A Step Ahead

Award-winning runner Anne Audain advocates fitness for ‘all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities’

Famed New Zealand middle- and long-distance runner Anne Audain knows a thing or two about fitness. Born with cleft feet that were corrected with surgery at age 14, she recovered by running and went on to set a 1982 world record in the 5000 meters, compete in three Olympic Games and four Commonwealth Games, and earn several Hall of Fame inductions.

By the 1990s, Audain had moved to Boulder, Colorado, then to Boise, Idaho, where her love of health and fitness led her to create the Idaho Women’s Celebration 5K. Now in its 20th year and called FitOne Boise, the race has attracted up to 17,000 participants.

Now retired in Evansville, where she has lived since 1997 with husband and fellow running enthusiast Chuck Whobrey, Audain channels her passion for fitness into advocating for community-minded movement.

Q: How did running improve your overall health?

A: I’d suffered really bad migraines as a kid to the point where I’d have to take days off from school, or my mum would come and pick me up from the sick bay. I’d get double vision and know a migraine was coming.

The stress of my feet and the teasing at school (caused) the migraines. … The moment I found my freedom to be a runner and was out there set free … all the shackles came off. I’ve never had a headache since.

Q: What have you observed about Americans’ overall health and fitness?

A: I think that’s a state-by-state situation. … Look at where all the world elites come to be on the American circuit, it’s Boulder, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona, Eugene, Oregon … because everybody is outdoors and they’ve got the environment to get outdoors and exercise.

Provided by Anne Audain

I’ll tell you how I built that event out in Boise to 17,000 women and children … I’d say to these ladies who were very overweight, “The only difference between me and you is I’ve got a genetic gift. And what I needed to make that genetic gift work for me, I had to be committed, disciplined, focused, (and) healthy. What I put into my body had to treat my body as a Mercedes and not a pickup truck. … You’ve just got to have the same mentality.”

And I wanted to prove that all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities could do a 5K. … If you went out and walked a 5K three or four times a week, your whole life would be so much better. Running and walking is the most cost-effective health care that a person can have. All you need is a pair of shoes and the environment.

Q: What does retirement look like for you?

A: I do my exercise first every morning. I read a lot, I work out- doors. I’ve got a huge yard, and I love gardening. I run every day (but) I can’t run a hundred meters now at the pace that I used to be able to do a full marathon. That’s just the aging process. … People say, “You can’t run like you used to.” Of course I can’t. (Laughs) It’s just a talent that you wear out. … I know a lot of athletes have a really hard time with that, and I just never have. I just know how to stay fit and healthy.

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