Posted On June 1, 2006 By In Interviews And 886 Views

Kathy Norman: Not the Norm

It is the heart that defines the person. But for this athlete and artist, is also her art that defines who she is, really.

Yes, Kathy Norman has done 5K’s, marathons, century bike rides, and even the Ironman Triathlon. But it’s her art that both drives her and keeps her thinking.

Her sculptures of runners and cyclists (she’s yet to do a swimmer) are considered some of her best work. But besides athletes, her art also includes Texas themes such as cowboys, coyotes, and cactus. All of her characters are gritty and earthy, which may represent this west Texas native’s birth place. Pictures of her sculptures are at

She talks with a slight Texas twang, using colloquialisms such as “gal” and “tell you what.” Straight forward, no frills. She’s a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. Her friends admire her spunk and attitude. “She is such a great friend,” NANCY LOWDEN says, who has known Kathy since 1989. “We had both recently moved to Dallas and met at the Lake Highlands track.  We were there doing our separate speed workouts. I approached her and said it would be a lot easier if we did the speed workouts together. Thus began our friendship. We have run, swum and biked together ever since. She has the habit of sandbagging at the beginning of our workouts.  She then shows her stuff at the end, soundly beating my time,” Lowden says with a smile.

JANALOU PHELAN is also a good friend of Kathy’s. “One of the things I like most about Kathy is her enthusiasm.  She always wants to know how YOU’RE doing and how YOUR workouts are going.  She is one of the best encouragers I know…at Tuesday Night Track workouts she yells and cheers for you to “keep going” and “you can catch” whoever happens to be in front of you…she does this even if you happen to pass her up in the process! I also like her sense of humor, which I describe as dry with a hint of sarcasm…many times she’s making light about herself more than anything. But most of all I like Kathy’s friendliness…she is light hearted, fun, and makes you feel good about yourself…she seems to always have a compliment or word of encouragement…and that’s what makes a good friend.”

Talkative, creative, encouraging, and competitive are some of the things they say about her. That’s Kathy Norman. She will jokingly tell you she hates skinny runners, but encourages anyone having a rough time of it during a training session or race.

Deep inside, she feels she’s a kid at heart, because she so enjoys reading works by the author J. K. Rowlings. She is also conscientious, wanting to “at least play a small part in making this world a better place than I found it.”

Kathy Holman was born in El Paso, December 17, 1963. She has three cats, two dogs, one husband (“All by accident!”), no kids, and a half sister that she didn’t meet until she was 19.

Of the couple, husband MARK is the quiet one. Kathy always has an opinion, though usually funny, even though she was voted the shyest girl in high school. As an adult, she is not without her opinions on just about everything from Church’s Chicken and Oreo’s (her favorite food), to city, state, national, and world politics, and sports. Her friends encourage her thoughts for their entertainment value; they love to see Kathy riled up, spewing venom on a culture she feels is dominated by males and football. But she laughs at herself as well.

On fast runners: “I wish they had handicapped divisions in races where they would strap all those skinny runners with 20lb weights on their legs to give the other runners a chance; the rest of us who have not been blessed without a natural 20lbs and fast. Just joking. I’m just a little envious of those little, flying gazelles.”

On her nutrition: “Yike! You really want me to tell you that? My diet is the John Belushi diet minus the drugs and cigarettes.” Seriously: “My goal is to clean up my diet and use common sense in my choices. You know, the whole grain and veggie thing that we all should adapt to. I know when training and racing, especially during the hottest part of the year, my body always performs better when I stay away from anything saturated in fat or sugar.”

Kathy grew up in Houston as an only child, in fear of the dark after seeing the movie “The Exorcist” as a kid. Her creativity and athleticism both got an early start. Kathy says she loved horses and drawing them, especially during math class, which explains why Mark does the financial books at their house. In 8th grade she got a gold medal for a watercolor painting. As a junior in high school, she was honored for her first sculpture, and as a senior, won another gold medal and a scholarship for a summer art program in Houston. Although she was out-running the boys during her 5th and 6th grades, she got in to horses as a young child and got into barrel racing as a teenager, winning awards at local events up until she was 24.

Kathy went to C.E. King High School in Houston. Her dad was an auditor for the former Southern Pacific Railroad, while mom was a combination of business women/stay at home mom. “She did everything from raising and selling dogs to running a boarding stable,” Kathy says. Growing up she also loved roller skating, swimming, and went to the movies often. But the artist inside was still developing, too.

Before graduating however, Kathy began running in 1983. (Biking and swimming wouldn’t come for a few more years, until 1987.) She started running out in the pasture for fun. Her mom was a little concerned. Her first race inspired her “for life” as she says. It was the Finger Furniture Store 15K, September 1983, in Houston. “I won my age group and a year subscription to a running magazine. That was the first race that got me hooked on running for life and made me realize I was capable of doing something athletic.”

