HONOLULU, Hawaii - Lois Ann Gilmore of Janesville, Wis., one of the most successful and prolific age-graded masters distance runners in history and a survivor of two life-threatening illnesses, on Thursday was named USA Track & Field's Masters Athlete of the Year. The announcement was made by the Masters Long Distance Running and Track & Field Committees at USATF's Annual Meeting in Honolulu.
Gilmore, 77, has run 54 road races to date this year, at distances from 5 km to 15 km. Her accomplishments have included an American record time of 26:01 for 5 km, which has been the distance at which she has found the most success.
More than a decade ago, age-grade standards were established which enabled the performances by athletes in different age groups to be compared. Using the tables, performances at a given age are assigned a percentile to indicate where it would rank on a scale of 1-100. Out of Gilmore's 54 road races this year, a remarkable 35 of them are 90% or above.Only one other woman in her age group achieved even one performance of 90 percent or above. In other age groups, it was achieved in the W50-59 age group by all runners only 27 times, and 20 times in the 40-49 age group.
Gilmore's other top performances in 2007 were 43:01 for 8 km and 43:38 for 5 miles. Also in 2007, Gilmore won the W75 10,000m title at the USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Orono, Maine, where she set a pending national record of 55:27.
"I am very proud and humbled by this award and recognition from USATF," Gilmore said. "I am very excited and feel so good about it."
"I have been Awards Chair for Masters LDR for the better part of 10 years and I have never seen the extraordinary number of outstanding performances that Lois has accumulated this year," said USATF Masters Long Distance Running Chair Don Lein, who also ranks masters runners for Running Times magazine. "To call it unparalleled is an understatement. To think she has done this after overcoming the two major causes of death in the U.S., cancer and heart disease is mind-boggling. Truly,Lois is sui generis."
Gilmore's accomplishments are made even more remarkable by the fact that in many ways, she is lucky to be alive. She began running in 1989 as a way of getting back in shape and overcoming the depression that followed suffering from breast cancer. Her training paid off when she first was nationally ranked (3rd) in 1997. She was top-ranked in 2001.
In 2002, while out on a run, Gilmore fell. She started walking and fell again. She made it home but was diagnosed with a stroke that had involved bleeding in her brain. At one point, she was given a 10 percent chance of survival, but she has thrived. The only effect from her stroke is a loss of peripheral vision that prevents her from driving.
Gilmore is enshrined in the Chicago Area Runners Association Hall of Fame, having been its Runner of the Year 9 times.