Monday, August 12, 2013

Maria Shields, Davisonville Marathoner

Interview by Amanda Long
This is how it all started: I started running maybe three or four miles around the neighborhood, just for fun, three or four times a week. My neighbor, who would run with me, said, “You’re marathon material.” I said the natural response to that: “No way, you’re crazy.” My first marathon was when I was 45. I was hooked. Since then, I’ve ran, oh, I don’t
even know, 30 marathons.
I run by goals. I do everything by goals. Right now, I’m looking at the windows behind you and thinking: This week, I have to wash those windows. I won’t stop thinking about those windows until they’re clean. I came to the United States [from Portugal] when I was 16. My mom put me to work: housekeeping work in a hospital. And I started thinking, I got to do something better than this. So from there, I go into medical record-keeping — a big step up. And then I went to work for an optometrist as an assistant, and that’s where I met my husband — goal, goal, goal. So being driven is part of who I am. So far, I’ve met all my goals.
I set a goal to run 50 miles when I turned 50. I did the JFK 50, and that went fantastic. Afterwards, I thought: Okay, I did that. I’ll go back to my normal running — well, normal for me — more marathons, back on the road. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the trails. The peace you have when you are running, the beauty you see. It’s everything. People who don’t run on trails don’t know what they’re missing. I don’t have kids. I’m retired, and my husband thinks I’m crazy but loves that I’m crazy about running and is so proud of me. So why not disappear into the woods?
My goal for the first 100-miler was to do it. My goal for the next one was to break the record, in my age group, of 22:15. When I realized I was on pace to break the record, I set a new goal for myself and ran it in 21:32. I was 35th overall of 263 people! During this last 100-miler, I just ran the way I felt, and I felt great. People tell me that I never stopped smiling.
This was never my big plan, but now it’s my passion. Running came into my life when I needed it. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t take me away from my life; it’s part of it. I have an amazing ability to focus and compartmentalize. Four days after my race, my husband went into the hospital for open-heart surgery. I was there 24-7. I’m very devoted to him. My focus was my husband. I didn’t run for three weeks. I never thought: I should be running.I knew it would be there when I came back. And I always come back.

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