Marilynn Wolther Bravato won’t boast about her trophies, but she’s not shy about them, either. In September, she captured her 60-64 age division in the Fifth Avenue Mile. Two weeks ago, the Bronx art teacher took third in the Skagg-Walsh 5K road race. And on May 12, Mother’s Day, she’ll turn on the jets again for the Mother’s Day events in Central Park. You can still sign up—check out the New York Road Runners site at nyrrc.org—but you’ll have to risk finishing behind Bravato.
Though she loves to win, she runs for pure pleasure, and gets plenty of it. The day she found glory in the mile, Bravato crowded onto the line with the elites and the pluggers, the sub-fours and the weekend stragglers. Of the 1806 entrants in the open competition, 1124 racers would reach the 59th Street end of the Pontiac Fifth Avenue Mile. Of those, 450 would be women, with exactly two others her age or older. With little competition and a lot of heart, she took her division in a stylish 8:34, almost two minutes under her usual pace. “I remember being much faster than I normally run and having this high, this wonderful feeling,” she says.
Bravato says she’s not sure you can do much to prepare for a single-mile race. She runs six miles a day during the week and twice that on weekends. What’s the big deal about a mile? What, it’s going to kill you to go all out? “I just wanted to do my best time, knowing that it was just a mile,” she says. “Why couldn’t I do a great time?” Turned out there was no reason at all.
A tight calf slowed her in last year’s New York City Marathon, forcing her to limp through a late section. She regained her stride in time to impress her family with a 5:16:21 finish. “My son said he couldn’t believe it—when I came in I looked like I was fine,” she remembers. “Everyone who came in was either puking or they were passing out. He said it was unbelievable to watch.”
It was only fitting that her family should be waiting for her, since they got her into this. After a brief span eight years ago in which she lost both parents and got divorced, Bravato began taking long walks with her daughter. When those proved too slow, she started running. And that’s when the monster came out. A member of the Mercury Masters, she hates nothing more than being held to a molasses clip and loves nothing so much as picking off those in front of her—whether it’s her 38-year-old training partner or the slowpoke blocking her way. She didn’t take up running to beat people, but now she can’t help herself. “In a run, sometimes I see a strange person next to me and I try to keep up, and then I try to go past the person,” she says. “The competitiveness in you kicks off.”
She says she feels like she could run forever now, and her one regret is not having taken up the sport sooner—not just for her health or her sense of well-being, but for the chance to have felt that way even longer.