You can't really
say Mavis Lindgren is the most amazing Little Old Lady there's ever been
because you've got to contend with queens, the occasional prime minister and,
once in a while, somebody like a President's mother who has been to India with
the Peace Corps. But she's got to be right up there in the Top 20, maybe even
Top 10, of modern-day LOLs.
Last Sunday, you
see, Mavis celebrated her 71st birthday by running a marathon—26 miles, 385
yards. Let's clarify that: she celebrated her 71st birthday by running another
Mavis came into
it a bit late, perhaps, but now she sort of collects marathons. Strangely, she
had barely heard of the things until she was nearly 70. But last May she ran
her first one along the Avenue of the Giants in northern California's Humboldt
Redwoods State Park.
It rained for
half of the five hours and four minutes she was out on the course, the last
five miles were all uphill, and Mavis admits she needed the moral support given
by her son Kelvin and grandson Mark, who ran the final eight miles with her.
"But it was so beautiful," she says. "It was just like a fairyland
in the redwoods."
Mavis suffered so
little from the aftereffects that she was able to go for a short training run
the next day. In fact, Mavis could think of only one thing that made her feel
slightly bad about the race. "I took the trophy for oldest finisher away
from Walter Stack," she says apologetically. "He was 69 and I was 70.
It didn't seem right because he is so famous."
Walter Stack (SI,
Dec. 15, 1975) is an athletic eccentric of moderate stature in San Francisco, a
city not exactly known for its shortage of unusual persons. He gets up in the
middle of every night, pedals his bicycle five miles up and down the city's
hills, runs 17 miles, goes for a swim in the Bay and then goes to work as a hod
carrier. He has run in races of up to 100 miles and, far from being jealous, he
and Mavis have formed a mutual admiration society and correspond
The Avenue of the
Giants was just a smell of the bait for Mavis, or maybe a nibble. She didn't
run another marathon until Dec. 11 when, in 75�-80� temperatures and high
humidity, she finished the Honolulu Marathon in 4:45.02, a whopping 19-minute
improvement over her first race. She was hooked.
Mavis returned to
California and on Jan. 29 ran a 4:46.10 in the World Masters Marathon in
Orange. She did 4:56 in the Hidden Valley Marathon Feb. 12 and a 5:10.08 at the
Orange Grove Marathon on her birthday, April 2. She is signed up for another
Avenue of the Giants on May 7.
That will be five
full marathons in a shade under five months. And the International Olympic
Committee doesn't want to schedule anything longer than 1,500 meters for women
because it might wear the delicate things out!
too, has some strong, if diametrically opposed, ideas about long-distance
running and its effect on one's health. She was born in Manitoba, Canada, where
winter temperatures sometimes drop to 55 below. When she was two, she had
whooping cough, at 13 tuberculosis, and until middle age she was plagued by
chronic chest colds that frequently turned into pneumonia as she grew