For a 25th consecutive year, the longtime Mount Hermon resident will run the grueling 26.2-mile Big Sur International Marathon. By competing in and finishing each of the previous 24 events, she’s earned the title, and this year she intends to keep the moniker.
“Age doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Brown, who’s as light on her feet as a woman half her age. “Running has been great physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”
Brown has run since she was 45 years old, when the last of her two daughters and three stepchildren left the house.
“When they left home, I felt a little empty-nest (syndrome), and that’s not me,” Brown said. “I heard that exercise makes the world better.”
Soon, she took up running. Since her first race, she’s logged more than 70 marathons, including the famed Boston run and other races all over California and the United States. Among all she’s tried, the Big Sur race is her favorite marathon, because of the natural beauty of the course.
She also hikes and backpacks in the Sierra Nevada.
“When I am in the High Sierra on trails, that is my spiritual meeting with God,” she says.
Perhaps surprisingly, Brown does not follow a set running program or diet, but she said her foundation of many years of running allows her to take training and races in stride.
“I don’t have no program whatsoever,” Brown said, her voice colored by a light Middle Eastern accent.
She runs three or four days each week and completes a 20-mile run twice before each race.
Brown trains in Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos once a week. On a recent Friday morning, she logged 16 miles with a group of runners of all ages.
“She beats us,” said Filomena Milburn of Felton, in her mid-50s. “I shouldn’t admit this, but she does. We’re running together, and all of a sudden, she’s gone. She just has this physical and mental ability that I’ve never seen.”
A group of nearly 20 runners will wear T-shirts at Big Sur printed with “Team Khartoon, Grizzled Vet.”
“They call me Mother, and I call them my kids,” Brown said. “I thought that was sweet of them.”
Brown, who was born and raised in Syria, moved to the United States in 1957 after marrying an American in the oil business. She raised her family in Texas before moving to the Stockton area and then to Mount Hermon in the 1980s.
Several years ago, she suffered an iliotibial band injury, a common cause of knee pain for runners, in the Carlsbad Marathon months before the Big Sur race and nearly lost her veteran title.
“I don’t know how I finished,” Brown said. “They wanted to pick me up and put me in a cart and carry me away, and I said, ‘I’ll see you at the finish line.’”
Her passion, she said, is to inspire others as she logs mile after mile on roads, paths and trails.
“I don’t want to rust out, I want to wear out,” Brown said.
Above all, she credits her endurance to her faith.
“I thank God,” she said with a crack in her voice. “My faith in him keeps me well. He gets the credit to keep me healthy, well and an inspiration to others.
“If I can do it at 73, it’s never too late for them to start.”