Sunday, January 31, 2010


When it comes to setting state age records in Minnesota over the last two years, not many people have been more successful than Kathy Peterson. Last year the soon-to-be 67-year-old from Outing, MN ran 7:30 for the mile, 1:22:19 for 10 miles, and 1:56:36 for half marathon. In the process she won her second consecutive Runner of the Year title and fifth title overall (1989, 1990, 2006, 2008 and 2009). (Photo of Kathy (left) along with friend and rival, Marilyn Schnobrich.)

First off, the question everyone wants to know, where in the world is Outing, MN? What is the running scene like there?
Outing is located 45 miles northeast of Brainerd. My husband and I have owned our property in Outing since 1973. We spent most of our weekends in Outing before we made the permanent move from Brooklyn Center in 1997. For that reason, it was difficult for me to run races in the Twin Cities. Sometimes I would run a race on Saturday morning and then head up north.

I would say the running scene is almost non-existent in Outing. There is one annual race in Outing, but it is definitely a fun run. There are very few runners in the immediate area. I have to travel for all of the races that I run. A round trip to the Twin Cities is approximately 300 miles, so I don’t run too many races there. I do try to run at least one certified race at each distance up to a half marathon each year. I haven’t run a marathon since 1992.

How and at what age did you get involved with running?
I started running at the age of 38 in 1981. My husband had quit smoking and was putting on weight. We started walking every day. We worked our way up to 5 miles a day and decided that it took way too long to walk that far. That was the beginning of our running career. At first I really struggled because I was on a beta blocker for heart arrhythmias which made running very difficult. I talked to my doctor and got permission to quit the medication and was running quite easily soon after that.

Did success come quickly?
It probably took a year or two before I started placing in my age group. I remember that I took 6 minutes off my 10K time between my first 10K in 1982 and my second in 1983. I have consistently placed in my age group since 1984, occasionally being first woman overall in some of the small races up north. Most of my PRs were run in 1986 and 1987.

To be honest, I didn’t know who you were until two years ago when I was writing a year-end recap for MDRA. Every time I came across your name in the results section of RaceberryJam it said “new State Record”. That trend carried over into 2009 as well. What do you attribute your success to?
This is a hard question to answer, since I didn’t do anything differently in my training. I may have been a couple of pounds lighter than normal. I think that setting goals is an important step and I had decided that I was going to try to break some of the records for 65 - 69 year olds in 2008. I looked up the records for all the distances and kept them posted near my computer. I always knew going into a race what the record was and knew what splits I had to run in order to break it. Since I had to travel to races, I often ran only one race at each distance so I had to go all out at each race.

Are State Records enough to motivate you year-in and year-out?
I am having trouble staying motivated. I run all my training runs alone. I would love to have a training partner to help keep me motivated. My husband and I used to run together all the time but he has a foot problem that has ended his running career.

In general, what is your training philosophy? Do you tend to follow any certain plan?
I have to have the loosest running plan and philosophy out there. I just checked my running log for 2009. I averaged 15.5 miles a week. I generally do not run at all in November and December. When I was running marathons, I followed Jeff Galloway’s training programs. Otherwise, I just go out and run 3 days a week and occasionally throw in a long run, a few ¼ mile repeats or a tempo run. Mostly I use races as my speed work.

How has your training and racing changed over time?
When I first started running, I usually trained about 40-50 miles a week, running 6 days a week. I ran races almost every weekend. As you can see, I have cut my mileage dramatically. It seems that if I try to run more than 15–20 miles per week, I get injured. It takes much longer to recover as a 66-year-old. Naturally, my race times have gotten much slower than they were. I feel as if I am putting in just as much effort as I did in my 40s and 50s.

What are your PRs?

Most of my PRs were set long, long ago in the last century, around 1986 or 1987.
Mile: 5:48
5K 20:43
5 Mile 33:24
10K 42:16
15K 1:10:21
10 Mile 1:18:54
Half Marathon 1:37:04
25K 1:50:01
30K 2:38:19
Marathon 3:24:59

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I had to ask a good friend to help me out with this question. Here is her opinion of my strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths: I am well-organized and a good planner. I am self-disciplined, especially during this period of recovering from an injury. I don’t push myself too hard. I am very competitive, and though I am a loyal friend, all bets are off after the gun sounds.

