Wendi Hanger is a marvel that I have had the pleasure to know for years. Like the Ever-Ready bunny, she keeps going and any apparent set-backs don’t get in her way. I am delighted to share her story.
I was 80 on my last birthday. I have two kids and 5 grandkids as well as 2 step children. My overall health is good except for some osteopenia so I am now taking a shot for osteoporosis every 6 months for my bones.
I was brought up in an active family where we were introduced to our parents’ favourite sport – skiing. My mom taught us to ski in the winter and play tennis in the summer. We also rode bikes and skated on the lagoons in winter. The only time I didn’t exercise was when I was in nursing.
Wendi and Running
I started running when my youngest second son was about 6 months old. We were living in a small cottage on Ward’s Island and I was feeling restricted. My husband was a runner so when I went out for a run one evening he was impressed by how far I went in about 20 minutes. It felt good to get out and run. I ran along the board walk and my mind travelled out over the lake. It was a great feeling of freedom and a release.
In the beginning, I would go for a run with Hank and Jim Truill when my husband came home from work. At the time there were some races on the Island and I remember a 10K race that I entered, ran it and then went home. To my surprise, someone I knew knocked on the door later that afternoon and gave me an award. After that I would stick around for the award ceremony.
In 1984 I joined Longboat Running Club. I got a coach and a training program and ran the Toronto Marathon in September of that year. I ran about 3:16 and qualified for Boston. I ran Boston in about 3:20 in April. In September of 1985, Toronto hosted the Master’s Games. I ran the marathon in 3:30. That fall I also ran two 10K’s about 3 or 4 weeks apart. In the second 10 K I had to walk after 5K and after I finished I couldn’t walk without help for a week. After that I went to physio, did weights cycled and swam. After a winter of cycling and swimming I decided to try Triathlons.
Once I recovered, I went back to running. I’ve completed NYC twice, Hawaii twice, Toronto twice and Boston a second time in 2007 by winning a lottery. It was a commemorative race as it was 100 years after Tom Longboat won Boston.
A group of us that ran together in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond started walking marathons. They were always fun but you definitely need a group to train with as you can expect to be on your feet for 6 hours. My best walking marathon was in Bermuda 51/2 hours.
I have raced 5K, 10K, 15K and a20K on the track. I still hold the Longboat record for that distance in the 50-55 age group. Not a popular distance.
Wendi & Yoga
My hips have always been very tight. My right hip flexor eventually got painful and at times made walking difficult. Instead of running I would garden, cycle, swim and attend a yoga class.
I always needed yoga but it wasn’t available to me while I lived on the Island. When I moved to the west end of Toronto in1989, I joined a class at Keele Public School and later a class at Swansea Public School. My friends introduced me to Breathe and Christine’s Yoga for Runners classes. In addition to attending yoga regularly I am a regular at Christine’s annual Yoga Retreat.
Wendi’s Set Backs?
10 years ago I went to Thailand for a few months. About 2 or 3 weeks into the trip I went for a bike ride. On my way back to our condo I crossed a major road and at mid-way I looked and saw a car with a turn signal on ready to turn onto the road. I thought she saw me and I started to cross the road. I saw her when she beeped her horn then I woke up on the road. She had hit the ignition instead of the brake, the bike was destroyed as I hit the windshield and then the road. When I woke up, my leg was splinted and there was a dot of blood in the middle of my shin. I knew it was broken although I had no pain. I had surgery that night. I still have the plates they put in my leg. When I got home my surgeon didn’t want me riding a bike with the plates in. He was afraid that I would fall and brake my leg between the plates, so a year later he took them out. In hospital they had me up and walking the next day with a walker and by the end of the week I was walking with crutches. The accident was in late February and I was walking with poles at the end of June. Luckily I have no limitations with my left leg.
My last marathon was Medic in 2009, a year and a half after I broke my leg. It is one of my favourite races and considered to be the longest marathon in the world because they serve wine at the water stations. There was a 6 ½ hour limit and luckily I completed just under this time, not stopping for wine. The organizers spare no expense for wine, food and fireworks. The route is also beautiful as its all through wine country. If you have one last marathon in you, it is the one.
Last summer we vacationed in Croatia and we were in a museum where there was a spooky light show. I followed Bob into a dark corner but it was 2 steps down but I thought it was flat. I stepped into an empty space and fell on my right hip. I knew it was broken because I couldn’t put any weight on that leg. After 2 ambulance rides they gave me a bed in an orthopedic hospital. I was admitted after midnight on Wednesday and had hip replacement surgery on Friday. As soon as they got rid of the intervenous, I was up walking to the bathroom with a walker. By Monday the physio had me up with crutches. I was able to put weight on it right away.
I still enjoy going to Buffalo for a race. In the summer around my Birthday the Subaru 4 mile chase is a fun race with beer, food and a Band that plays til 10pm. Another of my favourites is the 15K or 5 K Bread and Honey race in Streetsville.
Yoga has been a regular part of my life for many years. It has been a complement to the other activities that I do. I am ok with attending yoga classes that may be a bit beyond what I can do but I like to challenge myself and I know when to back off or modify. My chiropractor encouraged me to continue with yoga even though it meant less visits to his office. My hip has been a problem for a long time and I feel that without yoga in my life I would have needed a hip replacement much sooner.
I have a desire to keep moving and be as independent as possible (but I don’t like driving in the dark). I feel better when I’m moving as long as things don’t hurt.
There is always something you can strive towards. Life can be beautiful but sometimes you have to look for it. I find swimming very relaxing. Anybody can enjoy a warm pool if you relax in the water. And of course I make time for yoga!