Finishing their races, keeping their faith and holding each other accountable is central to the friendship and lives of two runners, Jan Melton and Shelby Griffin.
The two women have known either since high school, but reunited later in life. Griffin, 70, graduated from Goddard High School in 1967 and Melton, 67, graduated from Roswell High School in 1969. They recalled that participating in sports for women was not an option during their high school years, so their interest in physical fitness developed when they were in their 30s.
After running into each other again more than 30 years later, they became best friends after Melton decided to train with Griffin for the city of Roswell’s Turtle Marathon in 2006. In her 30s, Griffin began running with her husband, who was in the military, and Melton began her running at age 49.
As baby boomers, the women explained work was emphasized to them growing up, but proper nutrition, health and physical fitness was something they had to learn on their own. Their passion for fitness has now turned into a mission to be an example for their families and others to live active, healthy lifestyles.
“We’ve made great connections with people throughout the whole city,” Melton said about the duo’s running adventures. “And for me personally, that’s my whole reason for running is the people that we meet — to encourage them, to inspire them and (for) the encouragement we get from them, too. Just a simple wave from a car that will take us two miles down the road feeling more encouraged.”
“We don’t run to compete,” Griffin added to Melton’s comment. “We run for our own health. I remember a long time ago, I asked my doctor, I said ‘Am I doing more harm than good?’ and he said, ‘No, keep it up.’
“So that’s the main reason we run. Not only does it keep us healthy, we solve all the world’s problems,” she laughed, explaining the two runners have conversations during their fitness adventures.
Melton’s advice for others is to find a “fun” activity that they like and find a friend to do it with. Griffin added that accountability is key for fitness.
The two friends have run 32 marathons all over the country and are preparing for the 33rd on Oct. 5 in Utah. As far as the one ultra-marathon they participated in, they explained an ultra is any marathon over 30 miles — and laughed together recalling how they got lost on the trail, which resulted in running over 32 miles.
However, that number doesn’t include their training of running 400-500 miles per marathon, half marathons, triathlons, local races and other fitness activities they participate in. Their typical weekly running routine is four days of short runs and one long run in the early mornings along the Spring River Recreation Trail, sometimes along the Relief Route or around Cielo Grande.
“We’ve got a lot of miles on our feet,” Griffin laughed. “And a lot of shoes in our closet,” Melton retorted with a smile.
In addition to physical health, Griffin said the release of endorphins keeps them healthy mentally. Both women said running helped them through menopause tremendously.
Running and fitness doesn’t come without its challenges, they said. Both of them have broken bones while running and Griffin is a cancer survivor. They said their hope and strength comes from their shared beliefs as Christians.
“Someday I will not be able to do this, but today is not the day,” Griffin and Melton read in unison the motto on their shirts.
In addition to being best friends and accountable running partners, Griffin and Melton are mothers, grandmothers, and in Griffin’s case, a great-grandmother. They consider each other to be extended family and their husbands, children and grandchildren concur.
Griffin helped with Melton’s running and Melton introduced Griffin to Enhanced Fitness classes, a national program for people over 50 at the Roswell location of the Chaves County JOY Centers Inc. Both Melton and Griffin are instructors at the free enhanced fitness class three times a week with around 20 regular students, most of them around the age of 71.
For more information on Enhanced Fitness, interested individuals can call the JOY Center at 575-623-4866.
Tracie Maxey is a co-instructor for enhanced fitness and has known Melton and Griffin for about seven years.
“They’re passionate about helping other seniors, primarily, meet their fitness goals and just stay healthy, and have good outlooks on life in their senior years,” Maxey said, explaining why she nominated them for a Sunday Spotlight.
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.