Go­ing the Dis­tance

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By LAURA WORMUTH Spe­cial Sec­tions Ed­i­tor

“Al­most ev­ery­one can exercise and main­tain a good fit­ness rou­tine.” In her sig­na­ture pink, Sen­a­tor Ad­die Eckardt is a vi­sion of health and longevity, but her fit­ness rou­tine is not for the faint of heart — it’s all about go­ing the dis­tance.

As a Psy­chi­atric Clin­i­cal Nurse Spe­cial­ist with Eas­ton Hos­pi­tal, a for­mer marathoner and a cur­rent spin class in­struc­tor at the Dorch­ester YMCA, the sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian is very fa­mil­iar with the im­por­tance of a bal­anced life and main­tain­ing a healthy life­style.

Well-known through­out the Mid-Shore for her ded­i­ca­tion to im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ties through her var­i­ous roles, she is also com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing her health and reach­ing new goals.

“Al­most ev­ery­one can exercise and main­tain a good fit­ness rou­tine,” Ad­die says. “They need a good coach and a goal to keep reach­ing up to the next level.”

When her chil­dren were young, Ad­die worked as an R.N., dur­ing which time a col­league started the Eas­ton Run­ning Club, en­cour­ag­ing Ad­die to join. She ad­mits that she had never been a run­ner.

“I’d read about it and think about it — thought about what it would take to start run­ning,” she said.

Life cir­cum­stances — her growing knowl­edge of the ac­tiv­ity and the sup­port of her friends and fam­ily — all pointed to go. At that time (“some­where in the ‘70s” she laughs) Ad­die’s kids were young and full of en­ergy, and she knew that this type of vig­or­ous exercise would help with tem­per con­trol and weight man­age­ment, she said, in­still­ing healthy habits and be­hav­iors at a young age.

“I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can do this,’” she said.

Ad­die started run­ning bare­foot, she said. “I’d walk a mile, and then I’d walk an­other mile, and you know, af­ter you walk enough it’s like, now let’s run a lit­tle bit.”

At the same time, she was part of the Chop­tank River Run, as­sist­ing in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the fundraiser from which the pro­ceeds are do­nated to the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety.

“I ended up run­ning the River Run and fin­ished it,” Ad­die said. “Once you fin­ish a race and you do bet­ter than you think you’ll do, it’s easy to keep go­ing.”

She stepped up her dis­tances from 5K to 10-mile runs, and con­sis­tent with her goal to keep reach­ing the next level, de­cided it was time to start train­ing for marathons.

Amongst the many marathons Ad­die com­pleted, her strength and per­se­ver­ance to her through the Ma­rine Corp Marathon, the In­de­pen­dence Re­lay and the Lady Eq­ui­table in D.C. Her next goal was to run the Bos­ton Marathon.

Un­for­tu­nately, Ad­die wasn’t able to get Bos­ton un­der the soles of her sneak­ers or notched into her sweat­band due to back is­sues that were wors­en­ing with the high im­pact of dis­tance run­ning. Back surgery fi­nally took her com­pletely out of the race.

“One doc­tor said if I didn’t stop, I would be par­a­lyzed,” she re­mem­bered. But work­ing with a nurse prac­ti­tioner, Ad­die learned how to keep her core ab­dom­i­nals and back mus­cles strong, as well as main­tain­ing a healthy weight to min­i­mize the risk of per­ma­nent dam­age and a de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­abil­ity.

“That was all long be­fore I ever started think­ing about bik­ing,” Ad­die said.

Af­ter the surgery, Ad­die would walk for the same amount of time that she used to run, she said, “and that’s when it got real bor­ing.”

Luck­ily, at that time, the direc­tor of the Dorch­ester YMCA was a neigh­bor and wanted to start a cy­cling pro­gram, Ad­die said.

“Spin class was low im­pact and you learn how not to hurt your­self on a bike, pace your­self and ease back into it.”

With the spin class ex­pe­ri­ence and miles on the el­lip­ti­cal ma­chine, Ad­die de­cided it was time to set a new fit­ness goal. True to her self-chal­leng­ing per­sona, she opted to take spin class to the great out­doors and bought a road bike.

“We had al­ways biked with our kids,” she said. “We’d put on back­packs and bike around town, but it never oc­curred to us to do se­ri­ous bik­ing.”

By this time, her chil­dren we no longer small and both were bik­ing in col­lege. In fact, one of her son’s ac­tu­ally biked across the en­tire state of Mary­land, she said.

