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Mavis, you're just amazing
Richard Leutzinger
April 10, 1978
Lots of grannies kick up their heels, but Mavis Lindgren does it in marathons
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April 10, 1978

Mavis, You're Just Amazing

Lots of grannies kick up their heels, but Mavis Lindgren does it in marathons

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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 marathon.

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 periodically.

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!

Mavis Lindgren, 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 older.

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