As runners we are always searching for our inspiration and reason to get up in the morning. During the Hy-Vee Road Race Expo this year, I had the pleasure of talking to a woman who has been a great volunteer at races and very active on our Facebook page. Her name is Joyce Johnson. I've had conversations with Joyce in the past but most have been very "surfacey". In my defense, most have been via FB or while she was volunteering at Sycamore 8 when my brain doesn't quite work. During our conversation at the expo, Joyce told me her story and I was blown away. We've all heard the excuses, "I'm too old to run", "You're going to hurt your knees", "I have (insert your own) problem", etc. Joyce is the true embodiment of what the mission of the Capital Striders is. We as a club are a truly diverse group. No matter how fast or slow, we are all RUNNERS. We are a community that continually learn from each other and I am very happy to call Joyce a STRIDER. Here is her story - Brad

My name is Joyce Johnson, I joined Capital Striders in April, 2013 and I’m not a ‘runner’

I was always a moderately active person, but never tried running type sports (or sports of any kind, really). I enjoyed walking and hiking…sometimes.

After gaining approximately 100 pounds over the course of 10 years after a surgical procedure and having numerous other health issues, I decided to do something about it and in August, 2012, joined a gym and hired a personal trainer, my goal being to get through a winter without falling and breaking something again.

By this point in my life, I was physically worn out.

I was:

  • 59 years old
  • 100 pounds overweight
  • Have had back surgery for a fragmented lumbar disc
  • Have had seven knee surgeries between both knees (6 scopes and one ACL repair)
  • Have osteoarthritis in my knees and hips
  • Have a broken right big toe that did not heal properly and does not bend
  • Have degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine that causes nerve compression (my arms fall asleep for days at a time)

With my trainer, we worked on building core strength and stability and I attended water exercise classes to get my cardio and keep everything relaxed and moving.  All he asked was that I come to session ready to go and that meant warmed up – so I started walking two-to-three laps on the track first.

Didn’t feel too bad, so on non-training days, I started walking on the bike path near my home…first 15 minutes, then gradually increasing, going 1 square of pavement further, then trying to get to that mark faster.

I started looking forward to it and started researching online about walking, but I was always cautious because of the doctors warning:   You’re too young for a knee replacement, so try to not fall down!   Take it easy!

I was feeling pretty good on those walks, so found myself out longer each day and going farther. In  October, 2012, I did the Kommen 5K – and did not die!

I was afraid of losing momentum, because I was feeling pretty good, but winter was coming.   A friend told me about virtual races, and I started signing up for them – and found myself out walking – every day – in the cold and snow.   Always in the back of my mind was my doctor’s warning – running will put stress on your neck and knees, keep your feet on the ground!

As Spring approached, I was feeling pretty confident and set my sights on the HyVee Road race 10K.   That was going to be a real stretch for me, but with my trainer’s encouragement and some changes in my program, I was out there and succeeded, finishing that 10K in 1:27:39 (14:09 pace) and 1305/1325.   I told myself to step it up and committed to running after every water station until I couldn’t run anymore!  

I was hooked and ready to see just how far I could go.  The next day, I signed up for Capital Striders and joined the beginners group.  I still wasn’t convinced that running was something I could do

 It was also my “year of firsts” to celebrate turning 60!

A co-worker convinced me to sign up for Dam-to-Dam 20K.   Finished over the course limit (I walked all of it), but time was 3:06:42

A friend I only knew online invited me to sign up for my first half marathon, so I went to Denver to do the Slacker Half Marathon in Georgetown with her.  Who does their first ever half marathon in the mountains?   Crazy!   I didn’t run very much, had trouble with my breathing and ended up in the med tent after the finish, but I did it!   Finished in 3:22:26 (pace 15:28)

My trainer challenged me to try a marathon so I signed up for IMT Des Moines Marathon.  

That was a real test!    By this time, my doctor had changed his tune, was seeing my weight dropping, my blood pressure dropping, and I was really happy with my goals.    He told me to keep going and he wasn’t going to discourage me.   I went to see him once with a knee issue and he said normally he’d tell someone my age to prop it up and spend some time channel surfing, but in my case, he’d help me get through the discomfort to keep going!   He’s become one of my biggest cheerleaders!

Training for that Marathon was tough, but when that day came, I started out at a strong walk.   I knew the course limit was 7 hours and that was my goal.     I know that until I reached mile 20, I was holding on to my 15 minute/mile pace.   By mile 22, I wanted to quit.   My body was puffy, my fingers wouldn’t hold my water bottle, my hip hurt, my head hurt, but the course support was awesome, and my family and my personal trainer met me at the finish line.      7:00:32   (I blame the third unplanned porta-potty stop).

The next week, I was out on the roads again, walking that Komen 5K that a year earlier had started this adventure.

I finished that year with (actual entry fees paid):

17           5k

1              4 mile

3              10k

1              15k

1              20k

1              half

1              full

I still want to incorporate running and get faster.

I joke around that I’m the one at the back of the pack.

I’m totally okay with that – someone has to be last – and my only competition is me!

As long as you don’t mind holding the aid stations open a little longer, and waiting by the finish clock, I’ll be crossing that line…somewhere around a 15 minute mile!

Save a chocolate milk for me!