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Sarah Lavender Smith January 13, 2014 TWEET COMMENTS 3

Smile Away the Miles - Page 2

Stuck like a turtle on its back, unable to roll over, she told her pacer not to help because she didn’t want to risk disqualification for accepting assistance. Meanwhile, a hiker came along, she recalls with a smile, and looked appalled to see a diminutive, gray-haired woman flailing in the bushes while another man—her pacer, Jeffery Rogers—observed but didn’t help. The hiker fished in his pocket for something to make Gosney feel better and apologetically handed her a cough drop, “as though the cough drop would make up for my fall and for Jeffery not helping me,” Gosney says with a laugh. “He meant well.”

But only one thing could make her feel better: getting back on her feet and finishing. As Rogers recalls, the hiker had a look of disbelief when she got up and started running again. Says Rogers, “She’s tough! She ran to those stairs [on the hillside], down all the technical stuff and really wanted to get in under 30 hours.”

She finished the 100 miles in 30 hours, 3 minutes, well under the event’s 33-hour limit.

Two years later, having started 2013 with a New Year’s Eve 24-hour run in which she ran her age in miles (71), she hopes to finish a 100-miler again at 72—or at least train for it and give it her best try.

“I don’t plan to give up ultras; I plan to keep going,” she says. “If I can’t make the cutoffs anymore, then that’ll automatically cancel me from some of the races.”

Gosney averages about 40 miles a week, and in peak training increases her weekly mileage to near 70. In June, she fell from a ladder and broke a metatarsal bone, which put her in an orthopedic boot for eight weeks. She cross-trained on a stationary bike while she couldn’t run and returned to the trails in early August, her hopes pinned on the September 14 Headlands Hundred. In spite of the injury and lingering back and knee pain, Gosney started the race and made it 50 of the 100 miles. Now she’s setting her sights on at least one more ultra this season.

“Whenever I see her out on the trails, she inspires me,” says trail runner Marilyn Toscano of Modesto, California. “We all want to be like her when we grow up.”

Gosney seems genuinely embarrassed when people compliment her running, and cringes when they call her “an inspiration.” She says she views younger, speedier runners as more inspiring. Yet, as she runs steadily with a smile and her silver hair braided or flowing past her shoulders, it’s undeniable that she gives hope to trail runners of all ages—hope that running doesn’t have to taper off in retirement.

Gosney took up running more than three decades ago to combat depression, and it’s still essential to her well-being. “It keeps me well balanced,” she says.

“If I had quit when my doctors told me to, I wouldn’t have been running the last 13 or 14 years,” Gosney adds. “One doctor told me I should only walk, and it should never be more than a mile and only be on a treadmill. … The truth is I’m in pain a lot of the time, but I have a high pain threshold, I guess. I’ve had sciatic problems for years, and it’s so painful sometimes that I can hardly get up off the couch. Sitting is the worst enemy. It’s much better to stay moving.”



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