She’s as sweet as they come. Even when her back is against the wall and she has to say no, it’s with the utmost restraint and politeness anyone can muster. NANCY LOWDEN is a dear friend to have at the starting line, but a fierce competitor out on the course.
“You are kind to offer to do a story on me,” she comes back when a request is made. “Actually, I am not sure I am worthy of your interest.” She makes excuses for her performances and why she shouldn’t be interviewed. “My running skills have continued to deteriorate. There are quite a few other ladies in their 70’s who are faster.”
That sweet Nancy, thinking she’s not deserving and willing to give the spotlight over to another competitor.
She works hard at this craft and hobby (one of many) which is staying fit. The 5’2” (“It is hard to believe I shrank that much.”) whirling dust devil runs and bikes as much as she can whenever she can, despite setbacks such as injuries and bike crashes.
“I’m hoping to improve my running times by getting over to the Lake Highlands track once a week for a speed workout.” It’s part of her weekly plan. “That is the only idea I have to improve my fading run results. However, the weather makes it hard to keep up with a regular schedule.”
The interview for this story was actually started five years ago, August 13, 2010. She was as consistent in her replies and race results then as she is now, giving almost the same answer as she did this second time, five years apart.
“I was surprised you were interested in featuring me in The Phast Times News. I do not consider myself worthy enough. I am pretty sure there are some other women my age who are in better shape than I am. Sorry it took me this long to get back to you. I just did not know how to respond, as I do not consider myself impressive enough to be interviewed.” She said that in 2010.
Back then she wrote, “I have participated the last two years in the DRC Half Marathon training program and again signed up to train for the 2010 DRC Half. I have done the three duathlons at White Rock Lake this year and was happy I improved my time on the third one.”
Still, she doesn’t give herself credit for what she’s still accomplishing after many years of training and racing. She even worries when she misses races.
“Somehow I have not kept up with the dates for the triathlons and have not done any this year. I did do three triathlons at The Cooper Ranch last year. They had to set up a new age group for me. However, I find myself not as disciplined about keeping up with the swim workouts. I am taking yoga flow classes to help with my overall fitness and also do occasional circuit training and extra ab routines.”
When she does do well, the excuses come like a cloud shading over her achievements. But, she remembers her competitors often as most are friends of hers.
“Yes, I finish first in my age group sometimes. However, often that is because there was not anyone else in my age group. I heard from MARY LYNN PATRICK there was a lady from Frisco who beat her by two minutes in the Plano 5K recently. Mary Lynn is in my age group.”
Nancy is as light as air, not dominating a conversation, only the race results. She lets her tenacity do the talking for her out on the race course. She talks purposefully, and with a mild tempo or lilt to her speech.
“I am flying to Raleigh on August 22 to visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Eric is 13, McKenna just turned nine, Sophie is four, and Tori just turned one. It is too hard for all of them to travel to Texas. I will return on August 30.”
We started the interview process back in 2010, but never completed it. It was left to dangle. This story just sat until recently when Nancy appeared in the results column again. It’s not that she ever left, but rather she was being so dang consistent we had to revisit the story and finish the interview.
On January 5 of this year I wrote her, “Sometime ago I asked to do a story on you for The Phast Times News. You might remember it. Though we didn’t finish the questions, I kept what you did. I would like to re-visit this idea with you, again. Would you be interested?”
That’s when she gave us the response written in the second paragraph from the top where she inadvertently repeated herself from five years before.
Nancy Renya Todd is from Rochester, NY, born February 14, 1942, Valentine’s Day. (She’ll be 73 when this issue comes out.) “When I married Scott I dropped my middle name, Reyna. Reyna was my mother’s maiden name.” He mother was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at the age of seven.
“That was when the Mexican revolution was happening and everything her family owned in Mexico was confiscated.” Her grandfather, Juan Reyna, became a professor at Cornell, and lived in Ithaca, NY, until his death at 100. Her grandmother, Delia Larkin, was Irish. Nancy entered into a moderate sized family with four brothers, all older: Frederick, John, David, and James.
