News Columns & Blogs

Runner proves she can keep up with the kids

The two-week running camp is over and Ellen Jaffe Jones is happy to report that she is, indeed, alive.

“I survived,” she said.

Was there any doubt?

“You never know when you’re going up against teenagers,” Jaffe Jones said.

Jaffe Jones is 56. She has been running for exactly half her life, and she plans to keep on running for at least another 28 years, more if she can.

“Until I’m 100,” she said.

The camp was run by Manatee High girls cross country coach Rae Ann Darling Reed. It was open to anyone willing to spend three hours, five mornings a week training and running through the trails of G.T. Bray Park. Jaffe Jones arrived at 7:30 that first morning to find herself among a group of high school runners.

She was almost three times their age.

Intimidating? Sure, but that feeling didn’t last.

Jaffe Jones found herself inspired by the energy of her fellow campers. She was motivated by their spirit, swept along in their drive.

On the last day, Jaffe Jones made it a point to tell the girls she had the “utmost respect” for them, to which one replied, “We have the utmost respect for you.”

Jaffe Jones lives on Anna Maria Island with her husband, Clarence. They own a media consultant business.

A native of St. Louis, Jaffe Jones was a two-time Emmy Award-winning investigative TV journalist. She spent five years as a stockbroker. She now teaches cooking at the Anna Maria Community Center.

And she runs.

Jaffe Jones was 28 when she almost died from a blockage in her colon. Poor diet, she was told.

Given her family’s history of heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes, Jaffe Jones decided to make changes. First came a healthy diet. Next, exercising.

“I think it’s made all the difference,” she said. “I have so much more energy, and I don’t have all the issues.”

She’s proud to report that she’s not on medications of any kind.

Her diet these days is strictly vegan.

“Lots of plants,” she said.

She treated her fellow campers to snacks of fresh fruit, dates, figs, plums.

Her hero, she said, is Brendan Brazier, an ultramarathoner and fellow vegan and author of, “The Thrive Diet.”

She’s read every one of Jeff Galloway’s books and is following one of Galloway’s training programs as she prepares for her first half-marathon, Oct. 31 at Fort DeSoto State Park.

This is a big step for Jaffe Jones, whose does well for herself in local 5 and 10Ks.

“I figure I better run (a half-marathon) while I’m young and able to do it,” she said.

The race is one reason Jaffe Jones joined Darling Reed’s camp. She was hoping to jump-start her training. She also wanted to tap into Darling Reed’s knowledge of not only running, but how to prepare for runs — warm-ups and cool-downs and exercises that work those often overlooked core muscles.

The result? Jaffe Jones dropped a few pounds and gained some muscle. She was able to hold the plank position for 4 1/2 minutes, longer than all but one other camper.

And, if her last time trial is any indication, Jaffe Jones will cut four minutes off her 2008 time at this year’s Canes Classic 5K, held Labor Day morning at G.T. Bray.

“It was really fun,” she said of the camp. “I wish more adults signed up.”

Jaffe Jones feels she is a better runner now than she was two weeks ago. That goal of running when she’s 100? Why not?

On her left wrist Jaffe Jones wears an ID bracelet with all the important information.

They are underscored by three words: Never give up.

“That’s my motto,” he said. “I have another motto: I run because I can.”