Smile Away the Miles
Septuagenarian ultrarunner Eldrith Gosney has a secret weapon
Photo by Heather Perry
When Eldrith Gosney, a longtime ultrarunner from the San Francisco Bay Area, turned 70 in 2011, she set a goal to run a 100-miler. How unusual is that goal for a female septuagenarian? Consider that of the 5,738 individuals who completed a 100-mile running event in North America in 2012, only 13 were 70 or older, and all were male, according to RealEndurance.com’s database of ultra results. Only two other women in their 70s are on record for finishing 100-milers: Helen Klein, 75, in 1998; and Barbara Macklow, 74, in 2009.
Gosney ran a handful of 100s when she was younger, including Western States in 1990, on top of some 135 ultras ranging from 50K to 100K since she took up running at age 40. In spite of her experience, however, getting through another 100 filled her with doubt due to the chronic back pain she endures. She also laments how her pace has slowed and wondered if she could make the cut-off times at aid stations.
She’d rather train for ultras and risk a DNF, however, than quit for good. “I wanted to prove to myself that I’m still strong and active, and, besides, I absolutely love being outside on the trails,” says Gosney, who lives about 50 miles north of San Francisco in Fairfield.
In August 2011, she embarked on the Headlands Hundred event and made it through more than 29 hours. But a couple of miles from the finish, while running among rocky outcroppings and cresting a ridge overlooking the bay, she suddenly leaned over too far and fell into a manzanita bush.