Nancy’s dad was a Cornell graduate in mechanical engineer. He went to work for Kodak during WWII. But things changed for the Todd’s when they decided to purchase a fruit farm 30 miles outside of Rochester. They sold it in 1955 unable to handle the cold climate in upstate New York. Mr. Todd went to work for the Newport News Shipbuilding Company. “We lived in Hampton, VA, briefly.” Her mom, Nancy, and a brother moved back up north to Stamford, Conn., with her mom buying and managing rental properties.
Nancy had several addresses during her childhood, from Pultneyville, NY, to Hampton, VA, to Ft. Lauderdale, FL where, “we lived on our boat at Bahia Mar Yacht Basin in the winters for about three yrs.”
During all that, the shy and quiet Nancy met her husband to be (SCOTT LOWDEN) in Stamford, Conn, in 1956 when she was just 13 years old. They were married six years later, September 1, 1962. They have two boys, Scott, Jr., age 43, and Christopher, age 41.
Growing up she liked swimming, ballet, and piano, acting in school plays. She’s an early graduate from Barbizon Modeling School in1958.
“I took ballet through high school. It was quite rigorous. We definitely worked up a sweat. I did it for exercise, mainly. I was not performing.”
She graduated from Stamford High School in 1959 (the same place from which Dallas former mayor, LAURA MILLER, graduated).
“After high school I was registered to attend Sweet Briar College,” a liberal arts women’s college in Sweet Briar, VA, about 12 miles north of Lynchburg in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a current enrollment of 760. “But because Scott and I wanted to get married. I went to secretarial school instead.”
She graduated from the two year program at Katharine Gibbs School in New York City in 1961.
When Scott and I were in Rhode Island from 1969-72 I took some courses at University of Rhode Island to work toward a college degree. I continued taking classes in Charlotte, NC and Central Piedmont Community College. I received my Associate’s in Applied Science (business data processing) degree in 1985. I took courses aiming toward an accounting degree at UT-D for a few years from 1993-95, but did not complete my BA.”
The years floated by as if in a mist. There was home life with a husband and kids, and an active lifestyle, but something wasn’t relieving her stress. “Scott traveled abroad for weeks at a time. Scott, Jr. and Chris would get on my nerves in the evening and I was yelling at them for no real reason.”
She enjoyed watching the Charlotte Marathon when it would run past her home off Carmel Road. “I was excited to watch them.”
And then it happened.
Influenced by GRETA WAITZ (A former world record holder, she became the first woman in history to run the marathon in under 2:30. She also won nine New York City Marathons. Her best marathon was 2:24:54 in 1986, winning London. She died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 57.), and PRISCILLA WELCH (She began running competitively at age 35, and at the age of 43 she won the New York Marathon in 1987 with a 2:30:17.)
“I took up running as a New Year’s resolution in 1979.” She was 37 yrs. old. “I started running as a stress reliever because my husband, Scott, traveled abroad for Korf Industries. Scott was gone for weeks at a time to places like Poland or Brazil. I found it hard not to be irritable with my boys unless I ran. If I did my runs in the afternoons, I found I could get through the evenings without getting upset with the kids. Running has always been a great source of finding friends. I definitely run for the comradery.”
Her first race was the Charlotte Observer 10K, January 1980. She’s never forgotten it.
“I had never run more than 5 miles and I wondered if I would be able to finish. A runner advised me to make sure I did not go out too fast and to hold myself back so I would be able to finish. I held myself back and finished in 52 minutes. I remember after the run I was convinced I could have run faster and was sorry I had been so cautious. I think I waited another year before doing another race.”
In 1981, her second 10K was “quite a bit faster,” she says. Her finish time was 45 minutes, or seven minutes faster than her first 10K. In 1983 at the same race she got a real whiff of success running 43:14 at the age of 39. Her time placed her 5th in her age group. Years later, she achieved her 10K PR of 42:37.
In 1992 at age 50 she earned All-American status as a triathlete. “My PR days were many years ago.” The rest of her PR’s are as follows:
Marathon: 3:51:46, Carolina Marathon, February 20, 1988, Columbia, SC
Half Marathon: 1:38:53, Run for Sight, Cane Creek Park, November 1985, Waxhaw, S.C
(I actually had forgotten that I ran a half that long ago.)
