80-Year-Old Makes Birthday Run in the Cradle of the Marathon - January 2019 Athlete of the Month

Heide Moebius, 80, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

What does your average person think about doing when they turn 80? Heide Moebius is definitely not average, because she set a goal of running a marathon in Greece and finished in Olympic style.

The feat is remarkable, but not surprising once you know the background of the retired export executive. Heide had little sports opportunities as a child in Germany during and after World War II. That did not prevent her from applying her natural ability to downhill skiing, swimming and tennis, and she enjoyed success as an adult competitor on the tennis court after she emigrated to the U.S. with her husband at age 22.

Heide didn’t run her first race until she was 55 and entered a 5K on a whim. She discovered a natural “heel striker” gait suited for distance running, and that launched a running career that has resulted in more than 100 half marathons and ten full marathons. She also took on track competitions in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter events and has been a frequent face at National Senior Games since 1997.

Her husband Richard, himself a former semipro soccer player, has been her constant coach and record keeper. He proudly states, “Counting all distances from the 400 meter up, the detailed record shows she has a batting average of .890 for winning her age group in the 714 races she competed in.” Her many accolades include an NSGA Top Ten Performance ranking of #2 in the 1500-meter event.

As she approached her 79th birthday, Heide heard members of her Lancaster Roadrunners team talking about running in the 2017 Athens Classic Marathon, which follows the original route of the first Greek marathon. “When I heard it was on November 10th I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that is my birthday!’” she says in a still-noticeable German accent. It had been 12 years since her last 26-mile race, but Heide could not resist the chance to have a “last hurrah.”

Heide made the trip last November with three other team members. The 2018 event was one day after her 80th birthday, and she was delighted to finish just under her six-hour goal and place second in her 75+ age group. “A lady from France beat me, but all of the others in my group were way, way behind us.” She is also proud to finish ahead of nearly 5,000 other runners, some less than half her age.

A lingering memory for Heide was running four miles of the original route that had been devasted as a result of many wildfires that occurred in Greece last year. While the road was restored, that stretch was an eerie experience. “Everything was still black and smelled like smoke,” she recalls. “The Greek people were great. They lined the entire race, but along those four miles most of them were still wearing black in mourning for the many who had died in the fire. It was very touching- I think all of the runners cried when they went through that portion.”

Marathons are the only races Heide has retired from. “I’m still doing half marathons - 13 miles is not a big deal for me, but a full marathon requires an enormous amount of training.” She still plays tennis regularly and works out at the fitness center at Willow Valley Communities in Lancaster, PA, which the Moebius’ moved across town to last year. “Willow Valley Communities is really dedicated to the well-being of residents and supports their National Senior Games athletes. The fitness trainers and amenities are excellent.”   

She’s looking forward to the 5K and 10K races at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana, where she will also run the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter track races. “I don’t train for the track runs. I do them to keep me occupied at Nationals.” Richard concurs, saying, “If she doesn’t get out and do something she gets nervous. Her body was meant to move!”

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