Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa Bay Downs vet and marathon runner Dr. Rosalyn Randall lived for racing

OLDSMAR — Dr. Rosalyn Randall was up by 4 a.m. most mornings. The track veterinarian at Tampa Bay Downs, whose job was to determine the fitness of horses, hit the quiet streets for her own run.

By 6 a.m. she was at the track, checking the horses scheduled to run. She examined each one, then watched them jog.

If something was wrong, she acted on it.

By noon, the vet was free to take a break, which for her meant going for a swim or logging some miles on her racing bicycle. Some marathon or triathlon always loomed on her calendar.

She was back at the track well before post time. When the gates opened, she trailed the thoroughbreds in a pickup, ready in case a horse went down.

At times, the person who communicated with horses better than anyone else had to euthanize them on the spot.

Dr. Randall, who lived out her dreams of treating animals for a living and competing in marathon races, including 25 Boston Marathons and an Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, died May 23 of breast cancer. She was 62.

Dr. Randall stood 5-foot-5 and walked with assurance around 1,000-pound animals that could be unpredictable. At Tampa Bay Downs, she knew the horses and could communicate with them through touch and tone of voice. She sounded out jockeys and trainers for their opinions.

"Part of her ability was that she was a runner, too," said Bob Paterno, a trainer at Tampa Bay Downs and her longtime companion. "She could tell the difference between a dangerous thing or if they are just a little stiff and sore. That's the difference between her and most people."

The job required people skills, too. "You've got to look (owners) in the face and tell them their horse can't run," said Paterno, 62. "They respected her opinion."

She embraced running with an equal zeal.

Dr. Randall ran her first marathon in the 1980s. Soon she had qualified for the Boston Marathon and an irreversible passion was activated.

"Her objective was to try to beat her own personal best. She wasn't concerned about the competition," said Bill Randall, her brother.

After swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles in her first Ironman, Dr. Randall ran the 26.2-mile marathon with blisters on her feet, her brother said.

Eventually she graduated to ultra-marathon races, which can stretch from 50 to 100 miles.

Dr. Randall was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up on her family's dairy farm in Westbrook, Maine.

"As soon as she could walk, she decided that all of the animals on the farm were under her care," her brother said.

She completed a five-year, year-round program at Michigan State University to obtain her bachelor's and doctor of veterinary medicine degrees, graduating cum laude. Dr. Randall became qualified to work on animals of all sizes.

Her direct manner and disarming humor put animals and human clients at ease.

"She was great at breaking down barriers in the first five minutes," her brother said. "She started by talking to the animal. She understood that when you get the animal's attention and the animal relaxed, the owner will relax."

For 25 years, Dr. Randall worked summers at the Scarborough Animal Hospital in Scarborough, Maine.

She moved to Oldsmar in 2006. Dr. Randall never married. She was close to her family and to her peers in the running community.

A few times, her brother rode with her in the truck as she drove behind horses during a race.

"She was almost like a racetrack driver," Bill Randall said. "Those thoroughbreds don't go slowly."

For the last several years, she had also worked at Lakeside Animal Hospital in Odessa.

Diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, Dr. Randall continued running until about a year ago. She had planned to go to work as recently as a week before she died.

"Everything she did was a testament to her stamina, willpower and ability to withstand pain," her brother said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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