80-year-old looks back on her success as a long-distance runner
Edith Holdener was born in Olten in the canton of Solothurn on 22 July 1932, which means she celebrated her 80th birthday last Sunday.
Her father was a good tennis player and she wanted to follow in his footsteps as a sportswoman but he forbade it. "I was allowed to pick up the tennis balls, but that was about it," she recalled.
Instead, she became a seamstress in Olten, moving to Cham when she married in 1959, where she made haute couture outfits to order. What with work and looking after her husband and two sons, there was little time for sport.
However, this all changed in 1974 when she had an operation for varicose veins. "It was when I was recovering that the doctor told me to take up running," she said.
Edith Holdener took him at his word and later that year she took part in the Sierre-Zinal Run in the canton of Wallis, marking the start of a long-distance running career. The plucky middle-aged woman went on to enter the Biel 100-kilometre Run 15 times, winning it on 7 occasions. Then she took part in the New York Marathon and came a creditable 7th but her greatest success was to follow when she became female world champion marathon runner in the over-50 category in Glasgow.
As a result of her successes, people may think she has become very rich though this is not the case. "I have won many medals and cups," she said, "but never money. Getting to know other sportspeople and the satisfaction of knowing one has done one's best are more important than riches and fame."
Despite all her running Holdener never had blisters or sore muscles. As for training for a major event, she used to get up at 4 am to run on the slopes of the Rigi or round lake Zug. "Then I came home and started work to earn enough money to finance my running trips," she said. "One tactic I used was never talking while running. While I may have been slower uphill, I was able to run downhill like a gazelle, overtaking those who had overtaken me on the way up." She looks back now and is surprised by all she has achieved.
Not that the unexpected did not happen. "On one occasion a man stole my purse while I was training and on another occasion I was harassed by a man exposing himself, though fortunately I was able to get away."
It was two years ago that, after a knee operation, another doctor advised her to take some exercise, not knowing about her sporting success. "I shall not be consulting him again," she said, "but I do go to chiropractic gymnastics and do a half-hour walk each week."