written by Viki Eierdam
photography by Ingrid McQuivey
“It’s never too late” is an oft-used mantra. There are those who wistfully recite its promise, and then there are the Nancy Herrons of the world. At the age of 64, Herron found herself 40 pounds overweight with knee problems and a menu of failed diets in her rearview mirror. It was then that she set her sights on a dream adventure she’d been entertaining for more than two decades.
“I had a friend who mentioned The Way of St. James about twenty-plus years ago,” Herron said, referring to the Camino de Santiago in Spain. “It was always in the back of my mind, but I knew it had to be at a time in life when I had the time”
At a crossroads, she joined a local Weight Watchers group, enrolled in a Jazzercise class, began walking and running consistently and booked a flight to Paris for six months in
Since 2014, Herron has walked El Camino Francés and El Camino Norte in Spain and The Way of St. Francis in Italy—to celebrate milestone birthdays 65, 67 and 69.
She celebrates her seventieth birthday October 1, 2019, as she traverses 382 miles from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Portugués. The camino ends at the same pilgrimage destination as the other routes, but Herron views it as less strenuous. Plus, she looks forward to experiencing the scenery and gastronomy with close friends Lee and Sue Sayers.
Along with long walks, Herron attends a weekly yoga class, has found a kinship with her Jazzercise group and participates in a fun run at least monthly. She also trains for half-marathons and marathons throughout the year, and will race in a qualifier for the 2020 Boston Marathon at the end of April.
Herron stays motivated with the camaraderie of other runners, like the North County Running Club and the Ditzy Chicks—about ten female runners who are 60 and older. Solo or as a relay team, Herron finds great joy in promoting older female runners and being a mentor for younger women coming up in
“I did the Chicago Marathon when I was 68 with my daughter (Kelly). Our goal is to qualify and run Boston together,” Herron said. “I just cannot believe how blessed my life is and I think that’s why I keep doing these caminos.”
Globetrekker and Runner
Born: Salem, Ohio
Residence: Battle Ground, Washington
Herron runs 4 to 5 miles per day most days. She also attends a Jazzercise class and yoga. During half marathon or marathon training, she gradually increases distance to 60 miles per week, then cuts back to 20 miles one week for recovery and, over another three-week rotation, increases up to 60. Because of her consistent jogging, long training walks are not necessary for aerobic conditioning but to allow her body to acclimate to a 16-pound backpack and the cadence of trekking poles and hiking boots.
With a successful Weight Watchers education under her belt, Herron sticks to a menu of fruits, vegetables and lean meats four to five days a week, which frees her up to enjoy more social eating on the weekends. On European treks, carbohydrates fuel her long days, and she staves off sluggishness by staying hydrated.
“My grandmother was ahead of her time back in the ’50s. She was a strong, independent woman. She loved baseball. She wore trousers. She was a businesswoman (she owned a bar). Just watching her made me feel that I could be much more. I could be a strong woman and still be respected. She was a dynamo and where my spirit of adventure