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Over-70 competitors in Sunday's Iron Girl ready to grind it out

No boys are allowed to compete in the annual Iron Girl event on Clearwater Beach.

Courtesy of Ali Darvish Photography (2010)

No boys are allowed to compete in the annual Iron Girl event on Clearwater Beach.

CLEARWATER — She's an avid runner.

She's a personal trainer.

And at 70, St. Petersburg's Claire Lynn is one of the oldest competitors in Sunday morning's Iron Girl race on Clearwater Beach.

The five-time cancer survivor had her most recent brush with death this past summer. But Lynn — a grandmother of six who's studying physical therapy and nutrition — is too busy having fun to slow down.

"We all have problems in our life, but we've got to push forward," she said. "And what is running all about? Pushing forward!"

About 3,000 women and girls, ages 4 through 83, will wind their way along the beach Sunday as part of the annual 5K run and — for the first time ever — half marathon.

Launched in 2004 in Palm Harbor, Iron Girl has expanded from two annual events to 13 nationwide. Organizers say camaraderie is a staple of the 5K, 10K, 15K, duathlon and triathlon events, which are focused on empowering women to take on new challenges and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

No male runners are allowed.

"Women are so often doing things for others and taking care of other people that the Iron Girl series really allows them to have a little 'me time' with other people supporting them and cheering them on," said event spokeswoman Jessica Weidensall.

"It's a women's-only event, but we encourage men to come out and give back and support the women in their lives," she said.

Sunday's loop kicks off at 7 a.m. at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach.

Three-time Iron Girl racer Pat Linn of Dunedin said a friend first inspired her to participate when she was 71, and her 5K time has steadily improved from 42 to, most recently, 36 minutes. When she was 72, she won second place in her age group, then won first at age 73.

Now 75, Linn, who enters a new age group this year, has been training up to four days a week in anticipation of beating her old time — and hopefully besting the runners in her previous age group.

"It's a really great experience and I wish there were more people that could do what I'm doing," she said. "I'm hoping some people will say, 'Hey, if she can do it, I can do it.' "

When Linn, who calls herself "The Black Horse," steps onto the track Sunday in her signature black shorts and black shoes, she'll be thinking of three friends who have recently died from cancer.

She'll wear a flower in her blond hair so her husband, a cancer survivor whom she calls "a strong supporter," can spot her in the crowd.

"(My friends) were all active people also," she said. "I've got to carry on and remember."

Lynn of St. Petersburg said her entire family has rallied around her efforts to improve her lifestyle after cancer scares in 1993, 2001, 2002 and 2005.

She joined a gym, began walking up to 7 miles a day and lost 100 pounds. The retiree even became a personal trainer herself, helping peers age 50 and older get fit in their homes through a service she launched called "Discover Yourself."

Her goal had been to run a full marathon on her 70th birthday this past December. But in July, after five years, the cancer returned.

She's back in remission, and Iron Girl 5K is the perfect opportunity to challenge herself and show what she can do.

"I was kind of set back," Lynn said. But "I've made my decision that no matter what, come Sunday, I'm going to push myself."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.

Fast facts

Iron Girl

Last chance to register: Visit Coachman Park, 301 Drew St. in Clearwater, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

Race time: 7 a.m. Sunday start for half marathon, 7:15 a.m. for 5K.

Where: Pier 60, Clearwater Beach.

Information: irongirl.com/Events/Clearwater.

Over-70 competitors in Sunday's Iron Girl ready to grind it out 04/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 9:28pm]
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