Veteran Amsterdam marathoner, 83, outruns old age
AMSTERDAM At 83 years old, Regina Tumidajewicz runs more road races than runners half her age.
“No, a quarter of her age,” her son Chet Tumidajewicz said.
Each year, Tumidajewicz runs 45 to 50 races. Since she began running in her 50s, she has run 816 races.
In April, she was the oldest runner in one of running’s most famous races: the Boston Marathon. Of the seven entrants over 80, she was the lone woman. It took her about seven hours to run the marathon’s 26.2 miles.
She likes running Boston because the race is full of top athletes, she said. And she considers herself and son Chet to be top athletes.
In all, Tumidajewicz has completed 52 marathons. Her first marathon was in New York City, which she used to qualify for the Niagara Falls International Marathon. She finished both marathons in under five hours, she said.
Running has taken Tumidajewicz many places: to London and Hawaii and all over the continental United States. She has run the New York City Marathon more than 15 times and Boston seven times.
She trains by running at least seven miles every day, usually in a loop from her Forest Avenue home. The city of Amsterdam, rising up from the Mohawk River, has its share of challenging running hills, and Tumidajewicz has found them ideal for training for the hills she encounters on race days.
She is a petite woman with thin, strong legs, broad shoulders and cropped white hair. She doesn’t like to make a lot of fuss about her accomplishments.
“I just enjoy running,” she said. “The people that run are really great.”
Twice, Running Times Magazine has put her in the top 5 percent of female runners in the 80 to 85 age group.
“She was a pioneer for older women runners,” said her son. “Most of the older runners were always men.”
“Chet always says I’m a young person trapped in an old person’s body,” Regina said.
There is a distinct bond between mother and son. In every race that they run in together, Chet finishes his race and runs back to find his mother so he can cross the finish line again with her.
Mark Warner, president of the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club, said Tumidajewicz has been a member of the club for years. Currently she is the oldest woman, he said.
“It’s amazing to be in your 80s and still be running competitively,” he said. “It’s amazing to be in your 80s and still be in good health.”
Tumidajewicz didn’t start running until she was 54. She was inspired by Chet, who was competing in triathlons and running marathons. It was a new endeavor for Regina, who describes herself as “never overly athletic” before she began running.
She began with short runs around her Amsterdam neighborhood and then began entering races, including the Friehoffer’s Run for Women and other 5Ks. She always finished well and was encouraged by her son to enter more races and run longer distances.
Her persistence has paid off in medals and trophies. In the over-70 age group, Tumidajewicz won the Vermont City Marathon seven years in a row. She has also won 14 gold medals at the Empire State Games.
The level of competition varies from race to race. There are days when Tumidajewicz finds as many as 60 runners in her age division. In other races, there are just a few.
But winning isn’t what is important, she said.
“The idea is that you finish,” she said. “It doesn’t even matter if you come in last.”
Tumidajewicz isn’t immune to injury. At one point, she had to deal with a pulled hamstring and she struggles with another common running injury: plantar fasciitis.”
Despite her passion for running, Tumidajewicz said she realizes it’s not for everyone.
“Either you like it or you don’t,” she said. “If you don’t like it, just stop.”