Runner shows no signs of slowing down

Friday, October 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:31 a.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Valerie Lauver is 80 years old and has run all her life. Her face is slightly wrinkled, but she can still cover a mile in seven minutes and is training for the Senior Olympics.

Oh wait, that’s just what she pictures. Lauver is actually 19, can run the mile in five minutes and is training for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Lauver laughs while describing her life plan, almost embarrassed by the fact that — in her words — she is a “running junkie.”

“I can’t imagine ever stopping running,” she says. “My plan is every week to run 7-minute pace.”

At that rate, which is around 9 mph, she could run to Huntsdale in less than an hour and a half.

“From week to week you can’t slow down that much, right? So when I’m 80 years old, even if it’s the fastest I can run, I’m going to run at least a mile at 7-minute pace.”

Her head falls back in laughter again, as if she can’t believe she’s admitting this. “Yeah, I’m going to run the rest of my life.”

Lauver started running the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes in elementary school. By her senior year in high school, she was dashing the hopes of her competitors by winning the two-mile at the Texas state meet and qualifying for the USA World Junior Cross Country Team.

Now a sophomore at MU, Lauver continues her success. She finished second at the 2003 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships and has twice been named the Big 12 Cross Country Runner of the Week.

These achievements, though, aren’t the real reason she runs. “I actually like it,” Lauver says through a short laugh.

Well, she must; she runs more than 70 miles each week. If Lauver were a car, she would have to change her oil every 10 months.

Some days she motors through a solitary 4-mile morning run, goes to class, breaks for some food and goes to afternoon practice, where she’ll run eight to 10 miles. She showers and studies until she parks herself in bed by 11 p.m. Don’t complain to Lauver about not having time to exercise.

This dedication allows her to cover 5,000 meters — 3.1 miles — in 16 minutes and 56 seconds. That’s 5:27 minutes per mile.

Occasionally, running year-round can drain her motivation. When this happens, she’ll tell herself to only run a mile. Once out there, however, she finds it easy to keep going.

Most of the time, Lauver is fueled by the possibility of a great run.

“I was doing a long run about two weeks ago,” she says with no giggle this time, “And it was one of those days where everything was clicking good, and it was in the morning and no one was on the trail.”

No sign of the giggle here, either — Lauver’s tone is pure reverence. While most people wouldn’t enjoy galloping through Columbia half as far as she does, Lauver stares at the wall entranced by the memory of her favorite 14-mile run.

Most runners can’t cover three miles in less than 5:30 minutes per mile. And most runners don’t run, or even drive, 70 miles a week. Despite the enjoyment of being speedier than most, Lauver still believes she has the same sensations as any other runner.

“Yeah, sometimes I enjoy passing guys on the (MKT) trail,” she says. “But when it’s cold, and I see other runners on the trail, I think, ‘Ah, other people are doing this, too.’ They feel that same accomplishment I do when they finish.”

Then, in pure Martha Stewart fashion, she says, “It’s a very good thing,” and laughs again.

Once a month I will profile someone noteworthy in hopes of inspiring people to reach their fitness and nutrition goals.

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