By SUE WEBBER
Susan Adams Loyd, 59, recalls the exact moment she decided to become a sprinter, now a world-ranked runner in this year’s National Senior Games June 2-15 in Birmingham, Alabama.
She also is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.
The Edina native was 46 and living in Jacksonville, Florida, at the time, attending a retirement party and toasting the guest of honor. She asked him if he had any regrets, and he said, “No, do you?”
“It was as if I’d been struck by lightning,” Loyd said. “I’d always wanted to be a sprinter. I’d been an athlete my whole life, but I grew up pre-Title IX. And now I had kids, and a busy job. I was an executive, managing a TV station.”
But she was motivated. Three days later, she found herself on an area football field, running track. “I ran 65 meters and thought, ‘This is hard,’” she said. “But I had the amazing sense that this was the start of something.”
With 100 meters as her goal, Loyd showed up at the track again and asked some boys who were the age of her own children if they’d help her learn how to use the blocks. They readily agreed.
“Rather than feeling like an old lady or a dope, I found that anywhere I went people wanted to show me how to do it,” Loyd said. “That’s the cool thing about track. It’s an amazing community. It’s an umbrella sport. There are people of every shape, size, gender, age and race. It’s the most inclusive sport under the sun.”
For her, Loyd said, “It’s not about winning. It’s about being able to be fit and healthy. At 59, I’m just happy to be on the track. It’s about movement, friendship and an activity that gives you joy. It’s about setting goals for yourself. My goal was to run fast and get in shape.”
Six years ago, she hired a coach, and she now has a nutritionist, a trainer and training partners, too. “I want to be the best I can be,” Loyd said.
When her coach said, “You’re not a 100-meter runner, you’re a 200-400 runner,” Loyd shifted her focus.
In 2012, she won a national championship for her age group in the 400 meter. “From having no experience to suddenly winning was never my goal,” Loyd said. “It was the stars aligning. I got out in front and I thought, ‘Now what do I do?’ There were five other women chasing behind me. But I hung on to win. That really was a changing event for me.”
She notes that the 400-meter event is very difficult to run. “It’s once around the track and by the time you finish, you have no air in your lungs,” she said. “It’s a painful and scary feeling. It’s difficult to train for. You need to have a certain body type, to be strong and fast, and have a lot of stamina.”
She joined a group in Boston then, the Mass Velocity Track Club, built around master’s men and women sprinters, middle-distance runners, jumpers and throwers ages 30-80.
Loyd now is a world-ranked master’s sprinter in 100m, 200m and 400m.
She was invited to represent the US, along with 436 other athletes last year in Leone, France. She competed in 200m and 400m.
“I ran with the United States W55- 59 Women’s 4x400m relay team that won gold, and also set an American record at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France,” Loyd said.
“I also ran on the team that won a silver medal in the 4×100 at the same championship,” she said. “Three of the four us were on both the 4x400m and 4x100m teams. There is a separate selection process for each race. I was fortunate to have been one who ran in each race.”
“It was a beautiful day, with women from all different countries,” Loyd recalled. “The stands were full of people with flags. We were representing the U.S. and it felt very patriotic.
I thought then, that was what the universe was pointing me toward. I thought to myself, ‘You didn’t have a chance as a young person, but now you showed up, you tried hard and this is your present.’”
“It was the most amazing competitive event I’ve ever been in,” Loyd said. “All four of us ran our best that day. That’s all I ever want to do.”
She runs about 25 races a year. In the last 13 years, Loyd has run in a dozen college races, as an unattached runner. She is an honorary member of the University of Minnesota track team.
And she does some kind of movement and exercise each day. “I train in the water, I bike, I lift weights, I do yoga,” she said. “I never miss a workout. The rigor of it appeals to me.”
She’s competed in more than 200 meets, and they’re all documented on a spreadsheet. “I keep track of every 100th of a second,” Loyd said. “I pore over the stats with my coach. It’s been a completely new chapter in my life; it’s been a transformation for me. If I run my fastest, no matter where I place, I’m happy.”
“The best part is the people you meet and the physical fitness,” Loyd said. “You need to find something you love. Just move. Get off the couch and move. You have to move because if you sit on your bottom, you’ll grow old.”
Loyd was a figure skater at Braemar Arena in Edina when she was growing up. She recalls that there was no girls track team then. “I ran on the boys team one season, but I wasn’t welcome there,” she said, adding that any regret she had about that experience has “all been erased” with her new focus.
“You’re never too old to follow your dreams,” Loyd said. “I waited so long, but I got a second chance. I always say I’ve been redshirting for 40 years.”
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Loyd has a graduate degree from Minnesota State Mankato and a second master’s degree in management. She’s part of a group attending Harvard on weekends now.
She previously worked for 38 years in media before joining the BBB. Loyd and her husband, Rick, are the parents of a son, Adam, and a daughter, Julia.