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Take Your Skills and Use Them

Forget about what you used to do and focus on what you can do.

In order to make a successful transition, you must accept your limitations. You may have been at a 10-minute pace per mile and now 12-minutes per mile is the normal and feels comfortable. A mental adjustment is required, and the body will follow.

The tern “use it or lose it” can apply to your overall fitness. As we age, there is a need to monitor the quality and quantity of food that we consume. A physical fitness regime can help to maintain a balance while managing lifestyle changes. There are many options for a program—walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and running. A regular fitness regiment can reduce risk of injury and improve your overall health.

According to Wikipedia, physical fitness is a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports, occupation, and daily activities. Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical exercise, and enough rest.

In her book, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth states the following: “Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.”

The name Maria Miller is not an Olympic standout. but if you were to ask her daughters, they would state otherwise because that is their view. Get a cup of coffee or tea and decompress for a few minutes while you meet Maria.

“Maria is just María,” she explained. “I want people to see a friend, a person to reach out to if they need me. I want them to know that I can also run ‘slow’ or at different paces. Like others I have bad days, but I push myself to do my work. I am a mom of two lovely daughters, I work, I clean my house, my car, my gym, I cook, like everyone else. I love what I do so much that I will be willing to do anything to inspire someone to run.”

Maria got into running about 10 years ago back in Costa Rica, to complement her workouts and stay active:  “I am very competitive. I like pushing myself as hard as my mind and body allow. Setting goals has made me do things I never thought possible. So, it keeps getting harder and harder to beat my times.”

She had to make some adjustments: “’In order to get better, I’ve given up extra hours of sleep. I had to change my diet a little because I am gluten intolerant, so eating out became a big ‘no’ to me. I’m fine with it since I used to cook almost 90 percent of my meals. Now I cook 100 percent of them. Sometimes I do crave ice cream, though.”

As Maria explains, it is a family effort: “My family is really great when I need to do my training. My hubby drives the girls to places on the weekends, if necessary, and I pick them up. My daughters go to almost all of my races. We spend lots of time together, they know my routines, what I need and what we can’t and can do before an event. There is always a fun trip after the race, especially if we are in a new area. I tried to get in all of my workouts before I pick them up from school or while they’re doing extracurricular activities.”

Maria continues: “Ámbar (my youngest) is very competitive also, so she is always interviewing me before a race. She keeps count of my medals, trophies, times—like my little coach! My family supports me 1000 percent; I know they always pray for me at school, too.”

What is her favorite type of race? “I like 10-miler and half-marathons the best so far. I want to like marathons as much, but my mind is not ready for that yet. I think once I reach my 10-miler and half goal times, I could move on.”

Running makes her feel a lot of things, so she finds ways to prep mentally. “Running is definitely emotional—that’s one of the reasons you also need to train your mind,” she explains. “Strong body and weak mind don’t go well together. There have been days when I don’t feel like running—that’s a red alert for me. I know I need to work on mindfulness; a few minutes of meditation reminds me why I do what I do and that I have goals.”

There are some physical limitations to overcome: “Running can be very frustrating at times, especially when you’ve followed your training and you feel great. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years ago, and if I drive long distances before a race, my body gets very tired, my hips feel like steel, and that’s painful. I try very hard to bring what I’ve learned about mind over muscle to that moment, but sometimes I don’t have enough energy to do what we plan. I do thank my body for doing its best.”

There will be setbacks, and that is not the time to overreact, but rather review: “My last bad injury was almost three years ago—multiple stress fractures on my right foot. Not fun, not pretty, very upsetting, and I had a boot for almost four months. Walking hurt, none of my shoes felt good to walk on, and I was afraid of not running for years! Then I met Coach Kevin.”

He has helped her progress: “Coach K always has a plan for me. He knows me more than I know myself; I want to make him proud at the end of every race. He makes plan A ,and just in case, I have a plan B and C. I don’t want to use them, but it gives me a cushion if I’m not performing well for some reason.”

There is a pending rematch on the table for Maria: “The Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Mile in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hardest run in terms of terrain. My stomach didn’t behave well after mile 32 on my first try. I need to go back!”

She makes different preparations for different runs: “Depending on the distance, I plan my nutrition. Some runs are done on an ’empty’ stomach, and for some others, I might wake up earlier. I don’t want to feel full before running any distance.”

Maria adds: “When I was in Costa Rica, I ran a little. We have more elevation where I’m from than here. I was used to hills and hot weather. The Eastern Shore [Maryland] has its beauty, though. I love the fact that cycling here is way safer, and if you want hills, you either go to Assateague Island and run over the bridge a thousands times.”

In closing: “I see myself running faster and longer and achieving my goal times. My running calendar gets fuller every year; I’m already signed up for 2020 races. I want to keep running for the rest of my life. I want to be healthier and better. My mind has no limits right now.”


  • George Banker

    George Banker was the Operations Manager for the Army Ten-Miler (US Army / MDW), one of the largest 10-mile road race in the United States. From 2003 through 2023, his responsibilities included the operational planning, logistics, community outreach, design of the course, volunteer recruitment, and support to medical and police jurisdictions. Prior to joining the Army Ten-Miler, he worked 25 years at IBM serving in administration and management within the federal marketing environment in Bethesda, Maryland. He is retired from the U.S. Air Force (enlisted grade Technical Sergeant), where his experience included ground refueling supervisor and cryogenic fluids production supervisor. He received 14 military decorations including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (1969-1989). Since 1983, he has worked as a freelance photographer and journalist, contributor for the Runner’s Gazette, and He is the author of “The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition”. He is an avid runner, with 136 marathons completed.


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