Cary Edwards – Heart Runner

“I never regret a run. Every run is a positive. It is a fresh start to my day”

“Go big or go home, moderation does not work for me.”

Cary Edwards and I chat over the phone. To be honest we chat on the phone most days. She is my running sister, my confidant, my therapist and she will laugh at my jokes. Cary Edwards is a ball of energy, with a smile that is infectious, a ballsy laugh that can warm the coldest of souls and she will always make a friend at every race she runs. With her dark hair swinging, fierce determination plastered across her face and her decisive, practiced stride, she truly is a running force and man that girl can bust out speed when she wants to.

At 46 years old (she does not look it) Cary has achieved a lot, run a lot, and cycled a fair amount. Cary has run track (she was a sprinter), X country, marathons, she has played competitive tennis, long jumped for the high school team, completed Iron Mans, can ski, water ski and in 8th grade competed in the Junior Olympics; yes people, the Olympics. She ran in the 4×100 relay. Phew, that woman has done A LOT.

As a person, Cary is open, raw, bright, and intelligent. Everything she does is with an honesty and gusto that is refreshing in an age where people like to hide in groups and behind social media. Basically, if Cary Edwards likes you, then you have a loyal friend for life.

Born in Austin, TX, a single child residing in a small, countryside town, Cary’s sole companion was her pet goat (yes I did say goat) called Pinto Bean. Who she swears would bleat her name, “CAAARRRYYYYYYY” (now read that in the voice of a goat, I amused myself, it sounds pretty good, give it a try). Pinto Bean liked to run. Cary goes on to explain that to catch the bus to school it was 2 miles to the Highway and then 2 miles back. So, to save time Cary would run, Pinto Bean would run with her. She would like to run fast, Pinto Bean liked to run fast. They would run as fast as they could, and Cary’s running days began, at the ripe old age of 12.

As an aside, the “running to the road” and the “goat running” remind me of two books, one I have read and the other to read.

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed, by Matthew Futterman

Bill Larsen, the main protagonist of the book, learnt to run by running on his farm and to catch the school bus at the road. – Just like Cary Edwards.

Also, Pinto Bean, the goat that loved to run, reminds me of a book by Christopher McDougall (of Born to Run fame) called Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero. Yes, I know it is a donkey, but a donkey that runs with people, just like sweet Pinto, the perfect companion to a probably sometimes lonely child, living in the middle of nowhere.

Both books are available on Amazon.

But I digress. On with young Cary. Now she is running, and she hits the X – Country team in middle school, track and field and is the 3rd leg of the 4 x 100 team that gets to the Junior Olympics in California. Sprints are her love and forte and as she gets to high school, those quick legs are eating up the 100m/200m/400m and 4 x 400m relay distances. That explosive power is also making its way to propel Cary in the long jump.

“I was always very loud on the track, I have always landed on my heels and even in my spikes you could hear me coming, I sounded like an elephant.” Cary chuckles. “I loved the rush of sprinting, I still do. I have always been competitive and if someone is in front of me, I will chase them down.”

Life moves on and Cary is still running. In college, where she is studying biology and nursing (Cary is a nurse practitioner by trade), she takes a job as a lifeguard at a country club and she starts to swim recreationally. Which also keeps her safe when she fell in love with water skiing. Not something you would imagine Cary doing, which reveals her sense of adventure and mental strength to push boundaries.

After running her first marathon in Austin, in 1996 at the age of 23, with a drive to achieve, the natural progression seems to be the Triathlon. But what about the bike? AHA but this gritty, I will have a go human, is also mountain biking, thanks to an old boyfriend. Although, she had a habit of flying off her bike.

It is around 1998, Cary is in her mid-20s, she enters her first Tri, Olympic distance, to help a friend in Denver, CO. In her own words “WORST RACE EVER!?!?” On her old mountain bike, with no bike training, no wetsuit; the water was freezing, no bike shorts or water bottle cage, I mean what could go wrong? She finishes the race, thirsty, sore, and freezing and that was it for the triathlon until she met her current coach, Aubrey Aldy from All Day Endurance. Where she went on to do a ½ Ironman in 2018, driven by a back injury and the need to do cross training.

