Having spent more than 20 years working as a physical education teacher, Georgia McDaniel has always been into fitness.
Many people her age, and even those much younger, might have trouble keeping up with the 65-year-old.
She recently ran the Boston Marathon—only the second marathon she’s run. Less than a week after the race, she set a number of swim records in her age group during a recent masters swim meet.
With experience running half-marathons and doing triathlons, McDaniel said she thought she if she was going to ever run the Boston Marathon she’d better do it before she got much older.
“It was something out there, a goal to achieve and I guess to see if I could do it,” she said of running the race. “I’m so glad I did it, it was a great experience.”
McDaniel said the race showed her many examples of the good in people, as she ran through various neighborhoods and communities where residents cheered racers on and helped them cool down with hoses and ice, since the weather was particularly hot this year.
To run the race, she had to qualify and did so last year during the 2011 Fox Valley Marathon, she said. To qualify for Boston she needed a time of 4:45. She ran the Fox Valley race in 4:42.
Her time at Boston was slower, but McDaniel said: “I crossed the finish line and that’s all I have to say.”
In her age group, there were only 47 women runners. The number of competitors she’s up against is dwindling as she moves up in the age brackets.
McDaniel isn’t about to let her age limit her.
“I look at it as I get older, there are so many things out there to do — so many things I want to go out and do,” she said.
Since she is retired and works only part-time at Edward Health and Fitness Center, she has the freedom to do all the things she wasn’t able to do when she was working full-time.
For Mother’s Day, her sons gave her a gift certificate for the Joliet Raceway where she will get to drive a race car, she said. She mentioned how she wanted to give it a try and her sons were paying attention.
McDaniel started swimming when she was a child and continues to swim today. She teaches private swim classes and water aerobics, she said.
After completing the Boston Marathon on April 16, she went on to compete at the Illinois Masters Swimming Association Championships held April 20 to 22 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
McDaniel swam in a number of events and in each of her races she broke state records for her age group. She competed in the 1,000 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 individual medley, 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley. She also participated in four relays that also broke records.
“It was a long weekend,” McDaniel said.
She will compete in nationals in Omaha, NE, in July and is training five days a week in the pool right now, she said.
She keeps going for a number of reasons.
“It’s like that goal out there you want to achieve something else,” she said. “It’s about fitness too. I want to beat aging. And, the people I swim with, I think if I don’t go, I won’t get to see them.”
She credits her coach for keeping her motivated and pushing her.
“I’m more active now certainly than when I was working or when I was raising children,” the mother of three adult boys said. “Now that I am retired, this is what I do. It certainly takes me longer to recover. I have the time to do it. I don’t have work draining me. I just really enjoy doing it.”
As a personal trainer at Edward, McDaniel said she hopes she is providing a good example to her clients.
“I think from what I hear, people think ‘If she can do that, I ought to be able to work hard and do that too. If she’s 65, I can work hard and achieve something too.’”
Even on those days when she might rather stay in bed, she gets up and gets her workouts in, because she said she knows she will feel better. She is hopeful other older people will see her as an example and keep moving.
“I know how important it is to stay active as an older adult,” she said. “You feel better. You look better. It is just so important to stay active.”