Susan Wilson is a runner. She runs everywhere she goes — Egypt, France, Viet Nam, England, her home in Princeton, N.J. and Chilmark. They’re all good places to accelerate her body past a walk. In fact, at 78, she was the fastest female in her age category in Chilmark Road Race last Saturday. She has won that honor 11 times, in her 60s and her 70s.
“You know what,” she said on the phone this week. “It’s just putting one foot in front of the other.”
Ms. Wilson happens to do that simple process consistently faster than many women her age.
Her finishing time in the 3.1-mile, 1,600-person run down Middle Road was 36:22. Aside from endurance she also regularly displays her penchant for modesty.
“I never know how many people are in the age category,” she said. “I’ve been in some races where I was the only person in the age category, so that doesn’t say much.”
Ms. Wilson, who has been coming to the Vineyard for 40 years, started running when she was 50. She runs, by her count, five days a week.
“Certainly at my age you need to do that to keep it going,” she said.
Her first race was the L’eggs Mini Marathon in New York city when she was 51. That year, she remembers, Norwegan Grete Waitz won the 6.2-mile women-only race.
“She was probably on her way to the airport by the time I finished,” Ms. Wilson said.
Her favorite thing about the race, though, was the tag line: Who says women can’t run the world?
“And I have always subscribed to that,” she said.
She spent the past year traveling to places like Dallas, Tex., and Indianapolis, Ind., to help Sen. Hillary Clinton in her run for president.
She was an ardent Clinton supporter and would spend hours on the phone with potential voters across the country before the campaign ended earlier in the summer.
Wherever she went to help out, she would go for a run. “Leaving your footprints behind,” she said.
At the age of 67, after six months of preparation, she ran her first and only marathon — the New York city marathon.
“I tell friends I could get a PHD in running,” she said. “Because I’ve studied so hard how to do this.”
She cites some of the cardinal rules of running a marathon, such as never wear anything the day of the race that you haven’t worn before.
But she also knows quite a bit about another topic: safe sex. Ms. Wilson ran the Sex Education Program at Rutgers University for 26 years. Now she writes about the topic on a blog called Sex ed, honestly, which can be found at answer.rutgers.edu/blog.
“Running really helped me,” she said, connecting her occupation to her hobby. “When I would do my daily run, I was able to think out some of these controversial issues.”
At the Chilmark Road Race every year, she holds her breath as she waits for her husband to report back the results to her.
“I guess I’m sufficiently competitive about this now,” she said. “As you get older in an age category it gets harder. This is the one time where if you have a zero birthday, you look forward to it because it means you’re changing age categories.”
Her husband came back this year with his arms once again raised in victory.
For winning her age category, she was awarded lunch for two at the Farm Neck Golf Club. She said she’ll probably give it to her husband.
“He’s had to put up with this woman who’s running all the time, right?” she said.