HomeAging AwesomeMeet Marla Sweeney, the 72-year-old Runner

Meet Marla Sweeney, the 72-year-old Runner

Sweeney, 72, just competed in (and finished) the Spartan World Championship Race in Lake Tahoe.

Many people would look at the number 70 as an age and think that’s when you should slow down. It’s time to take it easy, be extra careful with your body, and don’t try anything “crazy.”

Not Marla Sweeney.

Sweeney, 72, just competed in (and finished) the Spartan World Championship Race in Lake Tahoe. The Spartan is comprised of a variety of obstacle course racing events. Not only that, but Sweeney soon will have competed in 23 such races in just 24 months! The most amazing part: Sweeney didn’t start racing until she was 70.

She admits that after having kids and grandkids, she settled down a little too much and spent a lot of time on the couch. Though she had done some trail running near her house, in recent years she had gotten lax. Her son then became full-tilt addicted to obstacle course racing and Sweeney went to several of his events as a spectator. She says she kept thinking, “I can do that; that wouldn’t be too bad.”

I can do that;  that wouldn’t be too bad.

Sweeney began training by doing what she calls her “granny trot” on the rocky jeep trails around the mountains near her home. She continued to work out and run outside partially because she enjoyed it so much but partially because she couldn’t afford a gym membership. Then she found out about Medicare’s Silver Sneakers program, which gives seniors a free gym membership. Though she still ran trails, she began to regularly work out in her gym as well. Sweeney said she focused mainly on leg strength and learning to control her breathing.

In February of 2016, Sweeney committed to her first obstacle course race at one of the Spartan races. She was hooked.

At this most recent Spartan World Championship, Sweeney ran what is called “The Beast” which is 16.7 miles with over 5,000 feet of climbing. She was not able to do the swim section of the race because she has an artificial neck made of titanium and she has osteoarthritis. So instead she did 90 burpees at 9,000 feet of elevation.

An automobile accident 10 years ago left her with major injuries, but she hasn’t let any of that stop her.

I push my body. I have some physical limitations, but that’s ok.

In fact, she uses those limitations to encourage others with physical disabilities or injuries. Sweeney tells people that if there’s something they can’t physically do because of a disability, find a different activity they CAN do. Her encouragement is simply to take one step at a time and not give up trying.

Sweeney’s philosophy is that it doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest or you can only walk–what matters is that you try and keep trying. It’s not ok, in Sweeney’s thinking, to use pain and physical limitations as excuses to not do anything. She firmly believes everyone can get out there!