speak to high school kids and tell them that they have to have an education as it is something society wants each of them to have. But don’t forget what you do in your spare time because what you do in your spare time is probably what makes you happy. You’ve got to find what makes you happy and what your passion is and the rest of it will somehow fall into place. Find what puts a smile on your face. That’s where I see a lot of parents wanting things for their kids and sort of living through their kids and the kids never really have an opportunity to explore enough to discover what it is they do enjoy. Having taught middle school I saw it even more. Middle school kids are a bundle of hormones walking around and not knowing from day tom day which end is up. You never know as a teacher what is coming through the door. But I think they get grounded once they have a purpose and that purpose is always going to be what their passion is. You can always negotiate with a kid once you know what they are passionate about.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI sew a lot. I started doing aprons. I grew up sewing and am very domesticated. I know how to knit, crochet and do needlework. Many people don’t know that about me. A lot of people have received baby blankets, baby quilts and aprons from me. Some of them got pillow cases too. I like the colors, textures and patterns of fabric. I refinish furniture too. I think there is an artistic part of me that oftentimes comes out in my photography. I love working with my hands and that is how I relax from the computer. I love pottery too, but right now I’m sewing baby quilts like nobody’s business. I love canoeing – that’s another sport I’ve thought about taking up – rowing
Favorite moviesI’m not a movie person
Favorite TV showsI’m the one that turned my family on to ‘House.’ I also like any of the ‘NCIS’ shows
Favorite musicI’m pretty eclectic. I like all of the old sixties music and disco. I like anything upbeat. When I discover all of the music out there and just let it be chosen for me it’s kind of cool as how else would I find these songs? I kind of peruse through. Years ago I drove through the North Carolina mountains when I was taking my mom to Tennessee and we got a motel room in the mountains. A guy was sitting out on the porch playing his guitar and I got John on the phone and said here is why we have to move to North Carolina. I put the phone toward the musician so John could hear his playing. He asked where we were and I told him we were at a motel in North Carolina and the guitarist was outside his room playing. My husband loves music and is a volunteer with a Saturday radio show. That was all I had to do to convince him to move down here
Favorite booksI read ‘how-to’ books and nonfiction
First carA Volkswagen bug
Current carA 1995 Volvo station wagon with over 230,000 miles on it. I can haul everything in it
First JobWhen I was in high school I worked at the YMCA summer camp. I couldn’t believe we were teaching little kids how to use bb guns! But they had to lie on their bellies, so that was safer that having them stand up
Favorite Halloween CostumeMy daughter, Maggie, will remember this. I was the parent who was accompanying several kids and I wanted to make sure we were seen. Living in Newburyport we had an awful mosquito problem. So at a discount store I found these Tyvek suits that painters wore. I wore one of those white Tyvek suits and a witch’s hat and had a flashlight in front of me and a flashlight behind me. I became like a disco ball to make sure that everybody saw us on the very dark streets of Marblehead. It was absolutely embarrassing for Maggie, but I didn’t care
FamilyMy husband is John, my daughters are Shalane and Maggie, and I have four step kids, two of whom have sons. The three grandkids are five, six and nine – all boys. That is why I am at the Goodwill store now to pick up items to make them some type of hero costumes as they like to play superhero dress up
PetsI had this terrible pet. I was given a parakeet that looked like a canary. He was yellow and was called Jerry. I hated him because he spit seeds all over and I had to keep cleaning up
Favorite breakfastA smoothie with Trader Joe’s green plant drink, blueberries, banana, strawberries, a little bit of chia seed, some flax seed and protein powder. It’s so good. That green plant food is hard to beat
Favorite mealAnywhere from a salad off of the Whole Foods salad bar to parmesan chicken artichoke lasagna. I’ll send you the recipe – it’s really good
Favorite beveragesI really like an oaky chardonnay. And I like grapefruit juice as it is very thirst quenching. When I’m really thirsty I go for grapefruit juice as otherwise I’ll drink so much water that I make myself sick. Grapefruit juice takes care of it for me
First running memoryThe only running we did was playing kickball and running the bases. I was really good at kickball because my mother made me wear saddle shoess and they can send one of those red playground balls forever
Running heroesStarting out I gravitated to anybody who was truly involved in the sport like Mimi Rollins, who was a sprinter. Also Madeline Manning-Jackson. She was a beautiful runner. Nowadays it’s my daughter, Shalane. I have so much admiration for her and I am so amazed at her ability. But I also know she works very hard for what she does
Greatest running momentIt was the World Record marathon, but there was really nobody there. The L.A. Times sent somebody to interview me a week later
Worst running momentsI can remember running from my house to a park and there was a chain I should have been able to jump over. I didn’t and I fell flat on my face. I looked and nobody was around so nobody saw it – thank you very much. The other thing is just when I was trying to run with the guys in high school, trying to be on the field with them and being told that I can’t. I felt overweight for a runner and what was it that got all of these people freaked out when I wanted to run. They were asking what I wanted to do and what the objective was. I just wanted to run which wasn’t in their vocabulary. But you have to remember that in 1966 it went to the school board as to whether or not a white kid could take a black kid to the prom. Our community was fairly affluent and the black kids in our neighborhood had parents who were doctors. Those were the days. You do anything out of the norm and people raised their eyebrows
Funny memoriesPeople think I can’t pick movies and that I can’t cook. That lets me off the hook
Embarrassing momentThe Culver City Marathon when I set the World Record was in December of 1971 and then in January of 1972 I was on the Garry Moore show, ‘To Tell the Truth.’ They flew me to New York. On the show the two imposters were models but they made me wear my jacket because the models had no muscles and they were afraid my arm muscles would give it away. They asked some running questions and it was kind of crazy. It was my first exposure to being an anomaly. I thought that it was really sad that people thought this was worthy of their gawking. The best part of the trip was my dad took me to a New York Knicks game
Favorite places to travelThere are some places I haven’t been to yet. I would love to hike the Grand Canyon. It’s because of the views and it would be so physical. A beautiful place was in the Black Hills in the Dakotas when I was driving out to Eugene in 1976. I like anywhere that there is a beautiful mountain range. I love running in Boulder, Colorado because you can smell the pines. For me it’s being outside on a trail. When I visit my daughter, Maggie, she always plans some adventure for me. We go cross country skiing if it snowed or we go hiking if it’s clear