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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Octogenarian who plans No. 45 Bloomsday credits running the race to good health

Sharen Robertson credits Bloomsday for her good health at 83, and she plans to lace up her shoes again for her 45th finish Sunday.

She first covered Spokane’s 12-kilometer course in 1980, after encouraging a co-worker at Central Premix to join in their first Bloomsday. Robertson hadn’t exercised before that. She hasn’t stopped running – or walking – since.

Dismayed about sitting at a desk a lot, she told the coworker, “We need to do something to get off our rear ends.” They began training.

“We took the Bloomsday clinic where you walk and walk, then run and run,” Robertson said. “That’s how I started. I’d never been a runner before 1980. It’s the best thing I ever did.

“I never dreamed I’d be running all these races. I would say I was hooked on it. I loved the running part of it, being outdoors. It’s fun to meet people. I’m a people person.”

In more than 40 years as a runner, she also entered half -marathons in Spokane, Las Vegas and San Diego, plus one full marathon in New York with daughter Jodi McKenzie.

In last year’s Bloomsday, she came in first place among 24 people – men and women – in the 82-year-old group. Her time was 1:41:06.

Robertson keeps all her Bloomsday milestones on a handwritten, grid-lined spreadsheet with years and times. She thinks her best time was 1 hour, 3 minutes, 22 seconds in 1994. She also did the virtual Bloomsday in 2020, when COVID-19 closed the in-person race.

With the exception of icy conditions, she runs or walks every other day year-round to stay in shape. She got COVID last month, which only set her training back a bit.

“I run one day and I walk the next, on average. That’s what works, especially now at my age,” Robertson said. “I keep doing Bloomsday for the exercise. I think running has kept me healthy, because I’m very healthy for my age.”

There isn’t a history of longevity in her family, Robertson added.

“I don’t go out and beat the pavement anymore. I used to do a lot more running, a lot more training. It’s mainly just to keep healthy, and I think it has, because I do not come from a healthy family. My mom died at 71; my dad at 74.”

Robertson said she’ll try to jog most of Bloomsday this year, except for Doomsday Hill, which she plans to walk up to save her energy.

“I wasn’t sick, but it showed COVID four or five weeks ago; I was tired,” said Robertson, sitting in her cottage at Touchmark South Hill. “I think I even went out and ran or walked a bit, I lost a couple weeks of training, but I don’t really care at my age. I go with the flow.

“Years ago I did care. Well, I still care because I’m still doing it, but the time I get just doesn’t bother me.”

Robertson can show off some of her early, coveted Bloomsday T-shirts in a quilt a friend made for her. Others she stores or wears. Her favorite is the black T-shirt from last year.

She thinks she’ll likely begin in Bloomsday’s orange group.

Runners who have finished Bloomsday every year since its 1977 start are called “perennials,” a group that includes 75 people. Robertson missed that title by three years. Race officials say a majority of the perennials, ranging in age from their 50s to upper 80s, are signed up for Sunday, as well.

Being injury free over the years has helped, Robertson said, and she hasn’t had any knee or hip replacements. She’s never fallen in a race. Her only two falls happened elsewhere, once on a neighborhood walk and another time missing a hotel step. She broke teeth in those falls and had them replaced. In one fall, she also broke a wrist.

“But I’ve never had any problems with my knees or my feet,” she added.

Robertson described that her only issue in the past happened about two weeks before the 2014 New York Marathon, when she felt a strain in her leg’s iliotibial band, also called the IT band. The fibrous piece of connective tissue runs from the hip to the top of the shin on the outside of the thigh. She did some physical therapy to ease the discomfort.

She completed that marathon despite her leg bothering her, just at a slower pace.

“I finished, but I didn’t do very good,” she said. “Actually, it worked out fine. I had been to New York before that, but when you’re running, you see a whole different view. It was just really interesting to run slow or walk.

“I loved the New York. My daughter was with me, and she did it a lot faster. They didn’t think I was ever going to get there. The first thing my son-in-law said was, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I don’t want to walk very far. I want to go get a beer, a hamburger and French fries,’ so that’s what we did.”

Robertson said she suggested that her daughter take up running.

“She’s done a lot of marathons. After she had her third child, she was complaining about her weight. She’d never run or walk, so I said, ‘Why don’t you try running?’ and I tell you, it clicked. She’s a beautiful runner, a lot better than I ever was and she’s still running.”

Robertson grew up in the Osborn, Idaho, area. She began at Central Premix around 1971, first as a receptionist and then in accounting for payables and payroll. She retired around 1996. Along with her daughter, she also has a son. Her twin sister lives in another section of Touchmark.

Aside from exercising, she belongs to a women’s organization called Assistance, which has about 45 members and does community fundraisers and social events.

She figures she has a few more years to be in future Bloomsdays, then she has something else in mind.

“I probably will not do it more than two or three years more, just to save my feet and my legs,” she added. “I will keep it up, especially walking and maybe a little running.

“I always look forward to just seeing all the people, the music. Some day, I’d like to not run and see the top runners come in. I’ve always wanted to do that but I didn’t want to give up running.”