DeLea, 53 years young, still running
Sparta native uses hills for race training


Laura DeLea at the 2018 USA Track and Field Masters One Mile Championships Photo provided

By Laurie Gordon
SPARTA — Feminist writer Betty Friedan said: “Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
These words underscore the way Sparta's Laura DeLea lives her life and pursues her athletic goals. The 53-year-old just placed third in her age group and ninth overall female at the prestigious 2018 USA Track and Field Masters One Mile Championships, clocking a blazing 5:57.
DeLea said of the event, which was held in Flint, Michigan, “It wasn't my best mile time, but it put me at a 87% age graded, which is a Silver National Elite Status. The course had a lot of turns which made it slower, but my biggest pride was just being there and part of this amazing event.”
After 20 years at the same company, Delea made a career change at the beginning of 2018, and put her racing goals on temporary hold.
"I continued to train and race but I didn’t have a target," she said. "Once I settled in to the new job, I wanted to have something to look forward to. This National Championship race was somewhat of a last minute decision. I love to travel to competitive races. It's fun to run locally, but it's more fun to jump in with the best runners in the country. Fierce competition excites me. That’s not always been the case. Now I know it's just me, my time and the road, so having accomplished runners out there with you provides that extra internal push.”
She started running when she was 10 years old, called it "an instant love," but her racing days only started about 11 years ago.
DeLea is a native Spartan, and has lived in the town all of her life save about five years when she lived in California. She loves the area and harnesses it's beauty and terrain for her training.
“The hills of Sparta make for great training,” she said. “It doesn’t get much tougher than running up Glen Road a few times a week. I thrive off of hills. I know every street in this town and have hundreds of routes depending on what distances I'm training for. People often laugh because they see me running in three different towns within a couple of hours when they're out running errands on my long run day. I’ve just always loved the freedom of going out the front door and hitting the road.”
One of her favorite neighborhoods through which to run is on the Alpine Trail side of town.
Training doesn't stop once she off the roads.
"I go to the track once a week for speed work," she said. "I used to hate the track but now I feel the most reward after finishing challenging intervals. These workouts have become key since I started to put more focus on shorter races like the mile and 5k. The gym is a must as well. I lift at least three times a week — abs, and upper and lower body. A strong core and arms are important to get the best results on race days.”
DeLea represents two racing teams: a USATF NJ team (State Champions 2016/17) and a NYRR team ( NYC Champions 2016/17).
“I usually train alone because of my busy work and life schedule,” she said, “But recently I stepped outside of my comfort zone and have a coach holding me accountable on my main training days. There’s no lack of motivation in my running and friendship world, as I have a several friends who are the top runners not only in the state but in the country. We all keep each other going as well as balanced in life. My best friend, Roberta Groner, recently qualified for Olympic Trials for the Marathon with a time of 2:30. She is amazing. We run and work a lot but always make time for fun and laughter. I'm past the days of being able to be a superstar like her, but get just as excited cheering for my friends as I do when I'm competing.”
Of aging, DeLea said, “It helps to never focus on who your passing or who is passing you. We all have our own personal records and our own reason for being out there. Just run your own race. It's all in a day, hot, cold, healthy, injured, you just don’t know what your going to be handed. So, I just do your best and have fun.”
She's seen people her age make excuses or claim they're “too old” for physical activity.
“I hope to never get there," she said. "Right now I find myself keeping up with a lot of 'younger' runners, both male and female. I feel like there is no age in running. We all have the same passion, drive, will and keep-it-going attitude. If I didn’t look in the mirror I would think I was 17. But I’m not, so thank god for Advil.”
DeLea has seen her share of injuries, but stays positive and pro-active.
“It might be easier to say what injury haven't I had,” she said. “The worst being some serious back issues. But after several procedures, a lot of daily stretching and smarter training I’m healthy and strong right now.”
Next up for DeLea will be the 2018 5th Ave Mile on September 9. The course is a blazing straight away through the asphalt valley of New York City's skyscrapers.
“I've had more time to train for this one, and it’s a great course, so I'm excited to see what I can do,” she said.
Singer David Bowie said, “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been,” and this is the way DeLea sees it. With age has come knowledge about how to train and how to integrate rest and recovery. She's put together a winning combination and maintains lofty goals.
At 53 years young, DeLea said, “My mile personal record is 5:54 which I ran in 2016 at the 5th Avenue Mile. I'm hoping to better that this year, now that I'm training for it. With the proper training, I hope to someday hit 90%+ in the mile, which is world class.”