If you’re running the Carmel Marathon this month and 59-year-old Elaine Green outlasts you on her arthritic knees, don’t feel bad. The Hamilton County resident makes the Energizer Bunny look like an amateur with 165 marathons and ultras (races longer than 26 miles) under her bib.
Green has run 30 long-distance events in Indiana alone, and she was the first Hoosier woman to qualify for the international 100 Marathon Club. Her hometown race on April 12 is her sentimental favorite. It’s where she finished her 100th marathon, in 2012. Her only DNF (“did not finish”) was Pikes Peak, a grueling roundtrip race up and down the 14,115-foot mountain. She missed a cutoff time along the route by just two seconds, requiring her to turn around and backtrack to the start. She put in 22 miles that day.
Four days later, she hiked to the top.
Green wasn’t always hardcore. The stay-at-home mom raised five kids (Green is pictured with daughter Emily, below) and didn’t run a marathon until she was 42. In 1997, after competing in many smaller races for fitness, she challenged herself to run just one 26-miler, in Washington, D.C. After finishing in four hours and 17 minutes, she was hooked.
She didn’t become obsessed, though, until 2009, after a race in New Orleans. There, a young man struck up a conversation. He asked how many marathons she’d completed (20-something). Then he asked in how many states. Her answer was seven. He had run 20 marathons, each in a different state, and was aiming for all 50. Green had never thought of running that way. If I’d done different states, she thought, I’d be halfway to 50.
Covering the map became her new goal. In 2011, she ran 41 marathons around the country. Last year, she became the first Hoosier to have raced in all 50 states twice. It helps that one son works for a commercial airline: She flies for free.
Green has run 4,238.6 miles—not counting the six marathons she has signed up for already this year. Crazy? You bet. Green says she’s showing her kids that you’re never too old to meet a challenge. But this pursuit is also for her. Growing up, she didn’t find a sport to compete in. “We had P.E., and that was it,” she says. “I almost feel like I’m reliving my youth.” The hardware she gets for finishing a marathon—like the 3.5-pound medal she took home from Texas recently—doesn’t hurt. (Typically, marathons give medals to the entire field, unlike shorter races.)
How about aiming to become the first 100-year-old woman to complete a marathon? “No,” she laughs. “I have a fairly new role of being a grandmother.”
But odds are that won’t stop Green—not when there are things like baby joggers.
Top photo by Tony Valainis; inset photo with daughter Emily courtesy Elaine Green
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue.