Burrill will never stop dreaming


POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the den wall in Gladys “;Glady”; Burrill's home in Oregon is a mantra that she repeats to herself. It is a simple phrase, really, but one by which she has lived her full and rich 91 years.

“;When you cease to dream, you cease to live.”;

It is simply the way to explain why an octogenarian would suddenly embrace a grueling race in the latter years of her life when most people half her age shudder at the mere thought of 26.2 miles. It is the inspiration for her quest to set a marathon world record for her age bracket, for why she will soon be participating in her fifth Honolulu Marathon, for why she pushes her elderly body mile after mile after mile on a daily basis.

“;You can dream, maybe some of them are impossible dreams, but they're so important,”; Burrill said recently from her apartment in Waikiki. “;Life is fragile. It's important to keep on.”;

;[Preview]  Honolulu Marathon Expo opens

Honolulu Marathon Week officially kicked off with the opening of the Marathon Expo.

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Burrill — a mother of six, grandmother of 18 and great-grandmother of 24 — will be fast-walking her sixth Honolulu Marathon on Sunday and making her second push for the marathon world record of 8 hours, 53 minutes, 8 seconds for the 90-94 age group.

“;It appears there's no one else my age in the marathons,”; she said with a chuckle.

; Last year, in her first and much-publicized jaunt for the world record, Burrill was well ahead of the world-record pace. But she was far from being in prime condition after her husband of nearly 69 years, Gene, passed away just three days before the marathon. And her worries about even competing so quickly afterward created so much stress — later coupled with a Power Bar that made her sick — she ended up suffering stomach cramps that forced her from the race at the 24th mile, so painfully close to the finish line.

“;He had wanted me to do the marathon again, so I just tried to think positive,”; said Burrill, a Washington native who now splits her time between Oregon and Hawaii. “;Life goes on. And I have a lot of faith in God, so God has helped me through.

“;It was something I knew I had to do. But of course I only made it 24 miles.”;

The disappointment of failing to finish, the first time in five marathons she had not completed the race, and falling short of the world record were crushing. After a medical van drove her to the finish line to greet supporters, friends and family who were waiting for her, she needed to take some time to herself as she sobbed, overwhelmed with the emotion of her husband's still-recent passing and distraught over the people she felt she had let down by stopping at the 24th mile.





        » When: Sunday, 5 a.m. (elite runners)

        » Start-finish: Ala Moana Boulevard, Queen Street extension- Kapiolani Park

        » Distance: 26.2 miles

        » Entries: About 24,000

        >> Last year's winners: Men: Patrick Ivuti, Kenya, 2:14:35; Women: Kiyoko Shimahara, Japan, 2:32:36



But Burrill stubbornly got right back on the walking path just a few days after last year's marathon. It is her escape. It has given her a singular focus, an obstacle to tackle as she embarks on the next stage of her life. While she enjoys walking on a nearly daily basis, even as she runs into bears in the Oregon forest or stops to pet the same gray cat along the Diamond Head Road route in Honolulu, the world-record pursuit has provided an exciting, daunting challenge to keep life interesting.

“;She's inspirational to me because she's a character,”; said 65-year-old George McCarthy, Burrill's first training partner who will walk the marathon with her this year. “;When you spend time with her, you can't picture her as 91. Everyone who is 91 who I know is sitting around a nursing home and not walking around like this.”;

Looking much younger than her 91 years, Burrill's infectious enthusiasm and inspirational pursuit have managed to slow her down in the marathon (as does the standing in line for the port-o-potties on the course). Her burgeoning fame often precedes her as she stops to greet well-wishers and pose for photos during the race.

That's what the 26.2 miles are all about for Burrill. Though she's 91, she refuses to cease to dream, to cease to live, to cease to marathon.

“;I have good health and a positive attitude, and I think that's helped a lot,”; she said with a smile. “;I don't think about getting too old to do it.”;





        Gladys “;Glady”; Burrill was born in 1918. Here's what happened and what life was like 91 years ago:

» U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sailed to France, becoming the first U.S. president to visit Europe while in office.

        » The U.S. Congress established time zones and daylight savings time.

        » The Russian Romanovs are assassinated by order of the Bolshevik Party.

        » The Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. This is the Red Sox's last world championship until 2004.

        » The average annual salary in the United States: $1,144

        » The average cost of a home: $4,821

        » The price of a new automobile: $500

        » The price of a postage stamp: 3 cents

        » The price of a gallon of milk: 55 cents

        » The price of a loaf of bread: 10 cents

        » The price of a gallon of gasoline: 8 cents

        Source: http://www.rodneysparkman.org/time_capsule_ of_1918.htm