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71-year-old Canadian woman runs every single day for more than 1,000 days

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Through rain, sleet and snow, Mary Lollar is her own force of nature.

Sitting at a picnic table on a rainy day in Toronto's High Park, the senior citizen looks out on the cold, soggy conditions and muses, “I’ve ran in 30 below, I’ve ran in 17 below.”

Anyone who has had the pleasure of sitting down with the 71-year-old will admit there’s something about Mary.

Donning her maple leaf bandana, fresh from her most recent morning run, Lollar appears to have surprised herself.

“I tell you, if you want to challenge yourself, maybe don’t pick running three years in a row,” she says breaking out in a laugh that's mostly directed at herself.  

It may seem improbable - even impossible to some - but each day for the last three years, Lollar has laced up her shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and headed out for a run. And in case we weren't sure if she was keeping count, she leans in with a grin and says, “That’s 1,095 days.”

It all began in March of 2020. Before that day, Lollar admits, she’d never been much of a runner, telling CTV National News, “I went to the gym, went on the treadmill and watched TV.” Then, as it did for many Canadians, the pandemic put the brakes on her life. Lollar was unsure of what to do with herself. Somewhat pragmatically she notes, “The gyms were closed. The sidewalks were open."

The then-68-year-old hit the open sidewalks and began running five or six kilometres a day, working her way up to 13 or 14 kilometres. 

“I’ve gone through four or five pairs of shoes.”

Lollar admits with a grin, “I no longer have the nicest looking feet.” 

Mary Lollar is pictured in a provided image.

As the senior found her running legs, she began taking the heel-toe-express into work at Toronto General Hospital's Respiratory Clinic. Sometime during this running journey, with the effects of COVID-19 heavy on her mind, she began thinking to herself, “Imagine not being able to breathe. Imagine getting COVID and dying and nobody being able to come and see me.”

Her runs quickly went from being a personal mental health release to taking on a higher purpose, with each step dedicated to the health-care workers and patients struggling under the weight of COVID-19.

As Lollar ran, she thought, “I can breathe and they can't." She adds, “These are people who don’t take the next breath for granted and we do.”

One of the many individuals who marvel at Mary is her former boss at Toronto General, Dr. John Granton. 

“Everyone who’s worked with Mary knows that she has a huge heart,” says Dr. Granton, an ICU doctor. “Even other runners who’d see her out running into work every day couldn’t believe what they were seeing her do day in, day out.”

Dr. Granton laughs as he reflects on a prediction he’s made about Mary and the real life similarities she shares with the fictional character Forrest Gump: “She's going to start taking up ping pong. I don't know what it's going to be next, but it's going to be some marathon of some sort.”

Mary Lollar is pictured in a provided image.

Lollar herself said of her feat, “Sometimes I don’t believe I’ve done it.”

Way back in December of 2020 her husband pointed out that she hadn’t missed a day since March and asked her if she thought she could do a full year. 

“I said sure. Then he and others asked if I could do two years. I said OK. But I have to admit this third year has been hard.”

There’ve been times when she felt she had hit the end of the road and couldn’t go on any further. But then someone would wave at her as she ran by and shout a word of encouragement, and that kept her going.

She now shares her running adventures on her TikTok account, which has 5,500 followers. Laughing at herself and her social media videos she admits there’s “not a lot of makeup on sometimes. A little scary sometimes, but that’s me.”

When asked what running for three years straight has taught her about herself, Lollar says it's proven to her that “you can do anything. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care how out of shape you are. If you can’t run, walk. Soon enough you’ll find yourself moving faster.”

Moving forward, Lollar says, she's simply going to run to challenge herself, without the personal pressure of traversing multiple kilometres each and every day.

So what’s Mary Lollar going to do tomorrow? 

The soon-to-be-72-year-old laughs and with a youthful grin admits, “I’m going to run. I will probably end up running every day.”

Mary Lollar is seen in Toronto's High Park.

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