After graduating with a degree in drafting in 1985, she went to work in the arts.

Meanwhile, Kathy was winning her age group in local races. At this point she was running seven days a week, usually around Memorial Park in Houston, and racing about once a month. “I was addicted to running,” she says. She began running up to 60 miles a week and eventually did The Houston Marathon (1986 – 3:37; 1987 – 3:45) “Back in the days of my crazy youth when I thought I was bionic, [I] ran every single day, even the day after I did my first marathon.” She also was beginning to understand nutrition a little better. Right before a 10K race she would have a big Hershey chocolate bar for energy. Kathy continued to run. One of her favorite diets she admits was “the scarf, run, and barf diet,” where she used to eat Blue Bell Cookies and Cream ice cream and then go run. “The reason why I got in to running in the first place was to weigh less and eat more.”

Working out means “health and mental stability” to Kathy. “During training, especially if it is a cool crisp morning, I get a lot of inspiration for new ideas, resolving problems and to just ‘de-stress.’” She was inspired to keep exercising because of “family health problems. Especially dealing with obesity, which is a plague that my family and I struggle with each day.” She must use positive self talk to keep going. Usually her self talk is not so positive. “I am pathetic,” is what Kathy says comes to mind when training or racing. “I used to think about what time I want to finish in and how many people I need to pass or hang on to during the competition. Now my attitude is, ‘When is this going to end?’ and ‘Will there be any goodies still left at the finish line?’”

She says she began doing triathlons when she was 23, in 1987, after “watching Mark competing in a triathlon on one of our hot dates, before we were married.” She considers him her biggest influence and her best friend. Kathy considers her marriage “to a terrific guy” one of her greatest accomplish-ments.

Kathy met her future husband, Mark, through a blind meeting on July 4 at the Bay Town Heat Wave, a race. It was their first date. Kathy remembers. “I didn’t get home ‘til 11 o’clock that night.” Mark worked as a geologist at the same company as her brother-in-law. When she first saw Mark in a pair of running shorts for the first time, she thought, “This guy’s got some prospects. He was the only guy I could take out on the run.”  At the time, Mark was training for an Ironman distance triathlon. They continued to date.  “Our dates were watching Mark eat! I was trying to be lady-like, thinking I would eat like a bird. I’d get home a scarf everything at home.” Kathy was still learning, but was also falling for Mark.

“The moment I wanted to marry this man is when he bought me a red racing bike for a Valentine present.” Flowers and chocolates wouldn’t do, Mark laughs. It was a sign of true love from Mark on Valentine’s Day 1988.

“He inspired me to do something other than run.” Kathy started biking and swimming, though she was already swimming once a week. She did her 1st triathlon at the La Port Triathlon in ’88. She took 3rd in her age group. “It was there I learned to wear a Speedo suit.” In Sept ’88, she did the Houston Coors Light “Biathlon,” she emphasizes, and took 3rd in her age group.

Mark proposed in that same September after he did a triathlon in Conroe, TX. Kathy was injured at the time. He dragged Kathy to the top of a mountain in New Mexico for an overnight as a test. They were married October 29 of 1988. For their honeymoon, Kathy “dragged him through every art gallery in New Mexico.” The next day, Mark took Kathy up to Taos to hike Wheeler’s Peak. “It was revenge for the day before,” she says. “My quads are hurting, and its getting colder. We had lunch at the top, a lunch of trail mix in 20 mph winds.” In December of 1988, Mark was transferred to Dallas.

Kathy had her first art show in 1990 in Prescott, AZ.  In 1992, she won The Chamber of Commerce Award for a show in Oklahoma City for a sculpture. (It now rests in Ben E. Keith Beers, a Budweiser distributor.) Then she has since been featured in Western Horseman Magazine for her work. In the art world, Kathy says “I wish people were judged on character and by their works.” She feels that “women can be accomplished artists just like guys, despite the Cowboy Artist of America condemning women artists.”

Continually juggling between artist and athlete, in 1993, Kathy and Mark did the Waco Striders Triathlon as a mixed team and won first. In 1994, Kathy was featured in a Sporting Classics magazine with an article and pictures of her sculptures. Then, in November 1996, she was commissioned to do a sculpture for JOE MORGAN, an ESPN announcer, former second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Morgan was thought to have grown up in Bonham, TX.) She did a couple sculptures of him, where he is at one of his famous double plays.

Her favorite triathlon was Louisiana’s Crawfish Triathlon, because everyone “Got to eat the boiled spicy crawfish after a good race.” Of the three sports, she says she is best at cycling and enjoys it the most. “It is a rush and it requires brute strength which runners lack because they could never catch me until I was on the run.” As a result, she enjoys doing bike rallies. “They have some of the most interesting aid stations. One memorable aid station was serving fresh ice cold plums on a hot day while listening to a bad Elvis Impersonator singing like Tom Jones.”

