Carol Wright has always been a physical fitness bug, but in her younger years, she focused on diet and working out on her own to stay in shape. Running and biking were her two primary types of exercise. But running marathons at age 75? That was way beyond the norm and wasn’t really in her thoughts.
Those thoughts changed after moving to Sandpoint, meeting other distance runners, and particularly meeting Mike Ehredt.
Wright was originally from Ontario, Canada but moved to Washington, D.C. with her parents when she was 18. She later was to meet and marry Bob Wright, and in 1988, they moved to the Sandpoint area.
Bob had a dream of coming to some small, quiet place in the Northwest, where he could write. That brought them to the Grouse Creek area near Sandpoint, but living off the grid became more difficult, and in 2000, they moved into Sandpoint.
Sandpoint is an outdoor type of town with hunters, hikers, campers, fishermen, skiers, and runners. Wright continued her physical regime of running and biking and added cross-country skiing to the list. It wasn’t until 2012 that this regime changed.
First, her daughter decided to enter a half-marathon race, and Wright decided to join her. Of even more importance, she was introduced to Mike Ehredt.
Ehredt’s history is nothing short of phenomenal. He is a Hylands Master Athlete and has been a USA Track and Field coach for eight years.
In 2010, while in his late 40s, he began Project America Run to honor American soldiers who died in Iraq. This was a 4,425-mile trip from Oregon to Maine with no support vehicles.
He pushed a jogger stroller as he ran, stopping every mile to plant an American flag with the name, rank, age, and hometown of veterans who died in combat. Every day he ran the equivalent of a marathon or longer. Bear in mind that a marathon is over 26 miles.
Two years later, he did a similar run from the Canadian border in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. That took two months with no days off, for a combined total of 6,570 miles.
Ehredt is now a running coach in Sandpoint. Wright commented, “If I hadn’t met Mike, I probably would have done the first race to support my daughter, but not much more. Mike’s a wonderful motivator and one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.”
She filled out a questionnaire that asked how long she had been seriously running. She answered, “two months.” It also asked about her goal. Wright’s response was to run a half-marathon in two months to support her daughter.
Ehredt told her he had no doubt she could do it if she would follow his instructions and because it’s something she really wanted to do. The mental attitude has a lot to do with it.
Most of Ehredt’s clients are over 50, but Wright was unique in being the oldest, at 70, when she started training with Ehredt. She needed a clean bill of health from her doctor, and she got that. Then Ehredt put her on a program of running and walking.
“That was for about a year,” he explained. He stressed time spent rather than distance. “Seniors, and everybody, put too much pressure on ourselves when we put a mile tag on it. So we started out slow, combining running and walking. All too often, one does what I call the terrible too’s: too much, too fast, too soon.”
Wright started a year-long regimen of run-and-walk. “When can I run non-stop?” she asked. Ehredt felt she was ready, and she signed up and completed a 10K.
He then asked her if she could do just one thing, what would it be. “I’ve always dreamed of the Boston Marathon” was her reply. Ehredt answered, “Why don’t we have you on the start line in three years?”
Her first marathon was at Liberty Lake near Spokane. She ran her second in Coeur d’Alene with a time that qualified her to run the Boston Marathon, her ultimate goal. That three-year target was now a reality.
Training for Boston began on November 30, 2015, and in April, she headed east for her first Boston Marathon. She was 73. She ran her second at 74, and now that she’s again qualified, she will be on the starting line for her third Boston Marathon in 2018.
Ehredt explained that when his clients run as a group, everybody starts and finishes together. Wright knew what fitness level she was in. “She had a focus, a goal, and her life isn’t going to be measured by doing a marathon. She does something every day, not drastic cardio,” said Ehredt. “I put on her on a schedule. Thursday you’re going for a walk. Go on your walk with your dog. I don’t care how long you go, just go. If she wants to run, I say no, Friday is your running day.”
He added that seniors lose their VO2, which is the amount of oxygen our bodies can use to exercise. That drops every single year as does our muscle strength. To reach her goal of running in Boston, they had to work on her VO2. “You have to work the cardio system to work the muscular system and have to work your respiratory system to see fitness gains,” commented Ehredt. “Doing these things gets you fitter and hopefully adds a few years.”
“I didn’t start out hoping to be an inspiration to younger people, but I’m finding that happening,” Wright explained. “Like the race I did last weekend, I told the pacer I wanted to cross the finish line in less than five hours, so I could quality for Boston. The whole group asked, ‘how old are you?’ I said I’m 75, and some of the women, when I crossed the line, said they were as happy for me as I was,” said Wright. “That’s the type of thing I see over and over again.”
Wright has ambitions of running as long as she can.
“I’d love to run the New York City Marathon and Chicago and maybe the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.,” she said. “I was just starting to run seriously at 70. I think the older you get, you just slow down a little bit, and it takes longer to recover. You hear of people running into their 80s, and I hope that’s me.”