At age 49, she said she ran competitively for five years, but others know Donna Spoonemore, rural Hillsboro, has always been a runner.
“In high school, I ran cross- country and distance in track,” Spoonemore said. “And when my two girls were little, before they were in kindergarten, I ran 365 days a year, every morning at 6:30.”
Spoonemore, a self-employed house cleaner and part-time custodian at Goessel High School, said it was not until 2006 that she actually entered her first competitive race.
“I always said, ‘Oh I would love to do that,’ when I saw others running in races like the Emma Creek Classic in Hesston,” she said. “But when I actually did, it was terrible. I was so embarrassed at my time. I knew I could do better than that.”
Since her first competitive road race, Spoonemore set a goal of always running faster than the year before, and she proved that concept, winning the Emma Creek Classic five years in a row after her embarrassing first try.
“I just love running,” she said. “It feels good. I love the thrill before the race starts. I am so competitive and still get so nervous. I know a lot of the people I run against now and I really just want to beat them.”
Spoonemore, who ran in the Hillsboro Frostbite Run on Sunday, trains about three days each week, and competes in 25 races each year. She keeps notebooks crammed with results sheets, her times, placings, and newpaper clippings from each race to help her track her progress.
“The best race I’ve ever run was in McPherson in 2008,” she said. “I finished in 22 minutes, 3 seconds.”
Spoonemore’s preferred race distance is the five-kilometer or three-mile. She ran times of 22:30 in three races in 2010 — the Mayor’s 5K in Wichita, the Emma Creek Classic in Hesston, and a race for United Way in Hutchinson. She also completed marathons (26 miles) in 2006 and 2008.
“After that first marathon I said I would never, ever do that again. The last few miles were pure torture,” she said. “But then in 2008, Bob Woelk and Anna Woods talked me into training with them for the Oklahoma City marathon, and I had a lot of fun running with them.”
Spoonemore said she earned a T-shirt from the Hillsboro Running Club for running that marathon with Woelk, Woods, and other local runners Randy Wiens, Tom Leihy, and Glen Cleaver.
“I ended up being only 45 seconds from qualifying for the Boston Marathon in that one,” she said. “I may just try again because I’d love to see if I could do it.”
Spoonemore said her nephew, Evan Janzen, wanted to run in a marathon, so she might just have to do it again with him.
“We want to see what we can do,” she said.
Other family and friends support Spoonemore in her running efforts. Close friend Greg Washmon, Hillsboro, often escorts her to the race and relays pertinent information on her competitors place and status during the race. Her daughters, Jamie Spoonemore and Holly Spoonemore, both college students, also cheer her on at several races each year.
“They like to come to see the triathlons I compete in,” she said. “I have really gotten to love those.”
Spoonemore adds four or five triathlons to her schedule each year, training at the Hillsboro Family Aquatics Center Pool for the 400-meter swimming portion, and riding her bicycle on paved roads where she can find them for the 10-mile section.
“I am really not a strong swimmer, but I love competing anyway,” she said. “I plan to do one this January, even though I haven’t really trained for it.”
Spoonemore’s steady training partner for running races is her five-year-old rat terrier, Trevor.
“He loves running with me,” she said. “The minute I get out my running pants he starts whining and getting excited. He is such a good dog … listens really well and considers it his very important job to escort me home each day.”
Spoonemore said she trains on an indoor treadmill on days of bad weather, but prefers to run outdoors.
“Running keeps me young,” she said. “I just enjoy it so much. My doctor has told me I have a very slow heart rate and I know it is because I am a runner. I hope I am still running when I am 80.”
Her advice to others who would like to run is to start slow, get a good pair of shoes, and do it for the fun of it.
“I love the competitive nature of it,” she said. “But, there are lots of people out there who are just running for the health of it. A good motto for anyone getting started is that it is not how fast you run, but that you do the miles. I like that.”