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In River Run and other races, 80-year-old athlete sees way to stay fit

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 30, 2013, at 10:06 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, May 31, 2013, at 7:36 a.m.

Running at a little faster than a 12-minute-mile pace at the Kansas Health Foundation River Run 10K is none too shabby.

But for Newton’s Rita Sadowski, 80, it’s still not good enough.

“I’d better be able to do it under an hour and 20,” Sadowski said. “If I don’t come in good, it would kill me.”

Sadowski, who says she has a T-shirt from every River Run since 1984, has run the 10K 19 of those 29 years. She said she runs it in addition to other area races every year to stay in shape.

“It’s a health thing for me,” she said. “When you run, you’re healthy.

“It’s the greatest health thing you can do.”

Last year she took first in the 75-and-over female master’s division with a time of 1:16:45. Once age-grading formulas are mixed in, that equates to 31st place in the women’s category.

Sadowski said she trains Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays every week, though she has taken this week off in preparation for Saturday’s River Run.

This year, she’s going to have a little more support as well.

Her daughter, Gina Crowley, of Charleston, S.C., and Crowley’s nephew from St. Louis are coming to town to run with her.

“We weren’t able to come visit for her birthday, so we all decided to come run with her,” Crowley said. “I’ve been training for a month.”

Crowley, originally from Newton, previously ran the River Run two-mile race in 1992 – on her wedding day. She also has run the 10K with her mother in the past. She said watching her mother run has inspired her to get back in running shape.

“It’s thanks to my mom,” Crowley said. “My husband’s started running, too. It’s a domino, positive effect.”

While Sadowski said she doesn’t care about how she places anymore, Crowley said when the medals are on the line, her mom doesn’t joke around.

“She still worries about who close to her age group is going to pass her at the end,” Crowley said. “She’s so competitive.”

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com.

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