Barb McGirr of Kettering completes the 2017 Spring Into Health 5K at Kettering College on April 9. CONTRIBUTED

Kettering woman wins national fitness award

Annual SilverSneakers honor goes to 66-year-old.

Can you walk for 15 minutes? Most people would say, “Of course.” Can you run 13.1 miles? About 99.5 percent would answer, “No way.” You can put Barb McGirr of Kettering into the one-half of one percentage point group of people who can claim they’ve been there, done that.

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The behavioral health nurse was challenged four years ago by a doctor she knew, Jillian Shellabarger, who was a runner. Shellabarger encouraged McGirr to train for a half-marathon.

“My goal was to run my first half-marathon by the age of 62,” McGirr said. “We set goals on a daily basis for six months. I started out by walking 15 minutes a day.”

That 15 minutes turned into 30, and the walking turned into running. By the end of that six months she was running 13 miles at least one day per week, and running anywhere from two to eight miles the rest of the week. By the time the Ohio River Runners half-marathon was held in Xenia in April 2013, she had no problem completing the run in three hours.

Because of that feat and her continued commitment to fitness, McGirr won the 13th annual SilverSneakers/Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award in July. She was one of 10 finalists across the country. Online voting took place July 3-14.

“It was intense to be a contestant; the voting was very competitive,” said McGirr, 66. “I have a lot of friends on social media, and they reached out to their friends. I was getting votes from London, Paris and the Philippines.”

As a result, McGirr received 32 percent of the total votes. The award and recognition are nice, but the real winner is her overall health and well-being.

“I think that physical health and mental health are very much combined. To set a goal and go for it is so beneficial [for your total health],” McGirr said.

Since that half-marathon, she has continued with her running, but on a less intense schedule. On April 9 of this year, she ran in the Kettering College/Physician Assistant Program Spring into Health 5k. And every year, she likes to travel to Columbus to participate in the Ohio State Four Miler.

“That’s a sweet run, because you end up on the 50-yard line,” McGirr said.

She tries to run one to two miles every day now. If the weather is bad, she runs on the indoor track at LA Fitness. To keep her body limber, she also attends a yoga class there three times a week.

She retired after 45 years as a child/adolescent behavioral health nurse two months ago. Her husband, Michael, is a cardiac survivor. He underwent open heart surgery in May 2016. Just as Shellabarger encouraged her four years ago, she’s been her husband’s motivator to get well.

“I’m so thankful to have him. He’s completed two 5k walks since then,” McGirr said.

She decided to take golf lessons six months ago. They enjoy golfing together at Kitty Hawk Golf Course in Huber Heights and Community Golf Course in Kettering.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, SilverSneakers is the nation’s leading community fitness program designed specifically for older Americans. SilverSneakers helps older adults take greater control of their health by engaging participants in more frequent exercise, strength training, aerobics and flexibility training through a variety of venues and programming.

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