Athlete of the week: Kim Russel-Brooks

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Local runner Kim Russel-Brooks, who recently completed the Boston Marathon, says she has always enjoyed running, but at one time did it only on a sport team or if she was being chased.

That changed when, in university, Russel-Brooks would watch her sister, who had one leg shorter than the other, run and figured if her sister could overcome that challenge than she could run as well. The two began running together in the evenings but only around their neighbourhood since she didn’t want anyone to see her running in public because at that time running was rare and considered odd, she says.

After moving to Huntsville more than 35 years ago, Russel-Brooks stopped running for about 11 years as she was raising her young children. But once they were old enough, she began again and has been running for the past 20 years.

With it being common to see people running all over Huntsville, Russel-Brooks felt comfortable enough to pursue a more competitive turn with her sport. She ran her very first marathon when she was 54 and made a personal goal once she turned 60 to train for the annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

“After I went home, I discovered that I had come in second in my age category and also that I had qualified for Boston,” she says. The Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time to enter. “The times are age-graded, so thankfully, I got older before I got slower! Age has its perks.”

The most recent Boston Marathon was held on April 15, 2019, and Russel-Brooks felt strong enough to run with some of her MARS teammates.

“I was hoping to run the marathon in under four hours. At Boston I finished in 4:03. It was my fastest marathon so far, but the under four hours time has eluded me,” she says.

While running the Boston Marathon, Russel-Brooks was thrilled to see and hear the cheering crowds that lined the streets along the route to encourage the runners. “I also had a handful of my own supporters there—my partner, Erwin, and my brother and his family who had driven up from Connecticut—and their cheers gave me a huge lift.”

Russel-Brooks says she runs because “it’s an excellent activity for physical and mental health. A great stress reliever. Gets me outside in all weather, enjoying the beauty of nature. It’s a kind of anti-ager for many of the body’s vital organs and muscles. It’s inexpensive—all you need is a pair of shoes and some loose clothing.”

Since joining the Muskoka Algonquin Runners, running has been an inspiring thing for Russell-Brooks. “The coach and mentor of the group, Pierre Mikhail, is a very knowledgeable and dedicated coach. He has brought together so many experienced, enthusiastic, and supportive runners. Many of these runners are truly elite. The rest of us do our best. Following the workouts set by Pierre, everyone, elite and enthusiasts, work toward improvement and enjoy the fun of running, and even suffering, together,” she says.

Russell-Brooks wasn’t the only MARS member from Huntsville that ran the Boston Marathon. Katelin Barkey, Doug Neudorf, Jeramie Carbonaro, and Jane Wolfe all trained through the rough and wicked winter weather to be ready for the race in April.

Russell-Brooks says that those endless circuits around the Canada Summit Centre track and the training runs on ice, in the cold rain, and in temperatures of minus 25 will remain a memorable part of her experience. “Maybe Huntsville weather helped to make us ‘Boston Strong’.”

Russell-Brooks would like to continue running for the joy of it to the age of 70, and perhaps beyond.

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