Donna Pazdera, 56, has been running for the past seven years. She was introduced to the sport by a friend in her late 40s and has been running marathons ever since.
Healthy and active in this lifestyle, Pazdera didn’t see any issue in being an athlete of elevated age until she crossed the threshold of 50.
“I found myself defaulting into placing in my age group because there were so few of us,” the Edinburg resident said. “In the last couple of years, it has gotten more competitive and I am not always placing by default. It’s kind of encouraging.”
Pazdera recalls preparing to run at Wild Hare outside of La Grange, Texas, a few years back and needing some training help. David Zuniga, fellow runner and friend, helped Pazdera adopt a training plan that would help her keep up with runners much younger than her.
“There were a few of us using this plan and it almost killed me,” Pazdera said. “I was the only master’s aged person in the group and it was challenging to follow the same plan as people who were 15 to 20 years younger than me.”
Set on crossing that finish line, Pazdera trained hard and completed the race in 14 hours and 41 minutes. To this day she considers that race to be the most special to her.
“I beat the cutoff by 19 minutes and there were two more racers after me,” she said. “That was my first 50-miler.”
Pazdera said that strength training and allowing your body to rest are two of the most important things in order to keep yourself going and prevent injury. She takes specialized strength training classes twice a week focusing on core strength, aerobic capacity and speed work.
“I think it’s important to allow your body to rest at least one or two days a week or else you could get injured,” she said. “I have found that as I get older, the more I realize I am cut out for longer distances. I have read that one’s endurance improves as you get older. I think as long as you can wrap your head around the idea of being on the trails for seven to 10 hours (for a 50K), the less intimidating it will be.”
Pazdera has no children or grandchildren of her own, so she relies on her running community to keep her motivated and driven. She enjoys meeting with friends on weekends and taking on the trails at some of her favorite running spots such as the Mission Trails, Bentsen State Park and McKelvey Park in Harlingen.
“It’s easy to make excuses or cut it short when you’re by yourself, but running with others is good for keeping you honest,” she said.
“There are times when I start wistfully thinking about my peers sitting at home with their kids and grandkids while I’m out there suffering, but once I get over that I realize that it’s pretty cool to be out there doing this. In fact, I want to keep doing this until there comes a day when I can’t.”
As far as any advice for new runners, Pazdera says patience and planning is the way to go.
“The best advice I can give to my peers is to be patient with yourself,” she said. “Follow a training plan for the race you’re shooting for and never give up. Every summer, I hit a rough patch because it’s hard to run long in the heat. Then I realize that everyone else is going through the same thing and I’m in good company.”
To suggest runners to be featured in The Monitor, contact Amanda A. Taylor at aalysetaylor @themonitor.com.