NEW PORT RICHEY — Kathleen Newman is proof that aging doesn't have to slow you down.
The 65-year-old retiree from Racine, Wisc., has been running marathons for 25 years and celebrated the anniversary of her first marathon, the 1988 New York City Marathon, by completing the Disney Half Marathon back in February. She had committed to that first run in the Big Apple to get in shape after donating a kidney to her older sister two years earlier.
"I started to run a few years prior because I wanted to give my older sister the best possible kidney, and once I started I couldn't stop," Newman said. "I still remember that first marathon because it was so intimidating. I made the beginner's mistake of running too fast early on, so I was walking and jogging by mile 18."
Newman was 40 when she took to running. A self-proclaimed jock growing up, Newman worked various "fun jobs" including skating instructor before finding her true passion in marathons. These days, she hits the road for 10- or 15-mile treks three times a week. She trains for major runs, completing a full marathon to mark every 10-year-mark since her first race, and a half marathon for the five-year milestones in between. She took fifth place in her age group at the Disney Half Marathon in February.
"I just love to run and I have to have goals," Newman said. "It's always an emotional experience when you cross that finish line. You work so hard and train all the time to be able to do it, and when you finish there is that bittersweet release where you have achieved what you wanted, but now what do you do? I'm kind of in that lost stage right now where I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do next."
She and her husband, Randy, moved to Florida in 1986 to be closer to family (the sunny weather didn't hurt, either). She keeps a busy schedule, complete with line dancing, tennis and bowling as well as her running. Just keeping up can be a challenge for Randy.
"Let's just say I dare not get fat," Randy said. "We've always been active, but I think it's remarkable what she does. I can't go running these days because of my knees, but I stay active however I can just to keep up. I support her however I can because it's been inspiring to see her finish all these races. She keeps me motivated."
Midge Cannavino, the recipient of that kidney almost 27 years ago, has mixed feelings about her younger sister's distance running.
"It scares me to death," Cannavino said. "She only has the one kidney and I always worry because it's so extreme what she does. But I think it's wonderful that she is in that great of shape and I'm proud of my younger sister. She's always been competitive and it suits her that she does this."
For Newman, it's not scary at all. She sees the running as her alone time and is constantly monitoring her diet so that she can continue to do it. As fit as a 65-year old can be, Newman can't imagine a life without running.
"If you took away my legs, I think I'd have to race in a wheelchair," Newman said. "The running is in my heart. It's not what I do, it's who I am. I've never considered stopping."