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YOU'RE NEVER TOO OLD-26.2

Angie Webb

August 01, 2012

Thirty years ago my mother, Shirlee Oscarson Webb, weighed more than two hundred pounds. If you had told her she would be running marathons at age sixty, she would have laughed in your face. In fact, even running a mile seemed impossible.

As the mother of five children, my mom needed a stress reliever, and that outlet came when some women invited her to go walking. She loved getting out of the house with them and doing something active. One night, her friend, who was part of the walking group, invited her to go jogging. At first she just laughed, but then she realized that she really wanted to give it a try. On that first run her lungs were burning, her muscles were aching, and her feet were blistering—all of this from only running once around the block.

When her friend suggested that they get up at 6:00 a.m. and go jogging for the next two weeks, my mother’s first response was, “NO WAY! I’ve got a newborn baby, and there is no way I can do it.” But she had a feeling inside her that this was something she really wanted to do. And after those two weeks she was hooked.

Three kids later, at age forty-five, Mom ran her first marathon. After hearing about the St. George Marathon, she decided to give it a try. It seemed like a real challenge, and she said, “I knew that if I could do this I could do anything.”  As a fifteen-year-old, I watched my mother cross the finish line, and tears filled my eyes when I saw the struggle, determination, and strength it took her to complete that race. 

Once that marathon was over, the flood gates opened. Over the past fifteen years she has run seven more marathons, seventeen half marathons, and numerous other races. She loves the challenge and feeling of success and satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something hard—something she wants to do.

In 2010, Mom qualified for the Boston Marathon, and in 2012, at the age of sixty, she was ready to run. The Boston Marathon had become a dream of hers, and now it was about it come true. To send her off, her eight children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren gave her a T-shirt with all of their handprints on it that said, “If you ever feel like you can’t go on, picture all of us pushing you.”  We were all there in spirit cheering her on.

The day of the Boston Marathon there was a heat wave going through the city and the temperature was expected to be more than ninety degrees. Officials encouraged people not to run, and hundreds dropped out, but Mom was determined to finish no matter what. She had been getting ready for this event for more than eighteen months and was not about to quit.

The race began and the temperature quickly shot up to ninety degrees. From the first step, to the very last, it was a painful race for Mom. Around mile thirteen, her legs began to cramp up, and those cramps moved up into her hips, side and back. It was pure agony. The last half of the race she mostly walked to help alleviate the pain from the cramps. And when the pain became nearly unbearable, she remembered her family and knew their hands were helping to push her forward. That day, 2,550 runners quit, 2,000 got medical attention, 150 ended up in the hospital—and Shirlee Webb, age sixty, crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 20 minutes. 

To sum it all up, Mom said, “If all the things I hoped would happen in the Marathon would have happened, it would have been a fun and exhilarating experience. I would have felt like I was a winner, maybe pridefully so. But the experience I actually had taught me far greater things than I could have learned if I had had an easy run. To do what was hard, really hard, to dig deep to find strength I didn't know I had, helped me know that anything is possible.”