You've Gotta Hear About Betty - Chi Living

You’ve Gotta Hear About Betty

Posted by Katherine Dreyer on Wed Jan 7th, 2015, 16 comments

You’ve Gotta Hear About Betty

Once over 200 pounds and concerned she might not live to see her daughter grow up, Betty Smith is now 73 and enjoys running 24-hour, 48-hour and even 6-day running events. (She set the record for 48 hour runs under USA-TF for women, age bracket 70-74 and her 6-day race record is in progress of being approved.)

Betty, what inspired you to make changes in your life?

Many years ago, when my daughter was little, she tagged me and said, “I’ll bet you can’t catch me!” And, I couldn’t. I could not run. I had been a skinny kid and loved basketball, but after having my daughter I gained a lot of weight and couldn’t lose it. When I hit over 200 lbs I threw away the scale.

I discovered Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s radio show. He would talk about health, fitness and nutrition. He made complete sense to me!  I’d listen to him every day while I was preparing dinner and I started making changes.

He saved my life. I have cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes in my family. He explained exactly how to lose weight and keep it off forever. One thing he recommended was walking or running. So, I started a walking program.

My family did not get it. My husband, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles all said “What are you doing?” but I felt the difference almost immediately. 

It was a gradual change in my lifestyle. Eventually, I noticed I didn’t want the junk food, not even Lays Potato chips!

One day I started running a little bit. And I remember feeling, “Gee, I like this, this reminds me of how I felt in my old basketball days.” I was walking 3 days a week. Very gradually I would run a little bit more than I walked.

My family finally realized I was serious because I kept at it.

Soon I was running 2 miles a day, every day. Just like breathing in the morning without thinking about it, I just got up and ran 2 miles. This was not overnight. It took some doing and it took some time, and it took some sticking to.

I ran 2 miles every day for eight years. It had to do with my health. I was not competitive.

Dr. Mirkin repeated the same things, over and over. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds. He suggested very little red meat. He advocated seafood. Once I stayed with Dr. Mirkin there was no more yo yo dieting. But it was gradual. It took years. But it was sticking.

He related lifestyle to certain conditions. He was wonderful. This was in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Betty, you’ve now run on all 7 Continents and a Marathon on 6 of the 7. You ran a half marathon on the Great Wall of China. You now run in multi-day events. What happened to 2 miles a day?

I was never competitive, but my brother said, “there’s a 10K coming up, why not run it”. I really enjoyed it! The camaraderie and meeting other people with the same passion, was great! Was fun to be with other runners. So I started running local races because it was fun.  I joined the Montgomery County Road Runners in 1989.

I ran my first marathon in 1988 – The Marine Corps Marathon. My second marathon was the Moscow International Peace Marathon. I just got on a plane and went. Today, I use marathons to train for ultra-marathons.

Over time my nutrition caught up with my fitness. No one would believe how much nutrition affects their fitness. I now call myself a Yucky Vegan. My grandson one day said the food I was feeding him was “yucky” but then immediately said, “can I have some more”. It’s Functional Eating which is for my body, not for my emotions.

I have a 2-hour routine in the morning that consists of strengthening, flexibility, balance and relaxation exercises: then I finish up with T’ai Chi, and then I meditate. I’m then in a different state of mind.

I run 24, 48, 72 and 144 hour (6-day) events and people want to know how. But people don’t want to hear about a 2-hour routine (before I run) but they want your outcomes. 

Betty, is there any concern about you running these long distances at your age?

The doctors are amazed: I am carefully monitored by doctors. They say I am at least 20 years younger than my chronological age. My blood, bones, heart - they are all healthy. When my cardiologist listened to my heart, he was saying “wow”, not with concern but with amazement on how efficient my heart is.

I run about 3 marathons and 5 ultras a year. My current running base is 60 miles a week, with a 40, 45 or 50 mile long run.

I run totally relaxed the ChiRunning® way, so I increase my energy as I’m running. I don’t run out of energy. I don’t have blisters, nothing wrong with my feet, wearing minimal shoes.