She tells stories of great adventures. On the April 3 Easter Tour in Kerrville (the same ride where KEITH HESTER crashed and slid for many feet), CARLA SOTTOVIA, RHONDA GRUBB, and Kathy were planning on the 100-mile ride. But, they ended up with a over 110 miles and hitchhiking to get back.  So desperate were they that they went to a motorcycle biker bar and got two ladies in a pickup truck to get them back to the start/finish line. Kathy says the course was not marked well.

Kathy’s PR’s are: 5K 20:58, 10K 44:55, marathon 3:37, Ironman 15:46. In 1998, she did Lubbock’s Buffalo Springs Half Ironman Triathlon in six hours, 20 minutes. Her best placing was third overall in 1992’s Tri-Guys Triathlon behind ANN DANNIS and CAROLINE SMITH.

Her favorite races are the Rockledge off-road trail run, “with Starbucks coffee;” The Boulder Ironman, “friendly and supportive volunteers, and great scenery;” and Buffalo Springs Half Ironman Triathlon, “just for the great challenge.” She adds, “My favorite racing moments are the last three miles of my first marathon and Ironman. Especially the Ironman, when I knew I was going to accomplish my goal of finishing. The aches, pain, and exhaustion just went away and were replaced with euphoric feelings of joy. This may sound strange but, my favorite moments always involve getting caught in bad weather with my training buddies or being roped by Mark into some his crazy vacation adventures like mountain biking on trails that a goat would not even venture onto.”

Her training is straight forward, just as expected: three days of running, three days of biking. “I try to do a combination of short, medium and long workouts on both the bike and run. Thanks to my friend Nancy Lowden, we meet twice a month for swimming, weights and breakfast.”

She doesn’t have any race plans for 2006. “Only plans right now involve maintenance workouts and praying nothing breaks down on me. Hope to do some more Half Iroman triathlons or any long distance stuff. Maybe try to sweet-talk my hubby into doing a long bike tour somewhere with great mountain scenery.”

Kathy thinks the competition at races “could be better,” but the level of competition in Dallas is “Pretty strong, at least in my age group. Something I enjoy seeing is the growth of female competitors over a 20 year span.” But, she says, the area “needs more race directors, organizations, willing to step up to the plate and take the abuse to be able to bring more races into the area.” Kathy likes the friends she has met through swimming, biking, and running. But, “It would be nice if we could have someone to do bike and swim intervals, like TNT. I like the people, the friendliness. It is nice to have friends to train with. I have met a lot of friends though interval training,” she says, but “Nancy Lowden and Eileen Perry are her close friends.”

Though she considers “making friends with some of the most inspiring and interesting people, runners and triathletes” as another one of her great accomplishments, Kathy also feels the areas support of athletes and races is “Bleak. This city was rated in Top 10 as one of the most obese in the nation. That in a nutshell explains the city’s general attitude towards health and fitness. Jerry Jones,” she says, “Probably thinks he just signed up some football player out of Hawaii,” if the term the Ironman was brought up. “Because in his limited mind only a football player can be an Ironman.”

Her goals revolve around her art. She would like to “gain respect and recognition as an artist. I want to make a living at what I enjoy. Creating something out of a lump of clay that is beautiful and has meaning,” gives her great joy as well. Presently, FRANCIS MCKISSICK is her muse, hoping to begin a sculpture of Dallas’ Queen of Running, soon.

“Sometimes I get an idea from music or other people. I get inspired from the craziest of places. Nature programs, watching wildlife, a runner, or a photo. Sometimes I get an idea during a run. Sometimes from another artist,” Kathy says.

An “A” for Kathy Norman, Athlete and Artist.

Chris Phelan has written, laid out, photographed, and published The Phast Times News since 2001. He’s crisscrossed Texas on his bike three times, swam 5 miles across Lake Ray Hubbard three times, completed three Ironman triathlons, and has represented the US in completion three times, and run with the Olympic Torch. He maintained All-American status for five years and has also biked across the country, 3600 miles in 30 days. The running/triathlon coach has PR’s of 2:27 marathon, 15:40 5K, 3:55 at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and 10:00:52 Ironman. Chris is the only person to have won overall and Master’s at Dallas’ Crosson Dannis road racing series, DRC road racing series, and the USAT/SMW duathlon series. In 1988 he began Dallas’ oldest track workout, 1998 started north Texas’ first treadmill class, and 2003 he founded the world-wide Ride Of Silence. He’s been twice nominated Master’s Road Runner of the Year, highlighted in a variety of magazines and is frequently asked to speak at camps and organizations about fitness. Outside of swimming, biking, and running, Chris has summited several mountains including Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.