Name: Kitty Consolo
Event(s): 5K and 10K
Listening to Kitty Consolo rattle off her various health woes, it’s hard not to cringe. “I’m allergic to dairy products, bananas, yeast,” says the 55-year-old runner from Granville, Ohio. “I have severe asthma, but I’m allergic to most standard asthma drugs. I use a nebulizer, and I have to do four breathing treatments before I run, four after I run.”
On top of that, Kitty has sustained a number of serious injuries over the years. “I’ve had spinal cord compression, which gives me nausea and intense fatigue. Sometimes I just feel like laying on ice all day and not doing anything,” she says.
But Kitty, who has been running for 38 years, refuses to let these health challenges keep her from lacing up her running shoes doing what she loves. “When I run, it’s a real spiritual experience. It’s like my disabilities totally disappear,” says Kitty, who is gearing up for the upcoming 2013 National Senior Games in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter events.
Kitty began her running career in 1975 as the sole woman on the Wake Forest University Men’s Cross Country team. Running in old leather tennis shoes because proper footwear for females was hard to come by at the time, Kitty astounded her fellow teammates by finishing 3 miles in under 18 minutes in an all-men’s meet—a time that qualified her for the Women’s Nationals. After that, she went on to win the Revco Cleveland Marathon in 1982 and again in 1985 and qualify and compete in the first Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984.
Now, in spite of all the obstacles that have been thrown in her path, Kitty is eager to revive her running career with a shot at taking home the gold in the 2013 National Senior Games 5K and 10K events. As much as she would like to win, however, Kitty’s main priority is just to be on the starting line. “With my body, I never know if I’ll have spinal cord compression or nausea or severe asthma,” she says. “So my goal is simple: I just want to be there and finish the race and enjoy every step.”
Because of her compelling personal story, Kitty was selected out of 10,000 athletes to carry the torch at the National Senior Games final ceremony. “To me, that is such an honor because I feel that I am representing the spirit of the national games—that I’m representing all of the incredible athletes ages 50-plus,” Kitty says. “Honestly, the race is secondary to all of that.”
As a tenured associate professor at Ohio University Zanesville, where she teaches health courses such as one called “Health of Aging,” Kitty serves as a powerful role model for young adults. She hopes that her personal story can give students the push they need to transform their health—and their lives—for the better. “I want to inspire people to not just study health but to live health,” Kitty says. “Any time I can get someone to change their behavior I feel like I’ve been very successful. That’s what’s so wonderful about what I do.”