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December 02, 2020
New Book on Women's Masters Running
Cathy Utzschneider of Liberty AC authors "High Performance in Midlife and Beyond" for masters women
High Performance in Midlife and Beyond
" by Liberty AC's Cathy Utzschneider
’s third book "
High Performance in Midlife and Beyond: Champion Masters Women Runners and Other Experts
" was released in November. It's the first to be written solely on the development of and training for women’s masters running and has been met with praise from elite athletes and coaches such as Bill Rodgers, Deena Kastor, and Joe Maloy.
While most runners start training in high school, Utzschneider has only known the masters division. Growing up in a town without a cross country or track team, she focused on tennis and squash in high school and at Middlebury College, where she majored in English. It wasn’t until after she had kids that she got into running. Between her job and her responsibilities as a mother, it became difficult to organize tennis matches, so at age 40, she turned to running instead.
More than just a runner, Utzschneider has worked in all aspects of the sport. Aside from her own training, she has spent over 13 years as a coach for Liberty Athletic Club and the Suburban Striders, and she has worked as a columnist for National Masters News since 2005. Utzschneider says that the different aspects from which she views the sport all inform each other.
“I’ve learned about coaching from my own running, from coaching others in my practice, MOVE!, and from teaching High Performance for 15 years to coaches and athletes at Boston College. I’ve also learned a lot from interviewing masters athletes and experts on performance as a columnist for National Masters News. All of these kind of roll into a ball that is me,” Utzschneider said.
Utzschneider’s athletes are all ages and levels. Some of them started young and became Olympic and collegiate athletes. She’s helped Boston College athletes with cross-training and goal-setting. She’s coached beginners to elite masters athletes.
“I enjoy coaching all levels of women, really, including beginners. It’s fun to help them see what’s possible,” Utzschneider said.
Many of the athletes Utzschneider has coached have asked for stories of role models. These requests are the primary reason she chose to write "High Performance in Midlife and Beyond".
“Masters training can be challenging because everyone’s life is different from their forties… their jobs, their family situations, their athletic histories are different. They want to find their unique path. I’ve done over 200 interviews and articles on women, so telling these 39 stories and sorting them into themes help these women find a path,” Utzschneider said. “They might have something in common with one woman but not another because these women are so varied… Experience counts. The individual nature of masters is one reason the book lends itself to profiles as opposed to generalizations.”
The other main reason relates to Utzschneider’s work as a professor on high performance and sports leadership at Boston College. She has found that most of the books on high-performance are focused on younger athletes and men, with very few focused on women over 40 looking to compete.
Yet, "High Performance in Midlife and Beyond" is not only for women masters runners. The themes in the book apply to all runners, answering the challenges of being overwhelmed with many responsibilities, themes that can apply to men and even non-runners.
All athletes need hope to achieve their goals throughout their lifespan. Stories in the book tell how runners prevailed after having been told they could never run again. “One woman hated running but started to love it at 37 and became an Olympic Trials marathoner. One Olympic Trials sprinter took a 35-year break from running before becoming a sprinter again,” Utzschneider said.
Utzschneider is no stranger to hearing that she wouldn’t be able to run again. She has been told numerous times that she needed to stop, most recently after her fourth orthopedic surgeon told her she couldn’t run because of the arthritis in her left knee. Over the last seven years, she has often been unable to run, having to take an accumulated three years off completely. Instead of giving up, Utzschneider moved to the pool.
Strength training and water running had always been a part of Utzschneider’s training, so swimming seemed like a natural substitute. She became successful in both swim races and the aquathlon, taking first in the national championships and taking the bronze at the 2017 World Championships in Canada.
After another fifteen months off from running, she returned to the track for a 1500m race in Louisiana in October of this year. She finished in 6:15, an age-graded result of 91%, despite not having raced that distance in 20 years. The time was the fastest in the country for her age group and fourth in the world in 2020 so far.
When asked what she wants readers to take away from her book, Utzschneider said that she wants it to give them hope.
“One woman who had cancer came back and ran well. Another with five kids has won triathlons. Someone who is a psychiatrist with 4 kids, has a big job, and does community work, has set world records. Someone who started running at 60 eventually won all kinds of championships. Five women from New England are in this. “Becky Connolly, Mary Harada, Carrie Parsi, Jan Holmquist, and Sharon Vos – wonderful women, fabulous role models,” Utzschneider said.
The foreword of "High Performance in Midlife and Beyond" is written by Olympic distance runner Molly Huddle, who was connected to Utzschneider through a mutual friend, University of Massachusetts track and field coach Tim Ritchie. Once they started talking, Utzschneider learned that Huddle was writing her own book on the transition from collegiate to professional running, slated to release in 2022.
Cathy Utzschneider says this book would not be possible without the support of Amanda Scotti, the publisher of National Masters News. She also thanks Dave Albo and Rob Jerome for their outstanding photography. And she’s grateful to Molly Huddle, Boston College – deans, program directors, and coaches – and to all the athletes in the book and to all those she’s coached. “The book is dedicated to everyone who strives,” she said.
"High Performance in Midlife and Beyond" is Utzschneider’s third book, following her releases of "Mastering Running" and "MOVE!: How Women Can Achieve Athletic Goals At Any Age".