It was about 2004 when Danny gave a talk and my sister sent me his flyer because she knew I practiced T’ai Chi. I got the Chi Running book and I started reading it and couldn’t put it down, and then about 8 months later I flew out to take Danny’s two-day class in southern California. (There, I fine-tuned my Chi Running technique. I went there as an 11:30 minute runner and came home a 7:39 minute runner as proven in a one mile race in the presence of my running club members!)

If I had not done T’ai Chi, I would have said, “yeah, right.” But I already knew about T’ai Chi, so ChiRunning® made sense.

You know, I don’t care about the finish line my focus has always been the start line—to get there fully trained, fully rested which allows the finish line to take care of itself. Now, I just want to give back as the first official ChiRunning Ambassador.

Betty Smith has been written about in many magazines including AARP Magazine where this 73 year old says, “I’m able to run for fun, like a kid.” 


16 CommentsLeave a comment below

Nancy Nelson Jan 7th, 2015 03:43pm

What a fabulous story Betty!!!! You are a hero in my eyes and a inspiration to just get out there and start and try.  Way to go and thank you again for your story.  I too picked up Danny’s book about 7 years ago and my running is one of my greatest joys.  Take good care and see you out there!  Happy Running and enjoy the moments!!!!


Arden Delidais Jan 7th, 2015 04:01pm

Incredible, motivating read.  Congratulations Betty Smith!

Such a great story. I didn’t get into running until i was 45. I ran my first marathon at 47. I have never even considered an ultra, but you inspire me. Keep Going! My mom used to listen to the same doctor on the radio!

Mary Lou Harris Jan 7th, 2015 04:42pm

Thanks so much for this article. I recall meeting Betty at a Chi-running workshop in the D.C. area a number of years ago. In my late fifties at the time, I expected to be the oldest person at the workshop.That turned out not be be the case and I was impressed with the age span of the chi running group. It was great to here about Betty’s experiences, a runner one age group ahead of me, and to hear her speak so enthusiastically about running in general and chi-running in particular.

Mary Lou Harris


Very inspiring! Thanks

christopher Jones Jan 7th, 2015 09:31pm

What an amazing story and an encouragement to runners of all ages and especially those of us who are senior runners.
I think she is an inspiration to all.
Keep at it Betty.

what an amazing story!  I want to be like Betty when I grow up!  I was at ATY volunteering on NYE this year wink
thanks for being a great role model for us Betty!

Steven Schirm Jan 8th, 2015 10:41am

Truly inspiring. I turned 60 last year. I had never been a runner and decided to train for a half marathon for my 60th birthday. I learned chi running and took a seminar in Orlando,FL. I have since run two more halfathons, have another in a week, and two more scheduled this spring. I plan on training for the Chicago marathon fall 2015. Its good to know that my best running days may be ahead of me!

Charlotte Arde Jan 8th, 2015 10:43am

I want a poster of Betty in my workout room!!!

A wonderful role model that shows aging does not mean decline.

Thank you Betty for letting us know you!
You have become my inspiration to pursue my fitness goal. I’m 62 (almost) and my dream is to do the Iron Horse Ultra here. I run regularly and now I’ll be thinking of your accomplishments when I find it difficult to train.
It’s so good to here of you!
Thank you

I was inspired by this story of the 73 year old Betty Smith. I’m now 70 and in no shape to run. A walk would be around the block and my knees and hips would be aching. This year I am looking into getting out to walk more and take care of my body. I know I won’t be a marathon runner, but I want to keep up with my grandkids.

Like the doc said… “Wow!”  Such inspiration…thank you!

impressive indeed! Betty is genetically gifted. Not many people (even ultra runners) who can run 50 miles on their long weekend run! or do 5 ultras per year! yipes! betty is definitely gifted…

Sarma Ilgenfritz Feb 18th, 2015 08:57pm

So inspired, specifically because Betty said her success did not happen overnight.  I’m always impatient for BIG progress.  I started running last year at 65 and have finished 3 5k’s - this summer committed to running a 10k. I have lots of grandchildren to keep up with and I love sharing a vibrant healthy aging lifestyle with other women.  Thanks for sharing, Betty.

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I picked up your book 2 months ago. My wife saw you on CNN. I stopped running 15 years ago due to tendonitis in my left leg. 

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