A late starter in the marathon, Carol Sexton has now run more than 40 of them, and claimed second place in last year’s Age Group World Championship
WORDS Lorna Campbell
Carol Sexton knows plenty about comebacks. In January 2022, the 65-year-old from Woodinville, Washington, suffered a serious injury when she was hit from behind during a race.
She broke her arm in three places, and thought her days of running – and certainly racing – were over. After months of recovery, she regained her fitness and was ready to stand on the start line in London last October to take her shot at the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championship title. It was a great day for fast running.
Carol ran fast. Her time of 3:30:07 earned her second place in the 65-69 category.
“My age group had a lot of fast ladies, and with that being my first real race back, I was really shocked to take second,” she says. “But it told me that anything was possible, and I could keep pushing on.”
Making the podium also meant she got to receive her trophy from Eliud Kipchoge.
“That was one of the biggest moments of my running career! Finishing that race was very emotional for me.”
She only began running in 2010 when her daughter Katie suggested they train for a 5km.
Eighteen months later, aged 54, she ran 3:57:52 in her first marathon and achieved the magic Boston qualifying time.
“I had heard of the Boston Marathon but didn’t know what the Majors were.”
In 2018 after a DNF in Boston – “I was very underdressed for a monsoon!” – Carol flew to London to run again six days later, and it was there that she achieved her Six Star Medal.
“That was such an exciting day! After achieving that goal, I decided it was time to go up a gear and get myself a coach.”
It was a game-changing decision. After a few months of guidance from her new mentor John Goldthorp, Carol ran a personal best of 3:27:53. Her current PB is 3:19:32.
Forty-one in-person marathons and three virtual races during the pandemic are a testament to her longevity after such a late start in the sport, with the TCS New York City Marathon, which she ran with daughter Emma, holding the most special place in her heart.
“Being a role model for my children is very important to me. Running gives me strength, calmness and happiness.
“It gives me peace and a chance to ponder life and what’s happening in the world. All of that helps make me the best mom and person I can be.”
Carol is now aiming to improve on her second place in London when she competes in the championship at the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
She has good advice for others trying to follow in her footsteps.
“Be honest with yourself and have realistic expectations about what it will take to get you the results you want. Stay out of your head. No excuses. Things don’t happen overnight. And, of course, have fun.”
And the secret to championship-level running in her 60s? “Stay healthy. This concept is all-encompassing - nutrition, rest, exercise. Bone health is also key for women.
“Strength has been an important addition too. I had never lifted weights until I began working with a coach. It has made a huge difference.
“I’m so happy that AbbottWMM now provides an opportunity for age groupers. I will be in Chicago, and I am doing all I can to be ready for that start line.”