Birdsboro resident completes 50 marathons before turning 50

Submitted photo Elizabeth Proffitt with the group at LifeCare Management Services after her 50th marathon run.

One Birdsboro resident took the saying of “when the going gets tough...” in stride to cross the finish line.

Elizabeth Proffitt, Birdsboro, recently completed her 50th marathon before she turned 50 years old. She started running marathons as a way to combat the grief she felt after losing her husband.

After moving to Birdsboro in 2005, Proffitt’s husband, Bill, got sick with cancer just five days after they moved into their new home.

After his death, Proffitt started running with friend and fellow Pagoda Pacer, Donna Ornosky, as a way to deal with losing Bill. Proffitt decided she needed to take action, make goals, and tackle the overwhelming grief she felt.

“I started running as a way to cope and begin the grieving process,” Proffitt said. “The distances would get longer, and we wouldn’t notice how far we were going.”

So, they decided to try for a marathon.

“I made a goal to complete 50 marathons before I turn 50 years old,” she said.

Now, Proffitt has completed her goal with plenty of time to spare, as she will turn 50 on Aug. 25, 2014.

Originally from Ohio, Proffitt picked her hometown of Akron to run her first 26.2 mile course. Having much support from her family, shes stayed with her parents, and completed her first of 50 marathons on Sept. 30, 2006.

Her second run, she decided, should be where she currently resides. So on Nov. 19, 2006, Proffitt ran her second marathon in Philadelphia. The following year she added Atlantic City and Las Vegas to the list.

She told The Southern Berks News that she never wanted to repeat a state, but she broke that rule when she ran again in Pennsylvania this year; participating in a marathon in Wellsboro, known for the Grand Canyon of Pa.

Proffitt works at the The Heritage of Green Hills, Reading, where she gets to incorporate her lifestyle into her job. The Heritage strongly promotes “Well By Design,” a lifestyle which incorporates eight dimensions of wellness into everyday life. The eight dimensions include social, physical, intellectual, emotional, vocational, spiritual, health services and environmental.

Proffitt feels strongly about following the “Well By Design” model and has seen personal success with following the philosophy. Proffitt has her Master’s degree in Science and Health Studies.

She had always been an athlete. When she was in college, Proffitt played softball for the Miami University of Ohio. As part of practice the coach would have the team run three miles. Since then, she has kept with the sport on and off, competing in local races and half marathons.

Proffitt no longer races the marathon, but instead helps others who do want to race, pace themselves. At this point, Proffitt has the marathon down to a science, knowing exactly when to take her energy gels to not crash at mile 20.

It takes six months to train for a marathon. With running so many marathons, Proffitt is constantly training with the pattern of recover, run a marathon, taper.

Through the runs and three-day weekends, Proffitt has seen a great deal of the country.

In 2011, Proffitt even traveled to Greece to run the original course of Pheidippides, the first marathon runner from the ancient civilization.

Proffitt has ran marathons in Kiawah Island, SC, Little Rock, AK, Disney World, FL and Maui, HI. She has ran in the Boston Marathon, but has yet to conquer the New York Marathon. Now that her 50 before 50 marathons are complete, she has added the New York Marathon to her new goal list.

One of the marathons she ran was held in Jackson, MS where the forecasted temperature was 55 degrees. But in January temperatures can drop. 55 degrees is the optimal temperature for a run, she said. For this marathon, Proffitt dealt with the 18 degree weather, bundled up in winter clothing. “There were water main breaks, and there was frozen ice on the ground where we were running,” Proffitt recalled. Volunteers still showed up to pass out paper cups of water -- which also froze. Proffitt, also with the other runners, had to set themselves with a seven minute jog, one minute walk to protect themselves, and their lungs, from the cold temperature.

“Running has brought me so many good friendships,” she said. “I plan to keep running forever, as long as I don’t overtrain and nutrition.”

Proffitt placed first in her age group at the Leading Ladies Marathon in Spearfish, SD; second in her age group at Two Bear Mountain Marathon in Whitefish, MT, Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI and Wyoming Marathon in Laramie, WY; she placed third in her age group at the Grand Father Mountain Marathon in Boone, NC and at the Big Wild Life Runs in Anchorage, AK; she placed fourth her in age group at the Sedona Marathon in AZ; and she placed fifth in her age group at the Atlantic City Marathon in New Jersey and at the Windermere Marathon, in Spokane, WA.

For her final run, she chose Des Moines, Iowa for the chance to meet her co-workers from LifeCare Services Management Company.

Proffitt completed her 50th marathon in Des Moines on Oct. 20, where she finished with a time of 4:02:48.

“I feel good about it,” she said about completing the final marathon of her goal. “Bill would be proud of me,” Proffitt said.

The couple used to think marathon runners were crazy, but now that Proffitt has 50 under her belt she has learned that “anyone can do it.”