Aug 10, 2021
Alaskan Marathoners in their Sixties
Lifelong friends Chiquita Elmore-Barbee and Jennette Tarver have always traveled together, attended events together, and enjoyed life together.
Both of them give back to their community in Kalamazoo, Michigan by volunteering in numerous capacities, and only consider themselves “seniors” on Sunday mornings when they take advantage of the ‘Reserved for Seniors’ parking spaces.
Jennette Tarver, at 61, and Chiquita Elmore-Barbee, at 62, completed their first half marathon…in Anchorage, Alaska. That was sixteen years ago.
Chiquita Elmore-Barbee had just undergone a laminectomy in 2003, but the two of them were determined to complete this half marathon…together.
How did they come to do this half marathon? They both thought: “we’ve never been to Alaska, so let’s do it!”
I sat down with both ladies during my recent visit to my hometown to talk about their Alaskan marathon experience.
Eden: What was the name of the marathon and did the proceeds go to any specific cause?
Jennette: It was The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon and we raised money for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. The marathon was held June of 2005.
Eden: How did you train for the marathon?
Jennette: We trained during cold, winter months on the Kal-Haven Trail in Michigan. We chose this location because there was no traffic.
Chiquita: We also did cross-training that included cardio, walking, aerobics, and strength training.
Eden: What do you most remember about this experience?
Chiquita: Anchorage, Alaska has 24 hours of daylight. All of the hotels had blackout drapes, which helped us enormously to be able to sleep. There were also thousands of people from various parts of the world and of different ethnicities, races, shapes and sizes. This was thrilling because we were all excited about being there!
Eden: What was the total cost of participating in this marathon?
Jennette: We had to raise $5,000 in order to participate. Our travel was included, the race entry fee, our medal, lodging, and some of our meals were included.
Chiquita: We both were able to secure corporations who matched some of our donations. This allowed us to raise funds faster than with single donations.
Chiquita: Another most memorable fact about participating in this race, we could have never predicted that on race day, it rained all day, yet, residents of Anchorage were out in large numbers cheering us on! The race took place on Anchorage city streets.
Jennette: Yes, imagine the entire 13.1 miles in total rain. We had on raincoats the entire time. The rain never let up, it rained all day.
Eden: Were there any photo opportunities along the route?
Chiquita and Jennette: There was a moose right on the race route with us. We were advised by race monitors to keep on running, but we paused to take a picture. The moose was right in the background of our picture. We looked for that picture and would’ve liked to have it included with our interview, but considering the picture was taken sixteen years ago, we could not put our hands on it.
Eden: Sounds like you two were doing what Black Girls Run! members love to do before the organization was founded… take pictures!
Sounds of laughter could be heard at this moment and Jennette chimed in:
We love to take pictures, they become memories.
Eden: Do you have any advice to marathoners today?
Chiquita: Don’t give up!
Jennette: Of all the races I’ve done, I believe the training for this marathon made me stronger.
Eden: What was one of the benefits of doing this marathon?
Chiquita: I felt the strongest ever in my life while training for this marathon. It is a moment I will cherish forever.
I’m honored to have been able to capture this experience on paper for these two. I’m honored especially because Chiquita is my mother and Jennette is my mother’s friend of 54 years.
The two do not run any longer, but are sure to get in their 10,000 steps per day, and are active in their yards. Both of them spend an enormous amount of time in their gardens. I must say that their yards could be featured in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ magazine. Their active lifestyle has shifted, but they are active nevertheless.
These two ladies prove that there is no age limit on conquering something you set your mind to. These two ladies prove you can run, walk, and exercise at any age. They prove that it’s never too late to become active and stay active. Yes, they are living out “preserving the sexy.”
By: Eden Barbee-Mabry / (@gardenonthegram – IG/ @EdenJBe – Twitter)
Eden Barbee-Mabry is an Education Support Analyst with the State of Georgia. Eden is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan and was led to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia after graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1988. Eden joined Black Girls Run! in Spring of 2016 and graduated from the Walk B4 You Run program in June of 2016 and is currently Run Lead for the Fairburn, Georgia group. Eden is a purse lover and strives to inspire every woman because her belief is that although the circumstances may be different, every woman can extract strength from another woman’s story.