December 15, 2022
Five 50+ Menopausal Athletes to Watch in 2023
These strong, feisty women are among those blazing trails for the rest of us to follow.
By Selene Yeager
As we prepare to crack open the seal on a fresh new year, let’s take a moment to celebrate menopausal athletes (including every strong, feisty woman reading this!).
We all know that menopause is not the end of the athletic line. But there are those in the mainstream who still don’t get it. Take this line from a recent sports medicine press release as an example. The authors are talking about resistance training programming and start out stating that “…unlike a senior citizen, an athlete can undertake a demanding exercise routine.”
After I stopped banging my head on my desk, I did a little Googling to see at what age someone is technically considered a “senior citizen.” The answer: 55, though you can’t collect your U.S. Social Security benefits until 62. In any event, I don’t really care if the definition of senior is 55 or 85. Being a senior citizen and being an athlete are not mutually exclusive. Menopause is not the end of the athletic line, nor is becoming a senior citizen however you define it.
To send that message loud and clear, I want to dedicate this blog to a few badass midlife and menopausal women, so we can celebrate and share their stories. This list obviously just scratches the surface. So, consider it a living document and share it along with the women who inspire you, and keep adding to it and passing it along!
And with that, here are five 50+ athletes to watch in 2023.
Rebecca Rusch — Longtime adventure racer and seven-time world champion, Rebecca Rusch, didn’t even start racing professionally as a mountain biker until age 38. She then proceeded to rack up national and world victories, win Leadville 100 four times, DK200 (now Unbound) three times, and crushed the first 350-mile DKXL gravel race two months before turning 50. Along the way, she also became a best-selling author with Rusch to Glory and an Emmy winner with Blood Road. She’s living proof that midlife can be a time when women can truly hit their stride, as she’s continued pursuing adventures like winning the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska last year at age 52. She’s got more bikepacking explorations, educational offerings, and film projects lined up for 2023. You can follow her at https://www.rebeccarusch.com/
Pam Reed — There are many ways to mark 60 years on this Earth, but few women celebrate by ticking off their 100th 100-mile ultrarun, which is what the legendary Pam Reed did in 2021 at the Grandmaster Ultras in Littlefield, Arizona, where she finished the 100-miler in 25:02:54 — first woman, and third overall. Pam was also the first woman to outright win the Badwater 135 in 2002, which she repeated in 2003. She holds world records in 24 hour and 48 hour races, and was the first woman to run 300 miles, in over 80 hours, with no sleep in 2005. She is a survivor of anorexia nervosa, which she writes openly about in her book, The Extra Mile. She was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame this year. She told ultrarunninghistory.com, “I still want to run across America…I would like to do the Ultraman in Hawaii…[and] I want to do UTMB next year.” We’ll be watching!
Maggie Odette — Maggie, 53, took up climbing in her late 20s and at the age of 44, she claimed her first 5.14a. In 2019, at the age of 49, Maggie redpointed (free-climbing a route in one go from the ground to the finish after practicing it) her first 5.14b, T-Rex, in the Pipe Dream cave of Maple Canyon, Utah. She climbed her two hardest routes to date at ages 49 and 50. She spoke frankly about the challenges of menopause, including hot flashes and anxiety in our Hit Play Not Pause interview with her and climbing legend Nancy Feagin. And she writes openly about the big climbing dreams she still harbors and how making those dreams a reality requires a different approach with the passing of years in her blog at The Gravity Chronicles. It is inspiring to watch and I look forward to the challenging routes she’ll be attempting (and hopefully succeeding) to send in the coming year.
For more climbing inspiration, I also encourage folks to head to Broad Beta and check out Jeannie Wall’s adventures in menopause.
Melanie McQuaid — Professional triathlete, mountain bike racer, coach, and five time world champion Melanie McQuaid, 49, continues to kick ass through the menopause transition. She placed 3rd at Ironman Chattanooga and 10th at Xterra World Championships in Maui last year, and continued crushing it in 2022, finishing 4th at Ironman 70.3 Waco despite crashing on the bike leg, and finished 3rd at Ironman Wisconsin, 5th at Ironman Lake Placid, and 6th at Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, according to Triathlon magazine. She continues to compete at an elite level while focusing her energies on her coaching business, MelRad Coaching.
Mel turns 50 next year and told us her three main bucket list goals are to win an Ironman, qualify for Kona, and go sub-9. We’ll be cheering for you in 2023 Mel!
Leah Goldstein—Leah Goldstein has always been an ultra achiever. She was the World Kickboxing Champion by age 17. Shortly thereafter, she enlisted in the Israeli Military and became one of the few female instructors of the elite Commando division, specializing in Krav Maga. She later transitioned into Special Forces where she helped combat terrorism and violent crime. At age 30, she became a professional cyclist, and a few years later came back from one of the most horrific crashes in pro cycling history. In 2021, at the age of 52, Leah won the grueling solo division of the Race Across America (RAAM) outright, beating the next closest man by more than 16 hours. She’s got her sights set on finishing RAAM even faster in 2023, so stay tuned. And check out her aptly titled memoir No Limits.