Betty-Jean McHugh – Breaking the Boundaries

Betty-Jean – or B.J. – McHugh celebrated her 57th wedding anniversary in an unconventional manner: by running a half-marathon.  She would have done a full marathon, but she had already done three of those in the preceding six months.  McHugh, 81, does not just defy aging, she has declared it obsolete.  She runs four days per week usually at 5:45 am, and when she is not running she cycles, practices yoga, and weight trains at the gym.  Along the way, she has picked up more than a dozen Canadian and world records, including the fastest marathons for women ages 75 and 80.  Some of the women she trains with are half her age.

McHugh started running when she was 55 to pass the time while her daughter, a competitive swimmer, trained at the pool.  She ran a 10k and then did her first marathon.  “I thought, ‘I’ll never do another one.  I just have to get it out of my system.’”  However, she was hooked and has since run 14 marathons in addition to countless other races of varying distances.  A running partner says of McHugh, “She never complains.  She’s bright and cherry and positive.  She has a big breakfast every morning.  She likes to read for an hour each day.  She makes everything from scratch.”

Although McHugh waxes philosophical by saying that her staying power is probably due to good luck and genetics, she says that always setting goals has helped tremendously.  “I just always had a goal, something I wanted to do.  You can always do something.  Go to a gym or walk.  You don’t need to run.” This retired nurse can inspire the rest of us on what staying active, having goals, and a bit of good luck might bring.