Weaknesses: I tend to underestimate my own abilities. I rely too much on what other people think.

I heard you sustained a non-running injury recently. Can you tell us about it? How is your recovery going?
Last October, I ruptured the plantaris tendon/muscle in my calf while going downstairs at home. It was by far the most painful injury I have ever incurred. At the time I was training for a half marathon at the Outer Banks, North Carolina. My training was going great and I felt very strong. I ended up going to the half marathon on crutches and watching a friend run. That was very hard. I really wanted to be out there running.

Although my ankle and calf are still slightly swollen, I have no pain and started running again on New Years Day after 10 weeks off.

Does that injury affect your goals for the new year? What are they?
I am hopeful that the injury won’t affect my running in 2010. I am very slow right now but that’s not unusual for this time of the year. I train on a gravel road that remains snow packed and slippery much of the winter. I have to run slowly.

Right now I am trying to get back in shape to run The American Odyssey Relay in Washington D.C., on April 23 and 24. I am on a team called Do Not Go Gentle with 11 other incredible women most of whom have run together for the Hood to Coast, Reach the Beach, Klondike Relay, Great River Relay and the Blue Ridge Relay. All of us are over 60 except one baby in her 50’s.

I also hope to set some state records for 67 year olds this year.

What is your fondest running memory?
It’s hard to pick just one. The first would be Grandma’s Marathon in 1986 where I ran my PR marathon. I was running with a 20 year old friend who wanted me to pace her to run under 4:00. She was the same age as my oldest daughter at the time. We ran 3:24:59!!!

Another highlight was in 2000 when team Do Not Go Gentle broke the course record at the Hood to Coast relay for a 50–59 women’s team.

Last year I was listed in Running Times under honorable mention for 65 – 69 year olds. That was exciting!

Do you have a favorite race?
It’s difficult to choose a favorite but I guess it would be the Ed Fitz. I ran the 50K in 1986 and then ran the team relay for 17 years until it was discontinued.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I have to say it would be Mae Horns. I actually did run with her on one Ed Fitz team and at Rick Kleyman’s adult running group occasionally. She was very impressive as a runner and her grace and dignity in handling ALS was amazing.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I would have known that I would still be running 29 years later and that so many wonderful friendships would be formed by being a runner. My best friends are runners. It turned out that running is more than a sport. It is a way of life. I can’t imagine my life without it.


Kathy Benhardus said...

I am proud to say that I am a friend of Kathy's. She is a great person as well as being a good runner. I am delighted that she is getting the recognition she deserves.

Julie said...

Hi Chad,
Wow, Kathy sounds super talented and is an inspiration not only for people in her own age group but also in the younger age groups. She is proof that women can continue to run and perform well later in life!! I am so happy that you have updated your blog and interviewed a great athlete!! Thanks Chad:)

Unknown said...

I starting running before my sister but she left me in the dust so can I just say that she owes it all to me?

Anonymous said...

I feel privileged to have been a friend of Kathy and her husband for all these years. She easily fits the title of the most sofiticated and professional running person there is. For Kathy, you" Have fougnt the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith" 2Tim. 4:7
K. Forsythe

Thompson said...

I am proud to say that I am one of Kathy's long-time friends. I am always in awe of her abilities. I am not a runner, but always love to hear of her achievements. She shows the same dedication in all facets of her life. I'm happy she has chosen to share her life experiences with others. Kathy is a yery quiet, shy person. I wish her luck in her upcoming race, and I am happy her leg is mending.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, congratulations on a nice article--so great that you are setting records and enjoying running! Hope 2010 is another record setting year for you. Bev

Anonymous said...

Good job grandma! Keep smashing records and inspiring people! You're an awesome runner and an awesome grandma to boot! Run hard!
-Ben, your grandson.