This year's Syracuse Festival of Races drew hundreds of runners of all skill levels to the 20th annual event, but race officials said only one has been there since the beginning. Nancy Auster finished the women's 5K every year since the festival began. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us what's more impressive is that she began the tradition around the time many runners start thinking about giving up the sport.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was two decades ago that Nancy Auster stepped up to the starting line at the Syracuse Festival of Races for the first time.
"It seems like it's a lot less than that, but it's something that I've looked forward to each year and seeing what I can do this year," Nancy Auster said.
She was 67 at that time, but her love of running began even earlier.
"She started running when she was about 50," said her daughter, Ellen Auster. "I came home from university and said, 'Mom, you should try this running.' She ran in the back yard and it was about 50 yards and she said, 'Wow, that's a lot.'"
But since then, Ellen Auster estimates her mom has run in about 400 events, including marathons and triathlons.
The now 86-year-old keeps fit by training with her running group three times every week.
"She's an amazing inspiration for us because she's still doing it and she's very dedicated to it," said Betsy Kepis, a member of the Canton Women's Running Group.
She isn't alone. This year's festival saw a number of older participants shine, including members of the Syracuse Chargers, a running club for people 70 and older. And, of course, there was Nancy.
This is the second year in a row Nancy's been named national champion in her age group for women's 5K, but her fellow runners said it's not just her accomplishments on the course that inspire them.
"She was a pioneer in academia," said Mary Graham, a member of Nancy's running group. "She had a dual career, she raised her family."
And as Nancy added another accomplishment to the list, she said support from spectators was one of the most uplifting surprises of the day.
"Unbelievable. I never thought people would be so supportive," said Nancy.