Connie’s Story: Senior Citizenship? Bring it on.

Through Run Like A Girl we have met many inspiring people. This is Connie, although we have never met her in person, we feel as though we know her so well! She continues to inspire us and the people around her with her spirit and determination at the age of 62! Here is her story!
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My name is Connie Ross Ciampanelli. I live in North Providence RI, USA, and have been married to Anthony for thirty-eight years. We have two grown sons who live on their own. Like many Rhode Islanders, Tony and I have not moved often. Both of us still live within six miles from where we were born and have resided in our current home for thirty-six years.

I work as a secretary in the Guidance Office in a Catholic high school in Providence. Tony and our sons are all alumni of the academy. Our office has seven full time counselors and we work with almost 1,500 students. After being in the Admission Office for eight years where interaction with students is minimal, I find great joy in working with them on a daily basis.

I am a passionate woman, passionate about everything I hold dear. My family. Writing, reading, cooking, baking. For more than thirty years I have been an avid needle-worker, concentrating on counted cross and specialty stitches, with a focus on reproduction samplers. These past three years, late in my life, I have developed a new passion, running.
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In 2012, the academy offered faculty and staff a wellness and fitness program. In listing goals, I decided that I would like to celebrate my upcoming sixtieth birthday by training to run 5K. I have always been sedentary, and for much of my life was greatly overweight, though I no longer am.

Training for 5K was a daunting task. For me, the coolrunning.com program was a perfect fit. Nine weeks long, it was difficult and challenging, requiring great determination and desire to complete, but it was designed for beginners and I trusted that it was possible. The encouragement of family and friends, the voice of my fitness instructor calling, “Push through! Push through! You’ve got this, Connie!” got me through many tough moments and several setbacks. Not believing that I could keep on running until my November birthday, in June of 2012, I ran my first 5K at the La Salle Academy track, where I work. My dear friend Sharon ran beside me as family and friends cheered. What a thrill it was to be able to achieve my dream at “home.”
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Shortly after this day, friends invited me to join their team and run in a small, local fund-raising 5K that benefits a physically disabled youngster. The mere thought of being in a real race terrified me, but they convinced me that this was an intimate event with no pressure. About 125 runners participate. As it was for Goldilocks, it was “just right.”

I knew by the end of this race that I was hooked. I discovered for the first time a sport that I enjoyed, and continued to train through the summer and autumn months.

The morning of my sixtieth birthday arrived, bringing cold, wet sleet and sloppy, messy snow. I rose at 4:00 a.m. and went down into our family room to run my celebratory 5K on our treadmill. There would be no running outside on this dark, dismal day. As I ran, I relived the past months, the joyous successes, and the difficult runs when I wanted to quit, not knowing if I would ever reach my goal. I gave silent thanks for the journey that brought me to this moment. Yes, my initial dream was realized: I ran 5K on my sixtieth birthday.

The following season I upped the ante and set a new goal. Following Hal Higdon’s training plan, I began the work to reach 10K. Now knowing that I could push myself far beyond my perceived limits, I trained throughout spring and summer of 2013 and reached my 10K goal on June 16, 2013.

The journey continued.

One Sunday that November, two of my friends ran in the Philadelphia Marathon, one the full marathon, the other, the half. That afternoon, I went out to run 5K in their honor. Though it was cold and raw and blustery, I felt great and decided to stretch it to my second 10K. To sweeten the pie, for a running friend who at the time was sidelined with injuries, I added a bit of mileage and reached a PR of seven miles. Seven miles! I, who could not run once around the track in her thirties, just ran seven miles at sixty-one. As I walked home, I knew I could push myself even further and started to plan for the next year.

At the end of that season, I gathered notes I kept on my running journey and completed writing a book, Journey to 10K: Adventures of an Older Novice Runner and started a book/ running page on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/journeyto10K?ref=bookmarks.
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As winter of 2014 slipped away and I began training outside again, I set my running goals for the new season: 1- to run a total of 200 miles for the year, 2- to run 5K in less than thirty minutes, and 3- to train for a ten mile run.

Because of all the training miles, reaching my first goal was not difficult. Today as I write, I have completed 321.93 miles this year.

The other two goals were monumental.

I set aside my 5K time goal for later in the season and concentrated on the ten mile run. It was tough going. Several times I decided to quit, believing in my heart that I physically could not manage this distance, at this age, with so little experience as a runner. I was exhausted and felt defeated, but it galled me to quit. It took seeing my running shirt, “Too Stubborn to Quit,” for me to put on my running shoes and tackle the next training run. On August 24, a beautiful Sunday morning, I set out from my home and ran for ten hard miles. Runners who have succeed in reaching seemingly impossible distances understand the euphoria I felt as I limped home. I had conquered my doubts and fears, triumphed over sore limbs and joints. I am a runner.
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And the most elusive goal of all? After trying for two years, I ran 5K in 29:57 minutes on September 14, my late mother’s birthday. It was another perfect Sunday morning. I felt my Mom floating above me, her hands gently pushing my shoulders. I envisioned her with angel wings, wearing a long, white, flowing gown that billowed around me. As I ran, I cried, and I cried when I checked my watch at 3.1 miles and saw that I made it.

What are my plans for the future? I am a runner. I will run as long as I can, whether that turns out to be one more year, or five, or ten. When I can no longer run, I will walk. A lot. My couch potato days are gone forever.

Setting goals is important, and I do have a couple for 2015. First, I plan to run one mile in under nine minutes. My PR is currently 9:06. Seven seconds doesn’t seem like much, but runners know that it is a great deal of time to shave. Secondly, I will conquer yet another demon, my fear of bridges and height and large crowds. Three of my running friends have urged me to join them in running the Pell Bridge event in Newport, RI http://www.pellbridgerun.com/. It is a steep bridge, a huge race, over 3,000 runners. I will be surrounded by my pals, covered in love and support. How can I turn down an offer like that?

Whatever the future brings, I have already received so many marvelous gifts on this journey. I am more physically fit than ever before. I’ve gained confidence that I can accomplish more than I ever dreamed. I have gained the precious gift of friendships renewed and newly discovered, runners right here at home and dozens from over the world whom I’ve not (yet) met in person. What a ride this has been!
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Senior Citizenship? Bring it on.

Comments

  1. Hi Connie…I will be 63 this year and have been running longer than I haven’t (I started in 1971 when I was 17). I still don’t call myself a “runner” altho I have logged hundreds if not thousands of miles, have completed 13 marathons, two ultras and 126 triathlons (two ironman races). I love to swim in open water and am training for my 10th Alcatraz crossing next year…never too late and never too old! Happy training and running!

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