15K: 1:10:54, Autumn Equinox, Dallas – White Rock Lake, Sept. 21, 1991
10 Mile: 1:20:44, CCCD (Cross Country Club of Dallas, now known as the DRC), Oct. 7, 1989
10K: 42:37, Charlotte Observe 10K, January 5, 1985
5K: 20:00, YWCA Easter 5K, March 29, 1986, Charlotte, N.C., at age 44.
“I ran 40:47, my best time for 2014 because I was trying so hard to not let JAMES THRUSTON catch me so I pushed myself as hard as I could. The year 2014 was the year James started his return to running. He started just walking at first, but soon his walk was almost as fast as I was running. There were many races where I would slow up some in the last mile of a 5K and then I would realize he was closing on me, so I would pick up my pace. Each race he seemed to be gaining on me. Finally, at the DRC 5K he beat me for the first time by 5 seconds. He is continuing his improvement this year and I cannot keep pace with him now. He said he lost 20 pounds with all his training. I hope I can find another runner who will give me the incentive to do my best.”
At the 1992 US Master’s Swim (USMS) National Short Course Championships held at UNC-Chapel Hill that year, Nancy earned 1st place at the podium for her swim in the 1650 yard event with a time of 24:32. She took 3rd in the 500 yard freestyle in 7:32.
She was born as the competitive person we know today. “It was a lot easier to win my age group when I turned 40.” She remembers a lot of her races because of the scrap books she’s kept up with over the years. “I started keeping my scrap books in March of 1981.
Today, her favorite race is The New Year’s Day 5 Miler. “I can wish all my running friends a Happy New Year and I feel it is a good way to start the new year.” Other favorites include: the DRC and Plano Pacers monthly races, and the 4th of July 5 Miler.
But she’s not happy with the proliferation of races in the area. Every weekend has a minimum of 4-5 races, with the third weekend in April and the third weekend in October hitting 30 races.
“There seem to be almost too many races now. I like the old established ones. And I still try to support the Crossan Dannis series of races, which support charitable organizations.” Unfortunately, the spring time April and the third weekend in October hitting 30 races.
“There seem to be almost too many races now. I like the old established ones. And I still try to support the Crossan Dannis series of races, which support charitable organizations.” Unfortunately, the spring time Crosson Dannis Grand Prix Series is no longer. It ended in 2010 when the number of races each weekend increased so greatly. “I miss the old days when everyone went to one big race and you looked forward to these races each year.”
Nancy does think the area runners are well supported by the Dallas Running Club, Run On, and Luke’s Locker, with great competition in all age groups.
While training for her marathons, Nancy was not a mileage hound. “I am not a high mileage person.” She says even at her peak she only ran 25-30 miles per week. But, that was probably supplemented with biking and swimming, and maybe tennis, too.
Still, she’s had her share of injuries over the years. These include too much fluid in her legs – “I took diuretics for a while.” And orthoscopic surgery on her knee – “I had originally injured that knee in a skiing accident in 1963.” She’s also had a few bike wrecks that left her with a broken collarbone while competing in a triathlon (1988); a separated left shoulder, pulled my groin muscle and hyperextended thumb (early 1990’s); and was hit by a car in 2000 while riding in Sachse. “It took me a long time to recover from having my pelvis broken in three places, lung deflated, and broken right collarbone.” It makes the plantar fasciitis she’s suffered through during marathons seem very tame. “That hangs around for a long time. I had it while training for my last marathon in 1995.”
Nancy enjoys her races. She’s genuinely present and alive for them, though she does get nervous even after so many years of competing. She doesn’t mind doing the local half marathons, but no longer pines for the full 26.2 mile version, of which she’s done four. “But I have learned to never say never.”
