Spokane’s June Machala has turned impatience into a prolific running career, a career that didn’t begin until she was in her mid-50s.
Thirteen years ago, Machala walked up to 3 miles nearly every day for exercise.
“That takes too long to walk a mile, or 2 miles or 3 miles,” she said. “I got started running a little bit.”
After a while, she began to enjoy her runs, and it occurred to her that she could start racing. In her first race, she finished second in her age category. She was 54 years old.
Now 67, Machala holds four national age-group records (in the 5K, 8K, 15K, and half-marathon), as well as unconfirmed national (12K) and world records (10K).
She was just named U.S. Track and Field runner of the year for her age group for the second year running. The Bloomsday Roadrunners Club named her its runner of the year. After all, she has won her age group in Bloomsday in five of the past six years.
“I never thought of myself as being a runner,” Machala said, “but the people around me keep kicking me in the rear end.”
For most grandmothers, Machala’s troop of six children, 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren would provide plenty of exercise, but she is constantly traveling around the country to compete in races of most any distance.
Recently, she went to Minnesota to run in her first marathon. Though it was the longest race she has run, she defeated the reigning age-group champion by more than 4 minutes.
Currently, Machala competes on the Indy Life circuit. It’s a group of runners over 40 who compete in races all over the nation. The circuit sponsors eight races annually.
Machala finished fourth in her age group a year ago, a placing that earned her $1,500. A bad case of the flu that kept her from competing in a 10K in Mobile, Ala., kept her from finishing first.
Machala was born in Japan, in a small town 100 miles outside of Toyko. She came to America with her first husband when she was 25. Following a divorce 12 years later, she married Joe Machala. They’ve been together for 25 years.
Machala plans to continue racing for as long as she can, and judging by her performance of late, that will be quite a while.
Last year, after competing in a half-marathon in Indianapolis on a Friday, she rushed home the next day to win her division in Bloomsday on Sunday. Despite having just run a 13-mile course, there was no way she would miss Bloomsday.
“I don’t care,” she said about all the running it took to retain her title, “I’m No. 1.” , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SENIOR GAMES If you’re at least 50 and love participating in sports, then the Inland Northwest Senior Games could be right up your alley. Held throughout the Spokane area, competition runs from May 15 through July 18. Events run from archery to track and field. Also, golf, swimming, bowling and basketball are offered. In total, 18 competitions and six “lite games” (croquette, lawn bowling, etc.) will be offered. A fee of $10 includes participation in one event, a T-shirt and a medal/ribbon. Each additional event is $4. These games are preliminary to the Washington State Senior Games, to be held in Olympia in August. Qualifiers at the state competition are eligible to compete in the 1999 National Senior Games in Orlando, Fla. The Inland Northwest Games are open to residents of other states and Canada. For information, contact Toni Nersesian at (509) 465-9043.