Yvonne Aasen started running at age 46 after her late husband Marvin had a heart attack and was under doctor's orders to get more exercise.
"My legs were so weak I felt like I was going to fall down with every step," Aasen recalled of those early strides.
But she persisted. She not only gradually increased her mileage, but she also began running competitively.
Nearly four decades and hundreds of races later, she's still at it. And at age 85, Aasen shows no signs of slowing down.
By the time she was 70, she was running as many as 40 races a year. Along the way, she has accumulated a house full of trophies and medals.
She talks enthusiastically about competing in the National Senior Games in 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
No doubt her eagerness to go to Albuquerque was no doubt stoked by her performance earlier this summer in the National Senior Games, held in Birmingham, Alabama.
She won gold medals in the 400-, 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter races in the 85-to-89 age group.
That was her third trip to the nationals. She also competed in Orlando and Hampton Roads, Va.
"I was really pleased that I was able to do so well," said Aasen, a resident of Westminster's Carroll Lutheran Village, who has five children. "It gave me a lot of self-confidence, for one thing. And my family was really proud of me."
Aasen qualified for the nationals in Alabama after winning gold medals in five different events at the Maryland Senior Olympics last year.
Between events, Aasen not only runs but also socializes as an active member of two running clubs: the Westminster Road Runners Club and the Annapolis Striders. She also runs twice a week and works out twice a week on her own.
Steve Moore, owner of Run Moore, a running store in Westminster, considers Aasen a role model.
"She's one of the most inspirational customers we have," said Moore, who helps promote the Westminster Road Runners Club and organizes charity running events around Carroll County. "When she comes in here, it probably drives her nuts, because I pepper her with questions.
"I just find her so fascinating," he added. "When she goes out to these races she always gets the biggest round of applause at all of them. I think we all aspire to be like her when we're her age."
Moore is equally amazed by both Aasen's attitude and fortitude.
She participated in a Westminster Road Runners Club Pleasant Valley Four-Mile Race on July 20, despite sweltering heat.
"There was a heat advisory out," Moore recalled with a sense of awe. "You know, it was one of those 'don't go outside or you'll die' type weather days, and there she was out there doing a four-mile road race at seven o'clock at night when it was like a hundred degrees out. She was smiling, laughing and having a good time. She's just an amazing person."
Kathy Hennes, who competed in the 2017 National Senior Games with Aasen, shares Moore's admiration.
"We all look up to her and want to be like her," Hennes said.
The Westminster club has the last of its six summer events, an 8K race, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 at Runnymede Elementary School in Westminster.
"It's called the Twilight Series, which I really like," Aasen said. "They have races every other week, different distances and different venues. I like to mingle with other runners."
Aasen is also passionate about her involvement with the Annapolis Striders.
She'll participate in the club's Dog Days 8K Cross Country Run on Aug. 6.
It's all part of a busy summer schedule that includes the Maryland Senior Olympics in mid-August , a 5K in Gaithersburg and a 10K in Baltimore.
Aasen's perennial focus on running and her determination to extend her running life makes her a valuable participant in The National Institute on Aging's Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the nation's longest-running scientific study of human aging.
"It involves all kinds of physical tests and mental tests too," she said. "It gives me a sense of being useful and making my running worthwhile."
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