Defying age: Barb Macklow won't stop chasing dream of running 100 miles

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 22, 2014 

Vicki and Barb

Vicki Griffiths, 69, left, and Barb Macklow,79, who have each completed a 100-mile race, run at Lake Padden on Feb. 12, 2013, in Bellingham. Macklow ran 100 miles because she wondered, " What would it be like to run 30 hours straight?"

ANDY BRONSON

Barb Macklow and Vicki Griffiths were running the Umstead 100-mile race in North Carolina.

Headlamps were strapped to their foreheads to light the trail. It was night time and the two had been running all day.

"Vicki, turn your headlamp off and look up," Macklow said.

Shining bright on them was a full moon. The two ran the rest of the night under the light of the moon. There was no need for the headlamps.

"It was so neat," Griffiths said in a phone interview. "It was just the two of us - just us and the moonlight. I'll never forget that."

Macklow would complete the 100-mile race the next day, becoming the second-oldest person to accomplish the feat.

Since then, Macklow has attempted three 100-mile races, falling at least 25 miles short each time.

She hasn't given up, though, and will look to become the first 80-year-old to run 100 miles when she attempts the Pickled Feet race in the spring in Boise, Idaho.

"Barb astounds me," Griffiths said. "She's very motivated. ... I know she's always striving for more. She's always saying 'I can do more,' and she is."

Macklow started running in her 50s. She wanted to stay in shape and eventually it became a habit. She ended up getting into races and it has blossomed into the ultra-races she does today.

She never liked running on pavement. It's not "forgiving," she said. She also didn't like the shorter races of five or 10 kilometers. They were too "competitive," she said.

Longer races offered her the relaxing nature of running and a more forgiving scenic route.

They are often run on trails and for Macklow, it doesn't get better than a long trail run.

"I found I liked trail running the best of anything. It was easier on your body," Macklow said in a phone interview. "(Longer races) are a more supportive atmosphere than shorter distances."

So Macklow trained.

She ran every day, often with Griffiths. Saturdays and Sunday are longer runs of three to four hours. Fridays and Mondays are short runs or walks. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are one to two hours of either track workouts or trail runs.

Running with a partner helped "the time pass," and Macklow and Griffiths shared many moments together.

"(Macklow's) a very positive person to be around," Griffiths said. "I love running with her. Neither one of us complains. We are just out looking at the birds and the bees, the flowers and trees. I love our friendship. We've had a lot of miles on our shoes and a lot of good memories."

The two went to races together frequently. Griffiths was faster and they didn't run side by side always, but that didn't change the relationship.

"I always know she's behind me," Griffiths said "I look forward to seeing her at the finish line."

Griffiths has always been Macklow's biggest supporter. Griffiths was ecstatic for Macklow when she completed her first 100-miler.

Macklow was just as surprised as anyone when she completed the race.

"I was shocked," Macklow said. "I didn't know how it would turn out. ... I was relieved and happy when it happened. It was kind of shocking."

Since then, more issues have arose in Macklow's three other attempts at the 100. She wasn't able to finish any of them, but that hasn't stopped her determination.

She still runs every day, many times with her dogs, Rosie and Roger. The dogs prompt her to go when she doesn't necessarily feel like it. But once she's out there, it's "rejuvenating."

Macklow and Griffiths don't run together as much anymore. Macklow has slowed down and Griffiths, being nine years younger, keeps a much quicker pace.

Macklow doesn't want to "slow her down," so she'll run by herself.

"You get slower every year and you have to be happy with that," Macklow said. "You realize as time moves on you're not gonna have the endurance you had initially. It's just part of growing older, but you can still enjoy being outside and getting exercise."

For Griffiths, not being able to run together is "disappointing," but she still gets excited about planning for races with Macklow.

The two will run the JFK 50 Mile in November and then attempt the Pickled Feet 100 in March.

"I got nothing to lose," Macklow said. "I figure the worst I can do is not finish or get injured. If nothing else, it's a good experience. ... I think it's possible for someone 80 to do it. It may not be me. But as long as I'm relatively healthy and fit, I'm going to give it a shot."

Eventually, Macklow won't be able to compete at the long distances, but that's fine with her. The goal is to stay active as much as possible for as long as possible.

Reach Joshua Hart at joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com or at 360-715-2851.

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