Running the Race of Her Life

Featured Article, Fitness, Healthy Living
on July 22, 2011
Margie Stoll (center) and friends Valera Jones (left) and Mary Atienza at the 2011 Senior Games in Houston.


At the age of 60, Nashville, Tenn.’s Margie Stoll was little more than a casual jogger. A decade later, she’s a competitive runner with an impressive track record.

Margie, now 70, has always had a minor fascination with running. As a young mom, she’d sometimes take her kids to a nearby sports field, put their strollers in the center, and run laps around them. When she battled breast cancer in her 40s, she’d take short jogs around the block.

“I used that as a way of saying I’m still alive—I’m not going to stop doing this,” she says. “But I’d probably never run more than a mile at a time.”

Something changed, though, as Margie approached her 60th birthday.

“Back when they used to put the results of local races in the paper, I’d always read them,” she says. “So I decided when I turned 60, I would run the first race I found.”

That was a Memorial Day 5K in Nashville, and despite her inexperience with races, Margie placed first in her age division. From then on she was hooked.

“I used to play tennis, but I never had that killer instinct you need,” she says. “You don’t need that in running—you just do the best you can and don’t stop!”

Margie now holds a number of state road race records among women her age. Last year, she competed in 17 road races. In 2011, she’s already competed in the USA Masters 10K Championship in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Southeastern Masters track meet in Raleigh, N.C. In June, she made her fourth trip to the National Senior Games, where she won her age group for all four events she competed in: the 800 and 1500m track events, and the 5K and 10K road races.

Though she’s not super competitive by nature, Margie admits that the atmosphere of road races and track meets has been a big part of her hobby’s appeal. “The last Senior Games were at Stanford, and we were running on a track that Olympians have run on,” she says. “There was a huge crowd cheering, and a big scoreboard with our names, and when I crossed the finish line, they announced my name. I just love the aura of the whole thing.”

She also occasionally gets to compete with Olympians, which is a huge thrill. At the Southeastern Masters this June, she ran in the 5,000-meters with Zola Budd, who once held the world record in the event. “She lapped me three times!” Margie says.

It was her love of running—not fear of being bested by other competitors—that recently led Margie to decide to retire a goal: qualifying for the Boston Marathon. She had hoped to compete in 2012, but the intense training caused knee pain that sidelined her for part of the spring, and she decided it wasn’t worth risking an injury that might put an end to her running career.

After all, for Margie it has always been about much more than the race. Running, she says, gives her energy to garden for hours, strength to pick up her grandkids and plenty of “me time.”

“Running is when I think about things,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just what I’m going to have for dinner, but other times it’s a dilemma like, ‘What should I say to this person?’ All these little thoughts come into your head.”