MEMBER SPOTLIGHT | Linda Pilsworth

LindaMeet Linda Pilsworth, an active member of Missoula’s walking community and finisher of five Missoula marathons and one half since she began walking them 2011.  Not new to the 26.2 mile distance, Linda initially ran marathons in her early 30’s, and competed in triathlons during her 40’s and 50’s until a hip replacement forced her to focus on other activities.  Now a retired school teacher, Linda volunteers her time as a pacer for the Missoula Marathon walking class.

Why did you start walking? 

In my early thirties, I quit smoking for good and started running, completing seven marathons and many smaller races.  In my forties and early fifties I added biking and swimming and participated in Garden City Triathlons and TOSRV.  Then, in 2005, a total hip replacement meant focusing on staying fit with activities other than running.  After retirement from elementary teaching, I learned in the spring of 2011 about the Missoula Marathon Walking Class. This will get me in better shape for summer hiking and backpacking, I decided.  I initially wasn’t sure whether to sign up for the full or half marathon, but after completing my first thirteen mile training walk, I knew I could do the full and signed up.  I must add that during my last year of teaching I was diagnosed and went through surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments for breast cancer, and so was still very much in recovery during this first walking class.  I can’t say enough about the support I received from the leaders (Candace, Peggy, Stan) of the walking class and the confidence in my strength and endurance they helped me develop.

How would you describe the walking community?

The walking community of Missoula is an amazing group of folks who are welcoming to all who seek health and well-being through walking.  We have maintained our commitment through leadership changes and uncertainty, with many folks stepping up to make sure the walking class continues to be offered through Run Wild Missoula.  These last few years I have enjoyed leading the full marathon walkers and plan to do so again this year. The walking class is geared to those who may be just beginning a walking program as well as walkers with many races under their belts.  The first six weeks or so our Saturday walks start with guest speakers who give us valuable information on nutrition, shoes, stretching, hydration, walking technique and inspiration to achieve our goals.  The Wednesday trainings build our speed and strength.  The longer Saturday walks build our endurance and camaraderie. There will be days when you would rather be doing anything else, and this is when your fellow walkers keep you going!

How often do you walk (days/week)? 

I walk throughout the year (cleats on shoes) and try to maintain a minimum of 12 to 15 miles per week during the winter.  I also do one or two spin classes and two yoga classes per week throughout the year.  Marathon training gradually increases the walking mileage.

Most Memorable Race?
I have loved each Missoula Marathon I have walked, but last year’s was my favorite – no blisters or digestive incidents!

What goes through your mind at the starting line? 

Ah, the starting line.  Excitement, adrenaline, and, occasionally, “Just why am I doing this, again?” But I know I can do it, I have put in the miles, I am ready.  And, don’t go out too fast!!!!

Favorite pre-race meal and/or ritual?

Good green salad and pasta. Significant rest days before race.

Favorite shoes for walking? 

Altra zero drop with significant cushioning, whatever is the current model.

Favorite post race indulgence?

Must do for recovery after long walks and the marathon itself: stand in the river!

Go-to energy snacks (e.g. fuel)?

As walkers, we are out on the route much longer than most runners.  We need more than gels and water.  What has worked for me after much experimenting, is to eat small pieces of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every forty-five minutes or so. For this sandwich, I use a non-high fiber bread such as sourdough or a light rye. I also use sport beans and energy chews, and fresh orange slices. I alternate plain water with an electrolyte drink.

Must have when walking?

Handkerchief, my new Garmin, and friends!

Ever participate in a costume during a race? If yes, which one.


Are you active in other sports / activities, and if so, which ones? (e.g. cross training)

Reading, singing in groups, observing, gardening, writing and drawing about the natural world around me are some of the things I enjoy do besides walking and hiking.

Words to live by?

“Fake it ‘til you make it” from my fellow Marathon Maiden Connie.

If you could meet anyone (past or present, runner / walker or not) who would it be and why? 

I would love to meet Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone. (Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, by Ben Montgomery) She was also the first person (man or woman) to walk it twice, and then three times.  She walked in canvas Keds and carried a drawstring bag she made herself. No tent, no sleeping bag.  Her story is of the triumph of the human spirit.

About Linda

My husband John and I have been married for 53 years and have been blessed with two daughters and a son, five grandsons and one granddaughter, and one great grandson and one great granddaughter.  While we don’t have any pets in our lives currently, we do care for ten thousand red wriggler worms that eat our garbage and produce great compost for my garden!  My passions include learning about and sharing the natural world with children, caring for friends and family and the earth.