“I have to admit, that I am at a point where I prefer to do short distance races. Hopefully, I will continue to do some sprint triathlons. Mainly I am running 5K’s. My last half marathon was in 2012. I can still run up to a 10K and will likely not run anything longer. That is my current feeling, but I am not ready yet to say I will never do any longer distance races.” She won her age group at the DRC Half Marathon 5K, November 2, 2014, and the Snowman Shuffle 5K this past January.
“Hopefully I can continue to compete in the triathlon. There are not many competitors in the 70-74 age group. I will try to keep up with the running, swimming and biking so I can compete. I noticed the Tom Landry Triathlon will be held again this year.” Back when it was held, Nancy won her age group three consecutive years. “I will aim for that event.” She has three plate awards from the famed triathlon when it was a stable for local and state-wide athletes. She’s detailed the different distances for each year she won.
May 3, 1992, the distances were 400 meter swim, 17.9 mile bike, and 5K run (23:35 for run). I won the 50 age group: 1:35:32.
May 8, 1993, the distances were 400 meter swim, 31K bike and 5K run (23:48 for run). I won the 50 age group: 1:38:55.
May 7, 1994, the distances were 400 meter swim, 28K bike and 5K run (23:47 for run). I won the 50 age group: 1:33:06
“Triathlon times vary so much because of all the variables. There were a few different courses for the bike ride for the Tom Landry Tri. I never mastered the art of quick transitions which would have helped my overall times. I was usually able to hold a good pace on the run portion of the triathlon.”
One of her many good friends is KATHY NORMAN. “It was a spring morning in 1989 and we were the only two on this track and we were both new to the Dallas area. As she was blowing by me on the track, I was thinking to myself, ‘I would love to train with this lady.’ After my workout she introduced herself to me.” They became “fast” friends.
Kathy calls Nancy, “Terminator.”
“Nancy is like a mild mannered superhero. She is a humble mild mannered lady until you put her in an athletic environment. Then you see that incredible talent and never give up attitude come out!” Her nickname came during a 15K race both were doing, playing cat and mouse. One would pass by, then the other would pass. “She would sprint a head of me, then I would catch her thinking she is going to give up. She kept coming back. She wiped the floor with me that day at White Rock.”
Nancy: “Often I will pick a runner in front and make an effort to keep pace with them. To keep up my pace I sometimes count: one-two-three-four; one-two-three-four; one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight.”
Twenty plus years later, Kathy says, “she still has that fire that I and most of my other friends have lost. She is still just as amazing to me as she was in the spring of 1989 when she was twice my age and blew by me like I was standing still on Lake Highlands track!”
“She has inspired me, kept me honest, and on one or more occasion, chewed me out in her mild mannered lady tone for bailing out on workouts. I feel incredibly blessed in my life to have such an incredible friend!”
Kathy tells stories of their friendship. “At the age of 50 she helped me prepare for a half Ironman triathlon by going with me to do 60 mile rides and then a 10 mile run. Now that I am 51, I can’t image doing that.”
Outside of running, Nancy is a well-rounded athlete, cycling, weight training, playing tennis at Royal Oaks (she like watching tennis and golf matches), swimming (she won a gold medal in swimming in the Senior Olympics), and regularly doing yoga (she was able to do the Crow position after a short period). She starts her day with a Sudoku puzzle and sometimes a crossword puzzle, too. There’s also her garden, as well, that she tends to.
Nancy likes to read, too, re-reading the American classic, “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. She just finished “A Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling. “This was her first adult fiction.”
She also does the books for her husband’s law business with Quick Books Pro. “I keep all our tax records and work with our CPA.”
In addition, Nancy’s creative talents are on display at the piano. “Mostly I play classical piano pieces: Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata,’ and ‘The Swan’ by Camille Saiant -Saens.” She is obviously very accomplished. Currently, she is working on Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude Op.3 No.2.” But, she hesitates, “I have not yet mastered the really difficult passage on the 4th and 5th pages.” And just for fun, “I also enjoy playing Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer.’”
