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Ronda Willsher wanted to set a big goal before she turned 60. So, this self-proclaimed never-runner decided to tackle a 5K. With the encouragement of her sister, MOTR veteran Molly Wellik, Ronda took on the Learn-to-Run program with Burnsville Moms on the Run, ran her first 5K at the MOTR end-of-season race on her milestone birthday — and was hooked. Two years and many 5Ks, 10Ks, a few 10 milers and now a half marathon later, this 62-year-old exemplifies inspiration to her team. "I've heard a few of our members say, 'I want to be like Ronda when I grow up' just as a pure compliment," observed Burnsville/Lakeville Owner Kim Burggraaf. "She really does inspire so many around her." Learn more about Ronda's story and why she is July's Most Inspiring Member.
"Ronda trains so diligently and intelligently," explains Coach Kim. "She does all the groundwork for preventative exercises consistently, cross trains (she is a yoga instructor and has lead classes for us. She even volunteered her time to lead classes for us during Covid virtually; it was so sweet of her.) And she just is always so positive and fun. She is just a really awesome person, out there doing really amazing things."
"She makes running a really fun adventure," shares Molly. "We agreed to do our Sunday long runs with tutus through the social distancing/shutdown. The tutus make the runs go faster but also bring joy to others. The amazing smiles, comments and conversations are priceless. Nothing like bringing joy through running."
We wanted to hear more, so we asked Ronda a few questions about her running journey.
Q: Please share some of the running goals you’ve accomplished since joining MOTR. Any highlights or moments that stand out?
A: At age 60, a 10K was a goal. At 61, it was the Twin Cities 10 mile race. This spring, at age 62, the goal was Grandma’s Half Marathon. I ran this “virtually” around Minneapolis city lakes with Molly and MOTR teammate Margarita Shmakova-Nadeau. Longest run ever! In between all of those, there were many 5Ks, 10Ks, a few 10 milers and a couple of marathons done relay-style. Along the way, I worked on my pace and won some races in my age group. I had no idea I had a competitive streak in me, but I do!
Q: You just completed Grandma’s half — virtually. Congrats! What’s next?
Next, keep on running, have fun and spread some joy along the way. Training during Covid, Molly and I wore tutus for every long run. We brought smiles to those who saw us. We benefited from encouragement from passersby when we couldn’t run in groups. In addition to tutus in a rainbow of colors, my running gear includes a Mrs. Santa outfit, leprechaun tights, and even a cozy dinosaur jumpsuit — great for the Polar Dash!
There will be more virtual races this fall, and I hope next year, a trip to Duluth, Minn., for the Grandma’s Half Marathon.
Q: What words of advice would you say to someone who isn’t a part of MOTR?
A: • Any age is a good age to learn to run.
• Follow the Learn to Run plan, and for longer races, training plans. With a plan, you can reach your goals. (Thank you, Coach Kim!)
• Have fun. Tutus and costumes encouraged. (Can’t wait to wear my new tights with turkey drumsticks for Turkey Trot events. )
• Have more fun.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: After I started running, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. High-impact activities — running — along with medical treatment have improved my bone health. It’s another reason I’m committed to running.
I have so appreciated the support and encouragement from my sister, Coach Kim, and all the Moms on the Run members in Burnsville/Lakeville, Minnesota. Even as I set new goals, I was guilty of underestimating what I could do. They knew I could do more. After a race, a hot run, a wet run, a slow or fast run, I’m amazed and grateful that I can put one foot in front of the other and do this.
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