Left – Debbie Gerrard Carpenter

“I decided that my 60th year was going to be my best year.” Debbie Gerrard Carpenter


When I finished speaking Debbie came up to me, introduced herself and began to share some of her story with me. “I decided that my 60th year was going to be my best year, so I decided to run 60 miles at 60,” she said. “Wow!” went through my mind.  She got my attention big time! I wanted to know more. I asked her if I could call her and learn more about her story.


A few days later we talked on the phone and she began to share.


It was an interesting time in my life.  My husband retired from a very successful career, but I saw him basically quit living.


I’ll never forget the day in March of 2013 when we were on our way home from vacation and got a call from a doctor who said my brother-in-law was in ICU and only had a few days left to live.


When we got home my husband packed, I took him to the airport, and he went to say goodbye to his brother.  Driving home from the airport I had a moment of clarity, like God said, “This is a sign”.  And I decided I’m never going to quit living, I’m going to do something meaningful with my life.  Retirement isn’t going to mean stop, EVER!


My sister, brother and brother-in-law are all runners. They entered a relay that was 24 hours and 220 miles over the Teton pass and they invited me to join them. My first thought was, I’ve never been a runner in my life, I could never do that.  But they just encouraged me and I decided to do it.  So, I started training and the next day my left knee was swollen the size of a football.  It was stiff and painful. 


I went to the doctor and was told I should never run.  He told me I was pre-arthritic; my joints were bad and I would end up with a knee replacement.  My mom always said, “If you want Debbie to accomplish something, tell her she can’t do it.”  So, I started researching, reading, and talking to runners, learning how to protect my joints.


I worked with a shoe guy that helped me find the right shoes and started running a little bit.  Between the new shoes and the supplements, I was taking for my knees I could run. 


I had no support at home for what I was doing.  In October 2014, I was sitting in my house and I thought I should do something remarkable in my 60th year; something where I can say I accomplished an amazing goal. I looked across the room and asked my husband, “What do you think of me running 60 competitive miles in my 60th year?”  He said it sounded like a nice thing to do, but I could tell he really wasn’t supportive and didn’t think I could do it.  So, I got on Facebook and updated my status that night and said, “I’m going to do 60 competitive miles in my 60th year and who’s gonna do it with me?”  Suddenly, I had all these people that signed up to do it with me.  


Feb 12, 2015, I did my first 5K and in December I did my last one.  I did it!  I had no idea the life challenges that I would face in 2015.  My husband’s battle with alcohol continued and many other horribly difficult things happened that year, including the end of my marriage. But, it was the commitment I made to doing something remarkable, the friends and family that supported me, and even joined me in my goal that helped me get through that year. 


As I listened to her, I could hear the determination of her decision to live her life to the fullest for her entire life.  Too often I hear people talking about their life as if they must accept what it is, almost like they don’t have a choice.


Big time life lessons for all of us:


It’s never too late:  At 59 Debbie decided she wanted to do something remarkable with her life.  Retirement isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of something significant.  I often hear people allow their age to be a limiting factor in their life.  It doesn’t have to be, ever!


Live Life by Design: We are going to live a life, however long.  At the end of that life we will be filled with gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities and experiences we’ve had or discouragement, regret and disappointment for the life that we never lived.  The difference will be whether we live our lives by default or by design.  Fear and doubt will prevent us from designing and living the life we were meant to live.


Choose Your Mindset: “I decided that my 60th year was going to be my best year.” I’ve said it before Mindset is what you believe and what you believe determines your decisions and your decisions determine your actions and your actions determine your results.  In a year that was one of the most challenging of her life, it was also one of the most rewarding.


Decide Before It Starts:  When we set a goal, whatever it is, we’re going to experience some challenges and setbacks along the way.  We must decide before we start what our outcome is going to be because life will give us plenty of opportunities to quit.  It will stretch us, push us to our limits. It’s going to test our determination.   We can’t wait and wonder, or just hope everything will turn out, or that somehow, we’ll finish when we’re in the middle of it. By then, it’s too late.  We must decide before we start that we’re going to finish.


I was so inspired by Debbie and her story. It is a reminder that remarkable may not always seem doable, but if we decide, do what we can, and keep moving, anything is possible!

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