From academia to sprint races – runner finds late-in-life passion
Competition is nothing new for Ellin Grossman. For many years, her career at University of Houston-Clear Lake and involvement in the arts kept her competitive in the intellectual arena. Now her competitive focus is on how fast she can sprint – at an age when most people are slowing their pace.
“There is running – and then there is sprinting,” says Grossman, who at age 78 just bought her first pair of hot pink and black spike track shoes.
“I am now challenged by meters – the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash,” says Grossman. “Sprinting is not simply running fast, it’s an entirely new gear.”
Associate professor emeritus of fine arts and art education and past associate dean for the School of Human Sciences and Humanities, Grossman was a longtime art faculty member who began teaching at UH-Clear Lake in 1974 – during the university’s early years.  She retired in 1999.
In 2007, realizing she was out of shape and had gained weight; she began strength training and walking with a personal trainer.
After a year of building her strength, Grossman’s trainer, British 1960 Bronze Medalist and ld class sprinter David Segal, suggested she try running. Her first run was on the gym’s 25-yard indoor track and the sport “clicked” immediately. Eventually, her new passion led to organized 5K runs where she learned she needed conditioning to run in the Texas heat. She also found that she was fast compared to other women in her age group. Ribbons and medals followed.
Improving her finishing times meant she won most of her races. In 2010 she ran nine 5K races between March and November. By March 2011, she was listed as one of the 10 fastest women in her division in Texas Runner & Triathlete magazine. The same year, she earned the Gold Phidippides Award for completing 17 sanctioned 5K races, and also earned All-American honors for meeting a 38:38 time standard for 5K in her division.
Savoring the physical challenge of running, Grossman says she looks and feels better than she has in many years.
“I am grateful and thankful that I can run, and do the very hard training that it requires,” says Grossman. “I appreciate my health and fitness far more than I did as a younger woman when I took my health for granted.”
Running has also allowed her to connect with other women, many of them younger athletes. Surprised by the newest side of her competitive nature, Grossman isn’t sure if her athletic abilities lay hidden within, or a result of her hard work.
In addition to working on improving her times in 5K races, she is currently sprint training for track races.  So far, she’s competed in her first 100 and 200 meter sprints.
“The sprint start is a challenge,” says Grossman. “Starting from just behind the start line, the runner rests her upper body on spread out hands, one forward knee and one trailing knee. Start too soon – and you are eliminated!  Start too late – you have lost the race!
“The times I am chasing are the All American Standards of Excellence in Track & Field – Women.”
Those standards are challenging.
Grossman will need to run the 100 meter sprint in 22 seconds; the 200 meter in 48 seconds; the 400 meter in 98 seconds; the 800 in four minutes 30 seconds and the mile in nine minutes 40 seconds.
But with her trainer’s encouraging words about how running in spikes feels like flying, Grossman is ready for her next running challenge.
"I do not know if it will take me one year, two years or more to meet at least one of these standards. I will find out!” says Grossman.  “I can’t say why I like it – but I do. I feel strong and independent and enjoy being part of the world of running.”
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University of Houston-Clear Lake offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral program, from its four schools, which include the School of Business, School of Education, School of Human Sciences and Humanities, and School of Science and Computer Engineering. For more information about the university, visit
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