She may not have been the first one out of the blocks, due to her late start in competitive running, but Rockingham County resident Angela Staab has made the most of it when the starting gun finally sounded in her competitive athletic life.

At 76 years young, Staab has only been competing in the United States Track and Field Association Master’s events for about 10 years, but in that short span she has won an astounding 12 national championships in addition to placing in hundreds of other races.

Her home office has literally turned into a well-earned shrine to a sport that transformed not only her body, but way of life.

Talk about a glass half full personality, Staab is a ray of sunshine and an inspiration to both senior citizens and millennial’s alike.

“Here’s my philosophy — it’s not how old you are, but how you are old. I live by that. I never did anything athletic as a youngster and I really think I missed something. My grandchildren get such a kick out of it. They’ll say ‘my grandma won or my grandmother ran that race or whatever.’ That kind of speeds me on. I happened to marry and athlete and he says ‘go for it’ and he’s supporting me in anything I do,” she said.

Her success at this stage of life is actually quite remarkable considering she didn’t participate in sports in either high school or college.

“I didn’t do anything really athletically until I was 55. After my children went off to college one of my daughters was a cross-country runner and she said mom, ‘you can’t be a slug. You won’t live to be an old lady,’ so she taught me how to run and then my other daughter taught me how to swim. So I did 5K’s, 10K’s and half marathon’s until I was about 65 years old and then I met a guy from the Greensboro Piedmont Pacers and he introduced me to USA Track and Field, so I started running indoor and outdoor track and field events and it’s taken me all over the country,” she said.

Staab said in her case, running became addictive.

“I achieved success with my first 5K and I just kept going because you know, a reward and a trophy goes a long way. That was when I was first successful and that made me a happy camper. When I started running track I competed in the 1500 and the 800 and I placed in them, so that success kept me going,” she said.

Hitting Her Stride

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Staab recently competed in the Western Hemisphere Games and won two silvers and a gold medal in Toronto, Canada.

These days she competes in several events including the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 — but said she really excels in the distance events. In addition to her many individual accomplishments, she is also an All-American team member where she and the other members recently shattered an American record at the Western Hemisphere Invitational in the 4X100 meter relay. The previous record was two minutes and nine tenths of a second. They truly reset the mark with a smoking hot time of one minute 29 seconds.

Although she had success in the relay, Staab says she’s found her nitch with distance events. She won a silver in Toronto which qualifies her for the World Games, a.k.a. the Masters Olympics.

She says running and exercise keeps her young and it has been a very important part of her life in recent years.

“I always say — keep running away from death. I truly believe as you get older you have to keep your heart and lungs healthy. You’ve got to do something to use your heart and lung muscles and that is what keeps them functioning. I have arthritis and that is part of the reason I do this. Building your muscles and tendons around your muscles — it makes you feel like you can do anything. I had a right hip replaced two years ago. You might say I’m a bionic woman and I’ve got to keep it going because I have a bionic part,” she said with a laugh.

Staab’s example has rubbed off on a lot of people over the years and she said that is an unexpected reward.

“I’ve been doing senior games since I was 55 and whenever I go out onto the track, I always encourage people to come out and run with me. I have two ladies that had never ran before and they are similar age to me and now they are running the 100 and the 200 and I love that. My husband says it’s an oxymoron because I’m teaching people to run that are my competition, but I don’t feel that way. I feel like, if they are healthier for it, so be it.”

Prior to retirement, Staab was an administrator of Annie Penn Hospital for eight years and served as the vice president in charge of patient care.

She and her husband moved to Rockingham County 45 years ago, and although she will be the first to admit that she’s a Yankee transplant, she’s got enough time under her belt to get her southern green card.

She said leaving the cold and dreary north was a pretty easy call.

“I thought North Carolina was heaven after getting off the plane and leaving all of the slushiness behind. The azaleas and dogwoods were blooming and I never put my coat on again for the whole time I was here, and so I knew I had died and gone to heaven,” Staab said.

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Contact Jim Sands at 336-314-1058 or on Twitter @jimsandsRCN.

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