Mary Kaplan, a retired Air Force nurse living in Sunrise Beach Village (around Lake Johnson in Llano County) joined the Texas Beef Team just barely a year ago, in January 2022. However, she’s not new to running, having started in 1983 at the age of 43. “I took up running out of necessity,” Mary explains. “The fitness exam required annually for my service in the Air Force, stopped allowing walking to fulfill the aerobic activity. A mile run was now required and I thought this might kill me.”
Even Mary’s husband had his concerns, teasing that her running streak would “only last a week.” But it turns out she discovered her passion and was hooked on the sport for the long haul. Today in her eighties, Mary runs over 100 miles a month and has finished 1,768 races in her lifetime. Yes, you read that right and the number is still rising!
Mary also holds a unique running record. She was the first person to run a 5k and win her age group in every single one of the 254 counties in Texas. She accomplished this impressive feat with the help of a few friends. They formed the TX 254 Running Club and organized their own races in the small counties that did not have a currently established 5k. “In doing so,” Mary elaborates, “several of these counties have continued the races annually since we first put them on.”
In addition to her Texas running accomplishments, Mary has also completed a 5k in every U.S. state. She has also competed in nearly every National Senior Games since 1999. It goes without saying, this woman is a role model for active aging and runners of all ages. Have we mentioned she’s almost 84?!
Mary credits so much of her success to her 90-something year old husband, Hal. “He goes to every race with me, takes pictures, handles logistics, and cheers me on,” she explains. “The staff from the race timing company always notice Hal and a couple of years ago, one shouted out ‘Bye Mary and bye BEST husband’ as we were leaving. Since that title is very accurate, I had ‘Best Husband’ embroidered on the back of a sweatshirt which gets him many comments when we are out and about.”
Mary was encouraged to join the Texas Beef Team by her running friend, Daniel Brown, a member from Abilene. During her first year on the team, she says our hard-to-miss presence at races and overall friendliness are her favorite memories. Mary reports she’s learned more about the health benefits of beef for athletes and uses this knowledge to make supportive choices for her training diet – Sirloin Steak and BBQ Brisket are her favorite beef dishes.
Read more about this inspiring runner in her own words:
Favorite Races: As an Air Force retiree, the USAF 5k is my favorite race. It’s held outside of Dayton, OH at Wright State University. I have run this race 17 times, only missing the first race and two that were canceled due to weather and Covid. I also am fond of the 5k in Loving County, Texas. This is a county that didn’t have a previous 5k, but my TX 254 Running Club established a race there in the town of Mentone.
Favorite Distance: Definitely the 5k! Over the years, I’ve run the 2k, 5k, 10k and half marathon, but at almost 84 years old, the 5k is far enough!
Motivation & Inspiration: My motivation to run is to continue to be in the best health possible. With that in mind, I keep going! I started running at age 43 and am inspired by all who take up racing in their 50s, 60s or beyond.
Personal Reward for Finishing a Race: Ha, my reward is signing up for another race!
Best Advice Received: I was just told recently, “Keep your eyes up and don’t drag your heels.”
Favorite Running Gear: Saucony running shoes, the only brand I have worn for 40 years.