I could sit here and run through everything Cary has run, jumped, swam, and biked. I mean she has run around eight marathons, run 5Ks, 10Ks, ½ marathons, a fifty miler, she has run Boston, which is no mean feat.  But WHY does she do this and after 34 years, why does she keep striving to achieve. What is running to her?

The thing that has always struck me about Cary is her heart and her capacity to care for others, I mean she is a Nurse Practitioner after all. Her ability to run in any situation and still manage to make time for others. For example, in her fastest marathon (which was a Boston Qualifier) she stopped to give a lady who was struggling some of her base salt; can you imagine what her time would have been?  One year in the Naples half marathon, she assisted in helping a man who was having a heart attack; he survived. Whenever she runs, she comes back with a friend, but as much as she gives herself to others, what does running give back to her?

“I run for myself, it helps with my anxiety, it creates time for ME. It gives me a forum to feel balanced, physically, and mentally. It is my natural Prozac. It puts my problems into digestible bites and at the end of every run, it is like being given a fresh start to my day. I love the process, I love training, the accountability it gives, the sociability of the run”. The “process” of the run, over the years has guided Cary to figure out who she is. Morphing from the little girl running to the highway, with a goat by her side, to the woman who continues to drive and strive forward and be the best she can. Like us all, Cary feels unsettled if she has no race to train for. It helps us to dial in our training and to justify having a coach. Cary runs with Aubrey Aldy and he is an especially important element in her life. He is a person she can check in with and be accountable to. He keeps her injury free. “Aubrey helps to keep me running as I grow older and my family likes it because happy momma, happy family”.

Cary’s 5-year plan in running and life.

When a person has already accomplished so much, what is next? As we get older, we do slow down, we can get injured and we have lived many dreams. But it is OK to have new ones, to reach for new goals and to power onward and upward. So, what is next for Cary? She reveals that she would still love to try and PR in the marathon, ½ marathon and maybe a 10K. Additionally, run more interesting races like the Leadville Marathon, to experience something challenging and new. “Life” she says, “is best lived one race at a time”. Maybe she will go back and do another triathlon, as she did love that process, take up trail running, maybe biking. Who knows?

In life she is studying and working on opening her own functional medicine practice, maybe move to a cooler climate, like Montana, Idaho, or Colorado.

What I do know about Cary is, whatever she does next, it will be pursued with her heart open, ready to receive what nature throws at her. She will strive to do better, be better, love harder, work harder, run strong, run with abandonment, run as fast as she can. Just like the little girl and her pet goat Pinto Bean, with the wind in her hair and letting the freedom her legs provide wash over her and drive her demons into the dust. Keep running, keep loving and keep caring, as Cary, after all, is her name.  

Cary Stats

  • Favorite race – Leadville Marathon – Why? Because it was beautiful, scenic, new, and different. No pressure to perform as all ran at altitude.
  • Fueling – Honey Stingers, Tailwind. “However I am still searching for the perfect nutrition”.
  • Favorite Sneaker – A combination of the New Balance 1080 Fresh foam, mixed with the Altra Torin 4.0 plush.
  • Runner Quirks – I get up 3 hours before a race to have my coffee and pre – race meal and I always pray.
  • Runner Superstitions – I visualize an ugly thing on my shoulder (this is my negative thought) and I flick it away. I also like to Sharpie 413 on my arm to remind myself I am not fragile. 4:13, Philippians “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
  • Inspiration – “My Kids, if they can get up to swim in cold water super early every day, I can get my ass out of bed to run. Also, my friend Bob, who has been through so much and still gets out to run and that helps me to want to keep going”.
  • Things people do not know about me – Cary can speak Spanish. She was taught some Spanish by her Grandmother who helped raise her. Which she leant from her Mexican husband, Cary’s grandfather, whom sadly she never met.  I am her friend and I never knew that.

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