A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dances with Wolves? Try Running with Bulls!

Running across a pasture in the Flint Hills of Kansas wearing boots and carrying her coffee cup in one hand, Barb Downey is training for the Boston Marathon.

[Above: Barb qualifies for the Boston Marathon by turning in a sub-4:00 time in the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, KS.]

It's safe to say that running wind sprints by chasing yearling bulls across a pasture is not the normal way to train for a marathon. But Barb Downey isn't normal...and I mean that as a compliment! Barb ran the Boilermaker 15K Road Race this past July wearing jean shorts, a cowboy hat and spurs on her running shoes. Ask anybody who knows Barb and they'll tell you Barb is one-of-a-kind, unique, different.

I first met Barb shortly after she completed her first marathon two years ago in Olathe, KS, finishing in an impressive 4:25:56 -- a pace of 10:12/mile. But that's not what impressed me the most when I heard about Barb. What impressed me was learning Barb had recently lost 130 lbs. -- half her weight -- by changing her diet and going from walking or jogging a few miles to running a marathon!

When I asked Barb what prompted her to change her lifestyle so drastically, she pointed to reading the South Beach Diet.
"I knew for a number of years I needed to do something," said Barb. "I tried the Oprah diet of protein shakes and lost weight but ended up regaining it all because I didn't learn about eating right. I was eating no fat and no cholesterol and my blood cholesterol never fell below 225.

After reading the South Beach Diet, I knew it would work for me...eating lots of protein, fruits and vegetables. I'll eat steak on a salad, lettuce roll ups, lots of fruits and vegetables. It's psychologically and physiologically satisfying, helps me control weight and build lean muscle mass. Now my cholesterol is below 200, my bad cholesterol is low and my good cholesterol is up."
Barb says maintaining a healthy weight is a constant battle that she wins by eating right and getting exercise...lots of exercise. And its not always easy. No, it's never easy.
"When we head out to AI (artificially inseminate) the cows in the morning I take my running shoes with me and run home. When we need to drop off a tractor I'll do it and run home rather than having someone follow me in the truck. I run at night in the summertime. I run errands into town with a kid trailer on the back of my bike to haul stuff home in."
So how does a Kansas rancher prepare in the weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon?
"We’ve pretty much finished pasture burning and have been fencing. Calve-out heifers are all delivered and one bull remains to go out west May 1. Yearling bulls are off test, scanned and semen checked so they’ll head out to range as soon as the warm season grasses crank up. Then mature cow AI starts and we need to get all the spring calves worked. In the feedlot, the fall calves are all gone and the springs are rolling along nice. Scanned and sorted those and they look really good especially considering the muddy/snowy protracted winter we had.

Off on Saturday for Boston! I work the health & fitness expo on Sunday then Monday’s the race. I should start around 10:30 eastern time & run for about 4 hours so cheer me on sometime around your mid-day. I’ll need all the support I can get."
To follow Barb's race on Monday simply text the word RUNNER to 31901 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an SMS text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number (Barb's is 20602).* You can also sign up to receive e-mail or test alerts on the Boston Athletic Association website.

*Message and data rates may apply. You will be opted in to receive four messages during the race. Send STOP to quit. Available on participating carriers AT&T, Alltel, Boost, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Virgin.)


  1. Go, Barb, Go! I have enabled the text alerts...so I look forward to following her via text during the Boston Marathon! I am so impressed with her diet and exercise regimen...very impressive lady.

  2. Barb finished Boston in 4:26:45 (10:10/mile). Congratulations Barb!


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