What did you do on your 50th birthday? Of course, not everyone can answer that question, because some are not quite there yet. But for those who are, in what impressive way did you commemorate that landmark event? Ask Heather Self how she celebrated that milestone, and she will sum it up this way, as stated in her Instagram: #[email protected]

Heather, please explain #[email protected]

I like setting goals, so for my 50th birthday, I set a goal to run fifty 5K races before I turned fifty-one. In other words, fifty races within a year’s time! I love to challenge myself, so why not put that one out there and go for it? I’ve been running since middle school and was probably most influenced by my mom. She would go into her room with a book or video in hand, close the door, and stay for quite a while. I would slip notes under the door asking her what she was doing. She was working out! She was always in shape and today, nearing the age of 81, she still walks and stays very active. She has been a great role model for me.

Did you pursue athletics during high school and college?

I was on both the high school basketball team and the track and field team. I enjoyed playing basketball. However, I excelled at the hurdles. It is what I was good at. The coaches in high school and college would press me into running cross country. Although it wasn’t my sport, I wanted to help out, so I ran cross country. And the fact is, you can’t sprint for the rest of your life, so running is the next best thing, and I was good at running.

I went to Lamar University on a basketball scholarship. During the off-season in the spring, the coach agreed to let me run track. It was a great way to stay in shape, and it didn’t impede my basketball training. Plus, there were cute guys on the track and field team! I could be inside shooting hoops or outside practicing with them. I chose the latter and enjoyed the scenery while running and staying in shape. On the basketball team, l wasn’t a starter, so when I chose to leave the team, it was not a problem. I decided to go with a sport that better suited my abilities. I could contribute more to the track team than I could to basketball, and that was important to my competitive nature. In 1992, I was on the women’s team that won the outdoor track and field conference championship. And I met my future husband while there! Dave was the graduate assistant coach. I came away from Lamar with more than one victory!

What is a 5K and where do you find these races?

A 5K race is five kilometers, equal to 3.1 miles. I used the website, runningintheusa.com, to find locations for races that were not too far from home. I’ve really had fun discovering races in both large cities and small towns and getting to enjoy some of the specialties these locales offer. I’ve run in large, well-organized races with participants numbering in the thousands, to smaller, more casually organized events with only 6-7 runners. In many instances, a 5K run was incorporated into the city’s festival activities, such as the Kolache Festival in Caldwell. I witnessed a beautiful morning sunrise as I ran in an event at Tara Vineyard and Winery in Athens, as well as a spectacular sunrise at a 5K in Galveston. Glow sticks lit the way at a San Antonio race, and after completing a race in Bellville, I discovered Newman’s, a most amazing bakery! Running has its benefits. I can occasionally enjoy a special treat! My favorite race was in Baton Rouge, where I finished in first place! That made it special, but it was even more special because I coupled that event with the wedding of a good friend in New Orleans. After the race, I headed there to be with family and friends. The entire weekend is rich in memories.

What attire is required for running?

Comfortable clothing and good-quality shoes are a must! A runner plants his or her feet in a specific way, either pronate, supinate, or neutral, and for best results and the least negative impact on the body, shoes should be chosen according to this trait. A track coach or a salesperson at an athletic shoe store should be able to watch a person walk and note how the foot is planted. Those who pronate or supinate will need support shoes that address the condition. Also, if running in cold weather, a jacket, hat, and gloves may be appreciated. My least favorite race was run in Mansfield. It was my least favorite because it was in 25-degree weather! My husband calls me a lizard because I love hot weather, but in cold weather, I get “cangry.” That means cold and angry! My only thought was to keep running and get this thing over with as quickly as possible! One last item I will mention is a Koala clip (koalaclip.com) for women to use in order to have a hands-free phone and your favorite music to listen to as you run.

How did you train for your races and what tips do you have to offer?

I decided the best way I could train would be to do a hybrid CrossFit program twice a week and to run races on the weekends. For me, extensive training was not feasible, so I decided on this conservative approach. As for other tips, lots of rest and water! Listen to your body. If it is saying, “don’t run,” then don’t train that day. If you haven’t started exercising regularly, then start small and give yourself grace. In other words, if you set a goal and don’t do well, then don’t worry. As my husband tells me, “Just have fun! It’s a ‘fun run.’ Enjoy it!” Great advice. Some days you’re the windshield, and some days you’re the bug! Just accept it and move forward as best you can. But at least START!

What are you pouring your time into now?

I taught for seventeen years before taking the position as Senior Academic Advisor in Athletics at Sam Houston State University, where my husband Dave is Head Men’s and Women’s Track and Field coach. My duties have included working with athletes on their eligibility, advising them on classes they need, and assisting with other aspects affecting their academic responsibilities. Beginning this fall, I’ve taken a new position at Gordon-Reed Elementary School in Conroe as a Physical Education instructor for PreK-Sixth Grade. I’m so excited about working with kids and look forward to encouraging them, and hopefully inspiring them, to do their very best. I always need a new challenge and new goals to set for myself. In our free time, Dave and I relax at home with our five dogs! They are all rescues: Great Dane mix, Boxer mix, Black Mouth Cur mix, Dachshund mix, and a three-legged American Bulldog (#duke.and.i).

Finally, the most crucial question. Did you complete your [email protected] goal on time?

Yes! I finished my fiftieth 5K one week before my fifty-first birthday this past spring! Done! In fact, I posted a picture on my Instagram (#hlane71) after each race. I treasure all the memories and people I’ve met. And I’ve accomplished another goal. Now I can enjoy more time around the pool with Dave and our family of five dogs while I dream up another challenge!

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