Monday, July 13, 2009

Tuesday's Treasures

On Tuesdays we provide our Faculty an opportunity to feature the talented work of some of our students and friends. You may see a display of creative PhotoShop work, their beautiful photographs or an interesting story about an individual’s meaningful contribution to his or her community, country or the world.If you have memories, old or new, you would like to share, send them to me at

Patrick and Mavis

Patrick Roden spent the first years of his life crawling around the floors of a nursing home where his grandmother was head nurse. He feels this experience imprinted him and influenced his life's work. Patrick’s nursing career has spanned over two decades and includes acute coronary care, trauma care, surgical intensive care, inner-city public health and ambulatory surgery care.

It was his "chance meeting" with 85 year old marathon participant, Mavis Lindgren in 1992 that set Patrick on his current academic and professional path.

The following is quoted from

"A critical care nurse, Patrick Roden, was a medical volunteer at the Portland Marathon of 1992 when he came to the aid of the celebrated 85-year-old marathoner, Mavis Lindgren. They became fast friends and he has escorted her for other marathons until her last at age 90. 'Mavis changed the way I viewed aging,' Patrick said, 'The medical model tends to focus on what goes wrong in aging--and neglects to inform us about what goes right. She inspired me to begin working on a Ph.D. in aging and human development.' Here is their story:

Night’s chill lingered in the air and the silence was broken by the sounds of songbirds. The sun was just beginning to rise on a crisp October morning in 1992. Suddenly the squeaking brakes of a rental truck and the clanging of folding chairs shattered the serenity. With military precision, the volunteers began to set up the first aid station at the 18-mile marker. I was one of those volunteers and this was the annual running of the Portland Marathon.

It took an hour to set up and go through my checklist. The first aid kit was in order and the communications were working. We were ready. Soon the elite runners would be flying through, followed by a seemingly endless sea of participants. The conditions were perfect: a bright clear indigo sky, golden fall leaves. All of us were anticipating an inspiring day.

The morning had been uneventful at our station. The usual blisters, Vaseline applied to chaffed skin, hydration to the dehydrated, and lots of moral support. One pregnant woman reached the 18-mile point and could go no further so we loaded her in the ambulance. They taxied her to the finish line and her anxiously awaiting husband.

It was now late afternoon and the sea of runners had dwindled to a trickle of determined souls. The frequent and now familiar static that preceded a message from the EMS broke the airwaves. An elderly woman was reported down near the 18-mile mark, in our territory. I waited for a person fitting the description to pass, and no one did. Strapping on my first aid kit, I set out to investigate.

Running upstream, I began to think, how elderly could they mean? Whoever it was, he or she had gone 18 miles, and this was a marathon after all…….50, maybe 60, I thought. As I rounded the bend I saw a young woman attending the injured runner who looked like Mother Theresa in running shorts! The young woman explained that another runner had cut in front of the injured woman and knocked her down as she stepped towards the curb. As I listened, I assessed the situation. The injuries included an obviously fractured wrist as well as a small bump on the head. 'Her name is Mavis,' the young woman said.

'Mavis, I would like to escort you to the first aid station,' I began… 'Young man, I’m going to finish this race,' she politely interrupted. After a few seconds of negotiating, I held up her injured arm and we briskly took off for the station (or so I thought).

Amazed, I blurted out 'How old are you?'

'I’m 85.' She pointed to her number pinned to the front of her T-shirt. 'Every year, they give me the number of my age. This year I’m number 85. '

'What do you mean each year?' I asked.

Mavis Lindgren had run all over the world. She had appeared many times on TV, radio, and magazines such as Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times, and been mentioned in books such as Age Wave (Ken Dychtwald) and Grandma Wears Running Shoes (Patricia Horning Benton). She was no stranger to Portland, either. All along the course there were signs encouraging her and the cheers followed her every step! Two middle-aged women ran up and hugged her exclaiming that they wanted to be just like her when they grew up.

Mavis and I reached the finish line arm-in-arm, right into interviews for the 6’oclock news (I have the video). I was asked to escort her for the entire race the next year in 1993, and it became a tradition.

She retired from running at age 90 after the 1997 marathon. It was her 75th and final 26.2-mile outing. Phil Knight of Nike, had a custom pair of "Air Mavis" running shoes made especially for her final marathon. Her two daughters and grandchildren accompanied us and it was an emotional finale to an illustrious running career.

What makes her story all the more exceptional to me is that at age 62, Mavis was leading a sedentary life, spending most of time reading, writing and knitting. She had suffered four bouts of pneumonia in five years and, as a retired nurse, she knew the antibiotics weren’t the long-term solution. Something had to change. A doctor urged her to join an early bird walking group. At age 70, encouraged by her son, she ran her first marathon! Two years later, she established a record of 4:33.05, and for the next eight years, held world’s best time for women 70 and over. And at 84 she finished the Los Angeles marathon in 6 hours 45 minutes-the fastest woman in her age category. 'After I started running, I never had another cold,' she said.

Asked what his message was, Ghandi replied: 'My life is my message.' This could well be said about Mavis Lindgren."

Patrick went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in Education: Policy, Foundations and Administration. Two years later he completed a graduate certificate in gerontology and began delivering adult education programs to business and civic groups on issues of aging and human development.

Following his academic and professional goals, he completed a second Master of Arts degree and PhD in Human Development and Aging. Patrick has spoken to organizations such as; Hewlett-Packard, Nike, The State of Oregon Hospital Auxiliary Volunteers Association, The YMCA, Kaiser Permanente's Silver Sneakers groups, Oasis, and many others. He enjoys speaking to groups on the topic of "possibility aging" emphasizing the health aspects of aging, the aging brain, creativity and aging, and his passion aging in place. Patrick’s volunteer service has included; The YMCA Cardiac Therapy Program, Meals-on-Wheels, The Portland Marathon, The Race For The Cure, and Habitat for Humanity, as well as helping out seniors in his community.

He lives with his best friend/wife Julie in the green state of Oregon, is an everyday athlete, artist, and human potential advocate. He will be forever grateful to the “grandmother in running shoes” who remains an inspiration, and to all those creative older adults who continue to see anew.

You can learn more about Patrick by visiting his fascinating website at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My new hero!