Nancy Rollins Running Better With Age

Nancy Rollins didn’t start running until she was 30 years old. She didn’t set her PR in the marathon until she was 43 (a 3:02), and she didn’t notch some of her greatest achievements until she hit her 60s.

“The marathon is a unique distance that you get smarter as you run them,” Rollins said by phone a week before she planned to drive from her Northbrook, Ill. home to Fish Creek for the Door County Half Marathon May 5. “I was 34 the first time I ran Boston, and my time at age 60 was faster than that time.”

Nancy Rollins has completed 66 marathons.

At age 62 she ran the Boston Marathon in 3:23, winning her age group for the third straight year. At the Masters World Games in Sacramento in 2011 she finished first among American women with a time of 3:36 at age 63, helping the American team win gold.

“I’ve always been one of those people that just loves to compete,” she said. “With running you’re always striving for a new goal, and as you get older it continues to be a passion because you’re always seeing what you can do in your age bracket.

This Saturday Rollins will run her first Door County Half Marathon. She says she’s well prepared for the hills, and in February she ran a half marathon in San Francisco in 1:39, a pace that would earn her the fourth best female Masters time in the five years of the Door County Half Marathon.

“I love Door County,” she said. “I’m really excited to do this race and up for trying to run a good time.”

Rollins is familiar with the peninsula. Her parents retired to Door County and her brother has a home in Baileys Harbor, where she visits every year.

She’ll see plenty of familiar faces on the course as well. The professional counseler started a running club 16 years ago as part of her practice.

“Part of wellness is being physically fit,” she said. “I find it helps people in many ways.”

That club, the Evanston Running Club, has grown to include more than 30 people, 20 of whom will be joining her in Peninsula State Park Saturday.

Rollins has seen the sport evolve remarkably in her three decades of running. The first time she ran the Chicago Marathon she was joined by just 8,000 other runners. This year the race filled its 45,000 spots in just six days. She has also seen the half marathon distance burst onto the scene over the last decade.

“When I started you didn’t see many half marathons, the 10k was the big distance,” she said. “Now half marathons are hugely popular.”

Like so many runners, Rollins loves the sport for more than the competition and health benefits.

“Running is a relatively inexpensive way to be with a wonderful community of people,” she said. “It’s such a positive, we all need that.”

People like her husband, who she met on a bus at the Boston Marathon in 1982. And the veteran of 66 marathons, including 8 Bostons, is still notching firsts, including the Door County Half Marathon.