“I thought, ‘I guess I could do that,’” she laughs. “I could try this, but of course, I’m not a young chicken and you have to be pre­pared to fall — and you do – and when you fall and learn you’re not go­ing to break things, you can learn how to do it.”

As her out­door rid­ing dis­tances in­creased, so did her re­spon­si­bil­ity to her spin class. In need of an in­struc­tor, the group stepped up to the plate and each took turns lead­ing the group. This kept her not only tak­ing the class, but also look­ing into new rou­tines, and stay­ing cur­rent on cy­cling in­struc­tion and tech­nique. She now reg­u­larly teaches the 5 a.m. Mon­day morn­ing class at the Dorch­ester YMCA in Cam­bridge.

For the last few years, Ad­die has or­ga­nized her own long-dis­tance ride — the Tour de Shore. This an­nual bik­ing event is a four-day adventure in­clud­ing a showand-tell on his­tory, agri­cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment, in­dus­try, com­mu­nity is­sues, all com­bined with ap­prox­i­mately 40 to 50 miles of bik­ing along the beau­ti­ful farm­lands and wa­ter­ways of the East­ern Shore.

“It’s not a race,” she says. “It’s for peo­ple who want and who like to do 60 miles. But the chal­lenge for this is do­ing it back-to-back.”

While her rel­a­tively small group of riders are not re­quired to do all four days, each day takes the bik­ers to the four coun­ties in Ad­die’s leg­isla­tive dis­trict — Caro­line, Dorch­ester, Tal­bot and Wi­comico — but it’s not a po­lit­i­cal thing or a fundraiser, she said. It’s just about high­light­ing the great things to see and do on the East­ern Shore.

“That’s one nice thing about bik­ing — there’s enough time to have con­ver­sa­tion while you’re bik­ing,” she said. “We ride for 20 miles and stop to see some­thing briefly, and then we’ll ride 20 more miles and do some­thing else.” The stops are planned and gra­cious lo­cal hosts some­times pro­vide drinks, snacks and are at the ready with an in­ter­est­ing pre­sen­ta­tion.

Re­cently Ad­die has opted to make the rides roundtrips, elim­i­nat­ing the need for trans­port back to the star­ing point, but all four days are sup­ported rides, mean­ing that ve­hi­cles are avail­able to carry pas­sen­gers and bikes if as­sis­tance in re­quired.

Or in the case of one of Ad­die’s first long-dis­tance rides, the ve­hi­cles were avail­able for fer­ry­ing ser­vices.

“At Short­ers Wharf, we came down and we just stopped — it was water as far as we could see,” Ad­die said. “And I thought, ‘oh, no prob­lem, it’s just a lit­tle bit of water. We’ll just take off our shoes and carry them and carry our bikes.’”

But there was no way — the water was deeper, wider and longer than any of the riders pre­dicted and they quickly re­al­ized they were not go­ing to down the flooded road on foot. “There were fish swim­ming across the road,” Ad­die laughs.

All of the riders were able to be fer­ried along the mile­long stretch of flooded road­way in the at­tend­ing pickup truck. “All the while. The bald ea­gles were cir­cling,” she says, “so that was an adventure.”

No mat­ter what part of her life she is talk­ing about, Ad­die sees her train­ing as a ba­sis to push her­self for­ward to the next level, al­ways go­ing the dis­tance for her fam­ily, her con­stituents, her com­mu­nity and her self.

“All of that train­ing was very help­ful,” she said. “And also very help­ful in run­ning for of­fice be­cause I had never done any­thing like that be­fore ei­ther. So if I can train for a marathon, I can run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice. I can do any­thing!”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore hosts her an­nual East­ern Shore bi­cy­cle tour each Au­gust.

PHOTO BY D. GRA­HAM SLAUGHTER

Race marshall Randy Thomp­son, gen­eral man­ager of the Hy­att Re­gency Chesapeake Bay, and Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37-MidShore, are pic­tured be­fore the start of the Great Chesapeake Bay Well­ness Race held in Cam­bridge.

PHOTO BY LAURA WORMUTH

Nine-year-old Owen Fisher helps Cam­bridge Mayor Vic­to­ria Jackson-Stan­ley and Del. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37B-Dorch­ester, seed the new ar­ti­fi­cial reef with liv­ing oys­ters in the Chop­tank River in Cam­bridge.

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