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Memorial Marathon: Soon-to-be 80-year-0ld proves you're never too old

When Judy Rogalsky crossed the finish line Sunday at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, I knew I had to talk to her.

Her half-marathon running bib said: AN 80-YEAR-OLD.

An 80-year-old doing the half?

And she didn't look totally out of it after going 13.1 miles in the heat and the wind. She looked like she could keep going if she wanted. Even though she had the well-coiffed gray hair and some unconventional running gear -- her white pants looked to have some paint stains on them from around-the-house projects -- she clearly looked like she knew what she was doing.

She absolutely did, and talking to her inspired me.

You can check out what I wrote about her for the newspaper below.

But there's a bit more to the story. As I talked with Rogalsky, she mentioned that her son had been the one who encouraged her to try half marathons. Then she mentioned that he and his wife got married during the marathon five years ago.

Talk about an oh-my-gosh moment -- I wrote about Amy Wills and Joel Rogalsky getting married on the course back in 2011. Here's a link to that story: She wore pearls and a ball cap with a white veil. He wore a tuxedo T-shirt. And that was the year that it rained. And hailed. And was cold. It was likely one of the most miserable years for the race. But they still got married, and they still ran.

And of all the 24,000-plus runners crossing the finish line Sunday, I was pulled toward the groom's mom.

Go figure.


Like all runners at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Judy Rogalsky got to decide what name went on her running bib.

She went with “AN 80-YEAR-OLD.”

“Well,” she said, laughing, “I’m exaggerating a little bit.”

Not by much. Rogalsky turns 80 on Friday, and Sunday, she completed her fourth half marathon.

Back in 1976, Rogalsky started to jog and walk with a neighbor friend, and for decades, they kept up their almost daily routine. But then before the 2012 Memorial Marathon, her distance-running son, Joel, suggested something more.

“You’ve been going for such a long time,” he said, “why don’t you try to do a half marathon?”

“OK,” Rogalsky said, “why not?”

She completed her first half marathon on her 76th birthday  in 3 hours, 57 minutes, and every time she’s done one since, she’s gotten faster.

“I’m getting older and better,” she said, laughing. “It takes a lot of work to get ready. It’s a challenge.”

Her finishing time on Sunday: 3:42:50.

Still, why do all this?

“Why not?” she said, her eyes sparkling despite a sweaty brow and wind-blown hair. Then she added with a smile, “I do it to beat my son and daughter-in-law.”

Rogalsky finished 12 minutes ahead of them.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›