Our positive running story this time is on Sam Conley, a runner from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sam is a 70 year young retired Army colonel, and recently attended one of our women’s running camps. Sam had called me up before registering for the camp to check if I thought she would be a good fit for the camp. Within a few minutes of talking with Sam I knew that our camp would be perfect for her, and encouraged her to take the plunge and register. The rest as they say is history, and Sam became a star of the camp and infected everyone with her positive enthusiasm and hilarious candor. (Sam is pictured above at camp, 2nd from the left.) We had the chance to catch up with Sam post camp, and here is the result of that interview:
Can you give us a quick background on your running history, including how you started running?
My running history: I never ran growing up. I played basketball, was a cheerleader, but never ran. In the Army everyone had to run 2 miles within a certain time, we were tested every 6 mo. I could always walk fast enough to max my score. On my 68th birthday I mentioned to a work friend that I needed a goal, she suggested I train for a half. I laughed and said I didn’t run. Thirty minutes later I was signed up to run Zion as part of the vacation race series. I started joining her on weekends, roads on Saturday, trails on Sunday. Her group were all runners, I was slow but eager to improve. I completed that race in 3 hours, 3 minutes, winning first in my age group.
What do you enjoy most about running?
What I enjoy most is being outside, challenging myself, feeling the cares of my life fade as I turn my thoughts inside. In addition, the people who run are close, supportive, funny and like a family to me.
Is there anything about your military service that impacts your running now?
My 24 years in the Army groomed me to be a leader, to always set the example for striving to be the best. I never allowed my soldiers to say, ” I can’t.” During my challenging experience in Iraq I participated in all the races offered, again, setting the example as part of my leadership style, but also for my inner peace. My role there required me to be strong and healthy, running and CrossFit helped me maintain both.
You were recently a camper on our June women’s running camp. Was there anything about the camp that surprised you, and what was your biggest takeaway?
I registered for camp without a clue of what it would entail. I only knew I wanted to improve, as well as protect myself from injury, something I don’t fear but others , non runners in my life worry about. I felt some anxiety about being the “weakest link”, slowing others down. My surprise was meeting and forging friendships with my three fellow students and the staff. After day 1 I never once felt inferior, slow or burdensome. Quite the opposite, each day I felt stronger more graceful and comfortable.
Can you tell us something that is uniquely Sam that no-one would know looking at you?
Unique is not a concept I think of in the same sentence as my name. I am ordinary, no different than anyone else. No one would suspect, however, that I studied ballet until age 17; my dance teachers arranged for me to move to New York to continue my studies after I graduated from high school. But, I said no thanks, I’m moving to Albuquerque to attend a Catholic School of Nursing! So, looking at me no one sees the dancer on point, who is alive and well inside me. My inner child wears a tutu.
At camp we talked a lot about what we enjoy about running. How do you make sure that you stay connected with your joy?
Running is Joy to me. It is a dance of freedom, I almost hear a melody as I settle into a rhythm. Prior to beginning, I visualize myself skimming the earth lightly, like a dancer. I feel a lightness and strength which makes others ask why I am always smiling. This isn’t hard, it is a natural process for me, so I don’t have to make sure I stay connected with Joy!
You often win your age group at races. What would you say to a woman in her 60’s, 70’s, or older, that is thinking of starting to run?
My advice to other “older women” who are considering running is simply don’t listen to all those people who will try to talk you out of it. This includes physicians, providers friends, family. It always seems to be younger people who remind you of your Age! Age is an achievement not a sentence! Running relieves my joint pain, makes me feel alive and happy. While I consider myself non-competitive, I know I am lying. The day before my first half in Zion I searched for all the “older women” who would be my competition, I almost began to ask women’s age during our conversations! I wanted to win in my age group, and every race since I strive for that goal. I read all the hype about the impact on feet back, knees, hips and dismiss it. I council my patients to run or walk instead of prescribing medication. I lead by that example.
What are your goals for the rest of 2017 and for the years beyond?
My goals for the remainder of 2017 include completing at least one half as well as other races. While not making myself crazy following a rigid training schedule, I will run at least 4-5 times a week, in different locations. In the Spring I am considering returning to Zion. I am traveling as much as possible, the main reason I retired. My goal is to remain healthy, happy and continue to give back to this beautiful universe which is allowing me to be her guest.
We wish Sam every success with everything that she does, and long may she remain healthy and happy, and continue to enrich the life of everyone that she touches with her own!
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Our goal is to raise $5000 for the Society over the partnership period.