“I started piano in elementary school, 4th grade I believe. I would leave school for most of the day as my mother would drive me into Rochester [New York] for my lesson at the Eastman School of Music. I took piano during my high school years. I am good at sight-reading and can memorize pieces, but it takes me a long time to memorize the music. I enjoy playing, but I often played poorly at my recitals. I would get so nervous I made mistakes. I remember my mother telling her friend, ‘Yes, Nan plays the piano. But she doesn’t have any talent.’ Not a good thing for a child to hear.” Ever since she’s been married, she’s had a 1900 upright piano.
She also watches the Masterpiece Theater TV series, “Downtown Abbey.”
You’d think Nancy wouldn’t have any spare time left. But she does. She organizes the Hope For Batten 5K, a rare, genetic neurodegenerative disease that affects children and is always fatal. The disease affects 100 children annually in the U.S., but has also affected her two grandkids, McKenna, 13, and Eric, 19. Both have exceeded expectations. (See page 12-13 for more.)
Three days after Eric was diagnosed, Nancy says, she was misdiagnosed with Stage 2 Lung Cancer. “I had “lung cancer” for two weeks before the biopsy showed it was not cancer. Doctors thought it was ‘histoplasmosis,’ a fungal disease which can leave a spot on your lung, but not cause any symptoms.”
Nancy’s weekly training program consists of a few runs, a track workout, bike ride, yoga, and tennis. “I run to stay in shape. It burns more calories than biking or swimming.”
Easy 3 or 4 mile run.
Yoga; swim 1800 yards or do the weight circuit plus free weights core exercises
Track workout at Lake Highlands High School. “This is a New Year’s resolution to do speed-work to learn how to run fast again.”
Yoga; swim or weights
Tennis for 90 minutes; bike for 1-2 hours or swim
Run a 5K or 5 Mile Event. Alternative Plan: “In the nice weather I enjoy riding with the Richardson Bike Mart group. I do their “Tour de Donut” ride which is 20 miles at a 14 mph average.”
Ride bike for two hours. “Or do a 4 or 5 mile run if I rode my bike on Saturday.”
Driven to be an encouragement?
“I am not as driven as I used to be when I was more competitive. Even though I am not very competitive for my age group the last few years, I still like being able to set an example for younger, school-age children. After the Mayor’s Run this year, a teacher came up to me and said she pointed to me as a way of encouraging one of her students who was having a hard time running the 5K.”
“The best way to inspire yourself to run is to set a specific time to meet someone to run with.” She doesn’t have anyone to run with, “which makes running less enjoyable. I am too slow for most of my friends now.”
She eats healthy as a conscious eater. “Scott and I eat fish at least twice a week and rarely eat beef. We prefer chicken and pork tenderloin.” She cooks fresh vegetables for them and they eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast.
Dressed in her Nike running shoes, we take pictures of her in her backyard. “I am not fashion conscious when I work out. I just want clothes to be comfortable.” She’s still a woman standing before the camera. She talks about doing her clothes shopping at Run On and Luke’s Locker. “They have nice high-quality clothing. I buy my clothing and shoes from either of those stores. For dress clothes I like Stein Mart.”
Nancy is proud of her two kids, Christopher and Scott, Jr., both adults now, 46 and 48, respectively. Christopher received his BS in Chemistry from NC State and then his MA and PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from UNC-Chapel Hill. Scott, Jr. graduated from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in physics. RPI is the oldest engineering school in the US. He served in the Navy for four years, then got his MBA from SMU.
Christopher looked up the ancestry of the family going back over 40 generations to the 7th century or 682 A.D. “We are direct descendants,” he wrote, “of an illegitimate, but recognized, son of King Henry II of England (Earl William Longespee of Salisbury). That also makes us direct descendants of William the Conqueror, and some other European and Norwegian nobility. I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but it’s kind of fun to look at.” The family immigrated to the America in 1630.
It took a long time to get Nancy Lowden’s story to print. But we’re thankful we waited through all the twists and turns over the past five years. She’s a sweet lady who hates to see conflict of any kind, has a heart the size of Texas, and has a problem saying “No” to someone with a problem. She was involved in Dallas’ premier triathlon club, Tri Dallas, back in the day. It is now defunct. But Nancy remains, continuing to train and race, and make friends where ever she goes.