To finish the 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a race that stretches from St. Petersburg to New Port Richey, participants train for six months and walk for three days straight, stopping only occasionally to drink Gatorade and massage sore feet. The day after 81-year-old Audrey Lake crossed the Komen finish line last year, her daughter called her.
"Hey, Mom, want to go for a walk?" Michelle Cobey asked her mother teasingly.
Lake didn't hesitate to say yes.
"I tell you what, she'll walk anytime," Cobey said.
By 6:15 each morning, Lake, who will turn 82 in August, has already pulled on running shoes and stretched. By 7 a.m., she has lapped her neighborhood in Trinity twice, a 2-mile walk. By 8 a.m., it gets too hot for Lake's liking — she doesn't handle heat well. Time for the rest of her day: bowling, housework, gardening and volunteering to drive cancer patients to their doctor's appointments at Morton Plant/Trinity Outpatient and Surgery Center.
For Lake, the Komen walk afforded the chance to indulge in two of her favorite activities: staying active and contributing to a good cause.
"It's just something I do," Lake said. "I really do enjoy it. I just felt wonderful."
A breast cancer survivor, Lake didn't hesitate to sign up for the Komen walk, though the organizers fretted about her age, Cobey says.
"They didn't know her, but I know my mother," she said.
Lake takes care of all of the housework, gardening and pool cleaning at the house she shares with her husband, Robert. She has been a regular walker since she had to walk to school as a child, she says. She ran in school and played lead hitter for her office's softball team when she was a sales supervisor for General Mills in Ohio.
Now, she bowls and golfs. Even at work, she ate lunch early so she and some co-workers could walk during lunch hour.
In addition to the Komen walk, Lake has biked in 150-mile races for multiple sclerosis and walked in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. On Saturday morning, she will race in the RAP River Run, a 5K that starts in Sims Park in New Port Richey. The run will benefit neglected and runaway youths served by Youth & Family Alternatives.
"That's the whole secret — just keep busy," Lake said. "If you sit on the couch, that's all you can do."
That philosophy seems to come naturally in Lake's family, where she's still a youngster among the siblings. One brother still walks at 90, one 86-year-old brother just quit playing first base for his church's baseball team a few years ago, and one of her sisters is still washing and waxing her own car at 87.
When the Lakes lived in Ohio 20 years ago, Lake and some of her relatives rode bicycles over 60 miles from Cleveland to Sandusky.
Lake's three children grew up playing softball and basketball, and, of course, running.
What about her husband, Robert?
"He doesn't walk," Lake said. "He's a TV watcher."
These days, Lake usually walks by herself. Her former walking group dwindled as neighbors moved away or began suffering too many health problems, but she invites anyone to come and walk with her — as long as they are willing to wake up early.
"Anybody that comes to my house, you may get a good meal, but you also get a nice walk," she said.
Lake hasn't yet decided whether she will walk or run Saturday's RAP Run, which begins at 8 a.m., when the temperature is already rising. Depending on the heat, she says, she'll probably walk half, run half.