Tennis. Basketball. Soccer. Softball. Golf. Betsy Sloan tried them all before discovering running. “ I am ridiculously uncoordinated when a sport involves extra moving parts. I started running cross country for my high school, had some success and went on to run in college. It was such a joy and a confidence builder to perform well,” says Sloan. “I have continued running and have rarely missed a week in the past 25 years.”
Today, Sloan, 38, is a mother of two young sons. A psychologist involved in diagnostic work with children in the area of learning disabilities, her life is full. Still, running plays a central role. “Running plays the role of stress reliever, social time, me time, thinking time. It is such a huge respite in my crazy life. I wouldn't know what to do if I had to stop,” says Sloan. “The benefits of running are myriad. I think it gave me a lot of confidence at a young age, it has given me such great relationships with people who are experienced runners and beginning runners. My body is strong and it gives me the energy and endurance to keep up with my children and my job.”
A long time road runner, Sloan has found benefits for shifting to dirt trails. “As an older runner, my beloved and frequented orthopedic doctor once told me that it was 'cross train or die' and I realized that my religious pounding of pavement could not continue at the usual pace. I learned to hit the trails, swim a good bit and bike, and the health of my runner's body has never been better,” Sloan says.
With children and work, Sloan’s workouts start early. “Running trails with a headlamp is the way it often happens, but my feet are more sure these days and the mental challenge is more exciting,” she says. "I run trails every Sunday morning with my running group, and the yellow trails at Percy Warner are my favorite trails in the area."
At 38, Sloan remains a competitive runner entering marathons and half marathons. She’s still working hard to achieve faster times. “I enjoy running so much that I sometimes forget it is a sport,” says Sloan. “It is a thrill to lope along and work out my thoughts and make lists, but I find that running with a group encourages me to set goals, enter races, and set a bit of a fire under my spirit of competition. I think running is often a mental game. You have to be both.”
In more than two decades of running, Sloan has had her fair share of epic wins and fails.
“ Epic wins are anytime that I improve my times. Until my ego was seriously checked by two terrible marathons, I would not have thought I had any real fails. My times have kept improving with age,” she says.
“However, in 2012, I signed up for the Boston Marathon while still pregnant with my second child. He was five months old on race day and I was breast feeding. It was 90 degrees on the start line, and it never occurred to me that I was not going to set a personal best. I fell apart at mile 13. It took me an hour and 20 minutes longer than I expected, and I missed my breast feeding time. I walked across the finish line in pain, and my husband met me with the baby at a bar to breastfeed. This is beside the point, but I had laid out a super-cute post race outfit for the baby to wear, so that my husband could change him into it before he met me, and I could be fabulous with a great baby and a great race. My husband totally ignored my outfit choice and when I staggered (on the verge of tears) into the bar after the race to meet he and the rest of my running group, he was holding the baby like a football while drinking a beer and the baby was wearing a dirty onesy. Lesson learned and ego crushed on several levels.”
Later that year, Sloan tried to redeem the Boston debacle at the Huntsville Marathon. Unfortunately, she encountered another tough day. “I had the worst stomach day ever. I had to call my husband from a policeman's phone at mile 20, because I made the choice that I was uncomfortable pooping in front of a crowd of people while I ran. The choice had to be made, and I made the right one for me,” she says. “I learned a lot from those two marathons. It is so soul crushing to train hard and love the training and tank the race, but wow, do I value my good races now. I know how bad it can get.”
Written by Lou Dzierzak