Posted by: Susan Loken | August 3, 2013

How I Transformed Fear of 50 into Motivation to Win

Madison Marathon

As my 50th birthday began its rapid approach, I started to panic. The milestone offered me the perfect opportunity to look at my past, present and future, and acknowledge how far I have come. In spite of all the goodness in my life and all my incredible achievements, I couldn’t help wondering whether my best running days were behind me.

I spent most of my 20’s balancing motherhood and my corporate career. I became a mother for the first time at age 22, and then again at age 28, both times to a beautiful little boy. I then spent my days climbing the corporate ladder at Nordstrom, and then Easy Spirit Shoes, continually striving for advancement and working to earn top sales.

By my late-20’s, the demands of my job made it difficult to be both successful at work and the best mother I could be, so I choose to stay at home with my children. We moved to Phoenix, where I gave birth to my third son. I spent the wonderful decade of my 30’s focused on raising my children. In my late-30’s, eager for a little “me” time, I took up running.

I quickly developed a passion for the sport and dedicated my 40’s to testing my limits and developing my skills. I could easily balance running around my role as a mom (I ran before they woke up!) and I continually challenged myself to improve. Striving toward advancement paid off. Along with feeling great, I earned the honor of competing in three Olympic Trials (at age 40, 44, and 48), won the USA Masters Marathon Championship four times, and took first place in several other marathons. This was also the decade in which I discovered that your purpose is directly related to your passion.

I knew that my passion was running and I realized that my purpose was to inspire other women to improve their lives through running. The everyday progress I saw on the track and in the mirror gave me more confidence and helped me to believe in myself and believe in the power of my dreams. Realizing that I could do absolutely anything was an amazing feeling and I wanted to share that message and empower other women through my example (If a mom in her 40’s can do it, so can you!) I became a marathon fundraising coach and began my own coaching business, BTB (Believe Train Become) so I could share my knowledge, spread my passion, and explore my calling.

So, why was the thought of turning 50 freaking me out? How could a silly number make this overly confident woman feel so insecure? I think panic crept in because I have always believed the notion that “tomorrow will be better than today.” Regardless of my age and role, I have continually strived to live life to the fullest by becoming better–advancing at my job, being more involved with my kids, and improving as a runner. Looking back on my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, I now realize that in order to offer your best self to others, you must first be the best and truest version of you.

 Science tells us that our physical health declines with age, and turning “50” looked like the start of my final race. I could just imagine the walker and knitting supplies at the finish line. While I have the experience, knowledge, and passion to help others through coaching, I still want to inspire others through my example.

To pull myself out of this “OMG, I’m turning 50 and my life is over!” funk, I decided to set a new goal. I was going to WIN a marathon ON my 50th birthday. Luck had it that my 50th fell on a Sunday–there had to be a marathon somewhere in the country, right? Well, I found one. The Madison Marathon takes place in Ennis, Montana and is the highest road marathon in America, topping out at 9,587 feet and following the spectacular ridgeline of the Gravelly Range in Southwestern Montana.

So what if my skin is becoming a little wrinkled? So what if it takes me longer to recover? So what if that extra serving of brownies that used to give me power now goes straight to my ass? So what of science says that you slow down as you age and can’t be as active in your 50’s? SO WHAT?! I want to practice what I preach by living life to the fullest, achieving big goals, and setting a positive example for other women.

Coaching runners and watching them succeed brings me true joy. Thus, I’ve been thinking about how I can expand my influence and help even more women discover the life-changing power of running. Alongside sprinting my heart out and reaching for new records, I will be building an inspirational running blog for women. I’ll be teaming up with my editor, Erin McNaughton (an amazing writer and my best friend’s niece), to share helpful information, motivational real-life stories, and the inspiration you need to live life to its fullest, regardless of your age!


  1. Susan you are ageless and continue to inspire me and everyone who know you! (bitch)

  2. Love your blog~ love your passion and so grateful your journey has touched MY LIFE! You’re amazing Susan!

  3. Susan, I am so BLESSED to have you as a coach, a friend, and a GREAT example of how to DREAM BIG! Honestly, even if you never ran again, it is the person(you) who will always inspire me. Enjoy the next decade, I’m right behind you!

  4. I am such a fan!!!

  5. Great write up! You are a wonder! So grateful to know you and continue to be inspired by you! I agree with Kelly – even if you never run like you have or never run again – you will ALWAYS be an inspiration. Love you!!

  6. […] Thinking about the rapid approach of my 50th birthday scared me. I didn’t want to feel old and watch my athletic abilities slip away. However, I soon forced myself to snap out of my funk. I decided that I was going to tackle my fifth decade with more fervor and passion than ever before. I was going to WIN a marathon ON my 50th Birthday! […]

  7. Touching, inspiring, loving, laughing, believing, singing YOU… Susan, you are a treasure and this story reflects perfectly your amazing journey! Your honesty and sense of humor shine right off the page, and your wonderfully brilliant spirit rings in my heart as I read. Very, very happy for you and for all the people (including me) you elevate through your life and your words. Great work Erin and Susan! Congratulations once again for your enormous VICTORY!

  8. You are such an inspiration!!! Have we told you yet how blessed we are to have you not only as a coach, but also as a FRIEND? Sal, Cris & Lucas

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