Ann Hager stretches while out for a run. (Courtesy photo)
Most people turning 60 years of age don’t even want to drive 26.2 miles that day.
Meet Ann (Otero) Hager, who says she’ll run her own marathon of 26.2 miles to celebrate her 60th birthday on July 23. It’s for a good cause, and not for her self-esteem or bragging rights.
“This is all about raising awareness for mental illness,” Hager said. “I’m dedicating it to my brother, Charles Otero, a four-time Boston Marathon runner. He helped me qualify for Boston in 2000.”
Like his young sister, he also struggles with anxiety.
“He’s a legend. He (once) was in Hawai’i and beat Frank Shorter in a race,” she said.
Chatting with Hager – the kind of woman people would describe as “a real spitfire” – it’s hard to believe she once wasn’t so chatty, even termed herself shy when she was being raised as the final of nine siblings in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Today, she lives in Rio Rancho’s Cabezon neighborhood, which encompasses a portion of her route on her birthday.
Yet, that shyness must have begun dissolving when she became a Rio Grande High School (Class of 1980) dancer and cheerleader in her teens. She even was named the school’s homecoming queen.
“I was shy when I was young and I had a lisp,” she said. “And you know I’m a talker.”
She spent the past 42 years in the fitness industry, fulfilling her dream to remain, in one way or another, dancing.
“Fitness has been my life,” she said. “I still love to dance.
“In the ’80s and early ’90s, my two sisters and I ran a nationwide aerobic business called Jazzworks Fitness. I have owned two fitness studios, and am currently certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer,” she said. “I created ‘Live inspired!,’ a fitness ministry at First Baptist of Rio Rancho in 2013, where I am the director of the program and teach fitness class twice a week for seniors.”
She led some fitness classes when she worked at Intel, where she was an administrative assistant.
As for what will be her 10th and final marathon, she’s running it to raise awareness of mental illness. She still struggles with anxiety and knows others have it much worse. Her goal is to inspire other people.
“As I’ve aged, my love is to help people live a life and keep it up for a lifetime,” she said. “Health is wealth.”
Just running, and dancing, isn’t always enough.
“I used to try to eat healthy, but I’d make up my own rules,” Hager said, admitting be being overweight at one time.
“When I knew that 80 percent of (body weight) is what you eat, I made the changes,” she said, dropping close to 20 pounds along the way. “For me, short and a little pudgy? When I started eating better, it made a difference.”
Making a difference in her life and others remains a goal.
Most of her days begin, she said, in her ‘inspiration room,’ “That’s where I read my Bible, do some devotion to help me get centered for the day.
“The spiritual is the biggest part, because when you battle anxiety, like I do – my faith in the Lord has always been there – that and my running have been my therapy,” she explained. “My anxiety growing up was a lot of fear. That’s why I’m calling this (marathon) ‘Running Fearless at 60,’ because I was afraid of everything.”
She runs almost every day, with a recent 20-mile run on a Saturday; lately, she’s been running four or five miles daily, including “speed work.” She rests on Fridays and Sundays.
“It was tough being the youngest of nine. And they were all extroverts and entrepreneurs,” she recalled. “We were raised to work hard and to be go-getters. My dad had a saying that I loved, ‘If you’re going to do something, do it with all your heart or don’t do it at all.’ … I grew up being hard on myself and worrying about what people thought.”
Today, she said, “I’m strong. I’m a warrior. I don’t worry about what people think about me, because I love who I am.” And she knows her husband of 20 years, John Hager, loves her, too. They spend a lot of time laughing together.
You can bet Hager will feel great when she completes that final mile plus on Corrales Road, “thinking about positive things or planning things that are inspirational. I pray for people or I listen to my music.”
She expects to run each mile at a 9:30- or 10-minute pace, “finish within 4:15 or 4:30. I want to finish. People are giving me money.”
It’s been about five years since she last ran a marathon, choosing her competitions in the ’20s to be mostly 5Ks and 10Ks.
“I will do half-marathons,” she added.
If you’d like to volunteer to support Hager at a water station or buy a T-shirt, call her at 505-270-9087 or visit her Facebook page. To see her heartfelt video presentation, catch it at breakingthesilencenm.org/event/running-fearless-at-60/
“I want to make a difference,” she said. “I’m a work in progress. I feel good.”
Hager’s 10 marathons over three decades:
- St. George (Utah) Marathon, 1992: “I didn’t train for this one; my longest training run was 10 miles! LOL.”
- Nokia Sugar Bowl Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, 1999.
- LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon, 1999. Her qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
- Boston Marathon, 2000. Her time was 3:37.
- Suzuki Rock ’n Roll Marathon in San Diego, 2002. Her time of 3:36 is her record time.
- New York City Marathon, 2003.
- Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota, 2005.
- Long Beach (Calif.) Marathon, 2008.
- New York City Marathon, 2017.
- “Running Fearless at 60” on Saturday, July 23, at 6 a.m.