Wyoming resident Laureen Robinson, 53, took up running following the tragic death of a family friend during the Fifth Third River Bank Run. At her son’s encouragement, Robinson took her running to the next level by competing in the Meijer State Games of Michigan and later competing in her first State Games of America in Nebraska. This weekend, Robinson is competing in her second State Games of America, being held here in Grand Rapids. She said despite several physical challenges, she plans to continue running as long as she can.
GR|Mag: Is this your first State Games?
Laureen Robinson: My first Meijer State Games was in 2013. My first State Games of America was in 2015 in Lincoln, Nebraska. My son and I did this together, which was nice. He ran the 400m hurdles and earned a silver medal!
GR|Mag: When did you start competing?
LR: I ran track in high school. After that I ran recreationally. My friend, Jason Kinzler, passed away running the 25K in the 2011 Fifth Third River Bank Run, one mile from the finish line. His wife, Kristi, helped form the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation. Since 2011, my kids and I, along with many others, run in his honor and help to raise money for the foundation.
This event is what gave me the 5K bug. My son, Andrew, who ran track for Grandville High School, told me about the Meijer State Games. He had participated in past years. I never realized it was for older people as well so I signed up. My brain had this big idea that I could run a sprint as well as the 5K, so I asked him to train me. He trained me on how to use the blocks and everything. I bought a pair of spikes and the rest is history!
This year, my daughter, Cassidy, is helping to train me, too. She pole vaulted for Western Michigan University after being released from the gymnastics team due to a back injury. So, I have two trainers. I should give some credit to my husband, Randy, who has timed me a couple times at the track and walked with me.
GR|Mag: How many events will you compete in this weekend?
LR: I will be competing in the 100m dash, 200m dash and the 400m dash. Please pray for me. I think I may be in over my head!
GR|Mag: What drew you to running?
LR: I love the increase in endorphins you get from running, that runners high. Running is my stress relief. It clears my mind. Running wakes my mind and body up.
Have you faced any challenges during your time competing?
LR: I have run into many physical challenges that would try to inhibit my running. I thank God none of them affected my legs. I have a potassium ion channel disorder that includes a form of Long QT, an electrical problem of the heart. Adrenaline is one of my triggers so I do have a defibrillator implanted just in case. When I went out for a run one day a few years ago, it discharged due to a fractured lead so I received 32 joules to my heart. I thought someone shot me in the back! It took a lot for me to forget about that shock when I’d go on future runs.
With age came degenerative issues in my lower back. My back and hips don’t tolerate running as much anymore so occasionally I need pain injections. I still run though. I will until I can’t.
I also have a chronic pain condition called RSD in my right upper extremity that has spread systemic. This really challenges me. Exercise is very important for the body so I push through on the days I can and rest on the days I can’t. I even ran when I unknowingly had an abdominal bleed a few years ago. I know, I’m a mess!
GR|Mag: What highlights have you experienced?
LR: Highlights include earning silver medals in the 5K and 200m sprint in the Meijer State Games and a silver medal in the 200m sprint in my first State Games of America in Lincoln, Nebraska.
GR|Mag: Why are you competing in the State Games of America this year?
LR: Because it’s exciting! With all my physical challenges the games give me joy. Whether I succeed or not at least I had the opportunity to try. I love that these games exist for people of all ages. While at the SGOA in Nebraska I was pleasantly surprised to hear the next State Games would be in Grand Rapids. They showed the promo for Grand Rapids and I felt such pride!
GR|Mag: When you are not competing, what kind of training regimen do you go through?
LR: My training regimen includes year-round running a couple days a week, whether it be outside in the spring and summer or on my treadmill in the late fall and winter. I also have weight equipment I use to keep my legs strong. I am by no means this huge runner anymore because of my health issues.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
*Photos courtesy of Laureen Robinson