Sometimes your greatest tools are the people around you. Kara tells us about two people in her life that have shaped her personally, and as an athlete, and how their commitment to lifelong athletics is fueling her own career forward.
MEET OLA JEAN!
A silver lining of losing my father so young was getting to know my grandparents so well. When my father died, we moved in with my grandparents. When my mom remarried and traveled with my then step-father for work, my grandparents would come stay with us kids. My friends loved and continue to love them. As I’ve gotten older they are still there for me.
My grandma, Ola Jean, is like a second mother to me. She taught me piano. She baked me a good-luck loaf my running events. In fact, she only missed one, only because she was in the hospital having a knee replacement (she still felt bad)! She is kind and loving and cute and sly. She can be authoritative if she needs to be. She remembers everything. She is also, an athlete.
She would never consider herself an athlete. But she most certainly is. She was never given the opportunity to play sports. Running wasn’t a social acceptable activity for women when she was younger (she’s 91… a lot has changed over the years).
But she has always been active. When she was in college, and the men were at war, she played an exhibition football game with other women. Their very own "League of Their Own” moment. It was just one game, but she went out there and played hard. She said the day after that was the most sore she’s ever been in her life! I love the image of her out there playing football. How tough!
Throughout my childhood she lived on a big property and worked the land every day. She hauled thousands of stones to rock off paths, gardens, etc., so she was unknowingly lifting weights. You could always find her working on something outside. When she and my grandpa moved into their retirement community years ago, she started organized fitness. She would walk around the indoor track and go to the gym. Even though she no longer walks around the track (she is a little nervous about falling), she still goes to the gym to do her routine 3 days a week! She, and my grandpa, are tremendous role models for lifelong fitness.
My grandma has really helped me realize that fitness is just that: a lifelong commitment. There is no end date. The reason she is doing so well at 91 is because she has always been active. What that looks like has changed over the years, but the dedication is always there. It’s just who she is, and therefore, what she does.
I admire how she has shifted her activity over the years for what works for her. When she couldn’t walk the paths on her property anymore because she moved into the retirement community, she walked on the track. When she got nervous about walking so far on the track, she moved to the gym. She’s 91. She could say, “I’m done with this!” But when her workout day comes, she’s there, up early and headed to the gym. That’s left a huge impression on me.
To say that my grandma has had a huge influence on my life would be an understatement. She has shaped who I am. She tells me how proud she is of the choices I’ve made. And I’m proud to have made her proud.
I met Bob Becker the year before I got married to Adam. Bob was a big part of my husband Adam’s life growing up, and Adam always looked forward to seeing him at family vacations. Here’s fantastic - one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. We even had him read at our wedding!
Bob really started running in his 50s. That alone is rare and inspiring. He ran his first marathon in 2002 at the age of 57. Since then, Bob has run the Boston Marathon, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, raced in the 150-mile Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, run the 167 mile Grand 2 Ultra, has taken on the 120-mile TransRockies stage race in Colorado, and more. Bob has even completed ‘Badwater' - the iconic 135-mile road race through Death Valley that ends at the Mt. Whitney Portal at 8,300 feet - three times. In July 2015, after his third completion, Bob continued to the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft.), then ran back to the start of the race at the Badwater Basin. That 292 mile round trip is known as the "Badwater Double". At 70 years of age, Bob had broken the age record by 11 years!
Bob is still in the business of pushing limits, and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s an inaugural 100-mile race in China where his father, Adam's grandfather, once flew in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps. This 100 mile trail race, The Mt. Gaoligong Ultra, has a 24,000 foot elevate gain and descent. With only 36 hours to complete this 100 mile race, it’s an an enormous challenge with a deeply personal connection to his past. Bob’s actually in the process of fundraising to be able to take on this amazing race. You can check out his gofundme page to get involved!
I think what is most intriguing about Bob is that he continually looks for new challenges for himself, while also supporting the ultra community. He has started his own race series, which includes the popular Keys 100. He fundraises for others along the way, always making his running or his races about more than just running. He really just wants to encourage people and invite them into the sport. This journey of challenging others, and continuing to challenge himself, is so inspiring.
Bob is like the Energizer Bunny. He's never said, “I’m too old”. He just goes for it. It’s opened my eyes to what passion can do. His wish for me, and the entire running community, has simply been for us to be the best version of ourselves we can be. That’s pretty fantastic.
Personally, I’m at an exciting time in my life. I am laying out a plan for myself. I’m excited about it, my coaches are excited about it. There’s a lot of running left in these legs. I’ve also never been more excited to be a part of the running community. I want people to know I am here to help. I want to help you realize your potential. Not only in running but in life. I realize more and more that running gave me a voice, and that I want to use that voice to empower others. I think if Ola Jean and Bob have taught me anything, it’s about what’s possible when you’re passionate.
It’s an exciting time in my life, and I feel incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Head Up, Wings Out.