COURTESY TWAIN NEWHART
Jan Newhart has passed her active lifestyle to her children, daughter Tracy and son Twain.
Newhart an inspiration to women of all ages
It's a common birthday request: a new bike.
What makes it a bit unusual is that the birthday girl will turn 80 tomorrow.
But Jan Newhart wants to ride into her ninth decade on two wheels, two brand-new ones.
"My bike is too big," said the 5-foot-2 Newhart. "It's a good bike, but it's too big."
Competition, however, has long been a perfect fit. Newhart holds a number of national age-group records in distance running and multi-sport events.
It's an addiction that began in the 1970s with running, highlighted by a 3-hour, 33-minute time in the Honolulu Marathon when she was 47.
"That time still looks pretty good," the retired real estate agent said of the 1975 race.
Some 10 years after her first marathon, Newhart decided to tackle the Tinman triathlon. It was her way of rehabbing from an injury by cycling instead of running.
With her background as a swimmer -- "I taught Red Cross swimming and lifesaving as a teenager," she said -- doing a triathlon was logical.
"My first Tinman, my swimming was so out of shape I think I used a sidestroke the whole race," she said. "I'm not a real efficient swimmer. I'm not a real efficient cyclist and I'm sloppy with my transitions. And now my running is getting slow."
But she still finishes, always finishes, something Newhart prides herself on. She's run all over the world, from Tehran to Thailand and completed the arduous 7.1-mile Dipsea Race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach in California.
She's also passed on her message of staying active to her children. Daughter Tracy is an avid mountain biker, and son Twain is another multi-sport athlete and accomplished outrigger canoe steersman.
"She got us into running in the early '70s," said Tracy Newhart, making a surprise trip from Northern California for her mother's birthday. "The three of us did the '75 marathon and the '84 Tinman together. I got into mountain biking because when your mom is beating you, you have to find another sport.
"But I love to tell the story of when mom was in her 60s, she did this mountain bike trail in California that, just a few months ago, I took a 27-year-old guy on. He was walking after 5 minutes. She rode the whole way."
Jan Newhart's legacy is more important than any record, time or trophy, according to her son.
"She's showing women of all ages it is important to exercise," Twain Newhart said. "Her bone density is excellent for her age. Sadly, she's outlived most of her friends who used to run with her. Some of it because she kept at it.
"Secondly, every time she does one of these races, younger women see her out there. They're thinking, 'If you can do it, so can I.' She is such a good influence. There's 60-year-olds out there who aren't doing what she's doing."
Staying active is Jan Newhart's life. It's a daily habit as comfortable as her light blue shirt with the running figure on it that reads "Life is Good" or her flower-print cap with the monogram "CFOAG" (Cute For Our Age Group).
There's always something new to experience, too, such as seeing a shark off the Natatorium recently during a swim workout. And there's that new bike she'll put to good use when training for her next official event, the Honolulu Triathlon in May ... the full Olympic distance of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run.
But the best thing about tomorrow? Jan Newhart has a whole new set of age-group records in front of her.