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except eating well and exercising.” Today, the two pictures hang side-by-side in her ofﬁce, where she does freelance writing and is a workplace wellness consultant. They are a reminder of where she was and of the potential inside her — inside just about everyone, she says. “I want people to realize it’s not all over if your parents are heavy,” she says. “It’s not over if you’ve been heavy all your life, or if you think you can’t do it.”
A Metro bus driver, Palmer spent a lot of her life on the sidelines. “I didn’t even start running until I was 50,” she says. The woman before me at Shoreline Stadium is in pigtails and shorts, catching her breath after a little jog. And she’s smiling. Good Lord, is she smiling. At 53, she ran her ﬁrst marathon. “I thought what idiot would do this again?” Being wise, she sticks to halfs, running one every other month. Why? Turns out that once she tried running, she really liked it. On this warm evening, she has just ﬁnished a fun event held weekly called the Jogger’s Mile. It’s for runners of all ages and abilities, and Palmer ﬁnished way in the back of the pack. The object is to predict exactly how long a mile will take you. The person whose time is closest to their guess wins. “Even if you lose, you could win,” she says. “That’s what makes it so fun.” A few years ago, she was a lot less healthy. She remembers when the problem smacked her right in the face, watching the Torchlight Run along the parade route. “I’d see all these runners and none of ’em are fat,” she says. “And we’re sitting there with our coolers looking like Jabba the Hutt.” No more. As she begins describing how she lost inches around the middle, and gained something more important, there is an announcement: “And the winner of the Jogger’s Mile is . . . Janet Palmer!” She starts jumping up and down. “I won! I won! She doesn’t stop. “I don’t need a prize! I got the glory!”
“Never ask a masters athlete how he’s doing,” says Ortman, 59. “Because he’ll tell you.” Then he launches into a litany of afﬂictions: the hamstring pulls and rotator-cuff injuries, the calf strains and so on. Once, he was laid up for two years with plantar fasciitis. All this as a result of competing in the sorts of track-and-ﬁeld events, like hurdles and sprints, normally done by people onethird his age. As a trained journalist, I know the next question to ask: Why? He laughs. Then he talks about friends who are really hurt. He’s running and throwing and jumping, even as he’s nearing 60, because he can. “I ﬁgure, well, until I get to needing the hip and knee transplants, I might as well do it now.” If you aren’t active today, he says, it’s only going to get more difﬁcult tomorrow. Besides, it’s a whole lot of fun. He’s part of a track-and-ﬁeld
In the short term, exercise can tear the body down. But in the long term, says Al Erickson, the decathlete, it builds it up.