Ironwoman, 62, hopes to inspire others

Ruth Kohstall at home in Oakwood with some of her trophies and medals. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED

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Ruth Kohstall at home in Oakwood with some of her trophies and medals. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED

About 20 years ago, Ruth Kohstall got an invitation to play coed recreational soccer at the Ohio Sports Center. Now that she’s an accomplished long-distance runner, it’s ironic what she thought about the various elements of that sport back then.

“I actually hated the running part, but I liked the soccer. But I found out if I ran a couple of miles two to three times a week, I wouldn’t die on the soccer field and I played much better,” said Kohstall, 62 of Oakwood, Ohio.

After playing recreational soccer for three or four years, she decided to get her physician assistant degree at Kettering College of Medical Arts. She has four grown children, and at that time some of them were also attending college. She now works at Dayton Gastroenterology on a limited part-time basis.

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She found she couldn’t play soccer and attend school at the same time, but she kept up with her running. By the time she hit her mid- to late 40s she had progressed to full marathons. She ran her first marathon in 2000 at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati. Her time was 3 hours and 55 minutes. Her best marathon was when she finished the Lakefront Marathon in Wisconsin in 3 hours, 29 minutes.

She moved to Oakwood in 2006 and joined a neighborhood running group. They trained every Tuesday with Bob Schul, an Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000 meter distance. Two years later she had progressed to triathlons. For that, she had to learn to swim.

Her mother, Patricia Johnson, said, “At first I was concerned when she started to do marathons in her late 50s, then somewhat alarmed when she moved on to Ironman triathlons and 100-mile endurance runs. However, I have come to accept that, with proper training and motivation, age is not as important as setting goals and doing whatever needs to be done to achieve them. She has shown me that you don’t have to be young to be a true athlete.”

She’s competed in Sprint, Olympic, half and full triathlons. Her first Ironman was in 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky, finishing in 13 hours and 20 minutes. She left last week to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona for the third time. Her goal is 13 hours for the much longer full distance. To train, she runs 35 miles per week, bikes 150 miles a week and swims 4 miles a week.

In her Ironman women’s division/age group, she’s finished second in Chicago, third in Montreal and fifth in Australia. She’s also finished a full 100-mile run in Texas.

“At my age, I don’t have a lot of role models for what I do, so I like to think of myself as a role model,” said Kohstall. “I hope that I can inspire other people to live active and healthy lives. It doesn’t have to be running or triathlons, just find something you like to do, and do it.”

So what’s on the bucket list for this grandmother of six? Finish the HURT 100, a grueling, 100-mile trail race in Hawaii; do a marathon in every state/she’s done 22 so far; and compete at an Ironman in Europe.