If you think it’s too late in life to do what you really want, consider the cases of Kathy Martin and Charlotte Rogan.
At 60, Martin (far left) is one of the world’s fastest runners in her age group, and that’s saying something when you consider the rapidly growing field of masters (over-40) athletics and competitions. A suburban New York real estate broker, Martin has set nine American and two world records since she began competitively running in her late 40s.
Rogan, 57 (near right), has just published “The Lifeboat,” a critically acclaimed novel that’s likely to be a popular success as well. Although the book is termed a debut novel, Rogan, a Connecticut resident, wrote three novels before that while she was a stay-at-home mother of triplets. It was only on a whim, she told “The New York Times,” that she pulled the manuscript of “The Lifeboat” out of the drawer and sent it to an agent.
“It was unreal,” she said of the decision by Reagan Arthur Books to publish her novel. “I do like the sense that it’s so surprising.”
It’s probably surprising to others as well. Even though we hear a lot of happy talk these days about how great and fulfilling it is to age, sometimes it just isn’t. We may feel we’ve made the wrong life choices or that we haven’t used or developed our skills as talents as much as we’d like. But Martin and Rogan, as well as thousands of lesser-known women, show us the possibilities that our lives still hold.
When Martin was growing up in Canada, girls didn’t exactly get first-class treatment in sports. If they wanted to play hockey, they had to wear the boys’ sweaty uniforms. She had no idea of her athletic abilities until, decades later, she went for a slow run on a whim—and wanted to die after the first ten minutes. But she loved the feeling of running, and so she kept at it under tutoring from her husband, an experienced runner.
For her part, Rogan practiced her craft of writing in secret over a long period of time. When her triplets were in school, she wrote. When she could have gone to lunch with friends, she wrote. Although she wasn’t getting regular feedback, she drew on what she’d learned in a creative-writing class. “One thing I picked up was just doing the writing every week…You learn not to be afraid of putting things on the page.”
Martin learned to be fearless, too. She was sure she couldn’t run a three-mile race. But she did, and though she doesn’t remember whether she won (probably not) she loved the feeling of competition and drove herself to improve.
Rogan also persisted through early discouragement, not hesitating to keep three novels she’d written out of circulation because she doesn’t think they’re good enough. But she’s still going strong and has written a fifth, post-“Lifeboat” novel. And Martin is looking forward to competing in the world masters championships in Finland this month.
Although the paths Martin and Rogan are walking couldn’t be more different, their stories show that success is possible at any age—and for the rest of one’s life. Says Martin, “I hope I do this until the day I die.”
That’s not a bad goal.