By Ann Leach

Drive, determination and high energy describe Neosho, Missouri, runner Suzie Crossno in her desire to stay fit and improve her health.

“I joined a 90-day challenge group in 2011 so that I could be more accountable with my diet and exercise,” Crossno said. “One of my friends there challenged me to run the 2012 Celebrate Neosho 5K. I started training for it and thought I could get a feel for racing by doing a practice one before Celebrate Neosho happened.”

She found out about the Hippie Chicks 5K in support of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and invited her best friend to run this practice race with her. “I had been a supporter of Relay for Life for several years,” Crossno said. “But before this, I never knew that race organizers used the entry fees to support a good cause.” 

Crossno was hooked on running and on giving back in this way. Since turning 60 years old, she has continued to run and find races that support causes near to her heart. 

“It’s fun to win medals, but it is very satisfying to know that my running supports others that the organizations help,” she said. “My favorites are Tower to Tower that helps bring clean water to third world countries, the Joplin Memorial Run, Big Red Shoe for Ronald McDonald House and the Great American Relay for the Firefighter 5 Foundation that has runners passing the baton from fire station to fire station from Santa Monica to New York in memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11/01.”

Crossno commits to a daily health practice that includes stretches, prayer time and a devotional reading, which she completes before her feet hit the floor in the morning. “Then I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and drink a full glass of water,” she said. “Brushing your teeth before ingesting anything is very important so that you do not swallow the bacteria that accumulates in your mouth overnight. The full glass of water cleans your stomach lining while it is empty so your stomach can properly produce the stomach acid needed to digest food.”

That’s followed by 30 minutes of exercises for strength and balance. Crossno said, “Runners need strength and balance to keep running into their senior years, which is very important to me.” She also watches her nutrition and makes sure to get plenty of protein to build strong muscles and clean carbs for energy. 

Exercise and nutrition are so important to her she’s considering sharing what she’s learned with others after her retirement that is coming soon. 

“I’m looking forward to taking some nutrition classes at Crowder College,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to possibly volunteering at the senior apartment communities in Neosho to teach exercise classes and speak to the residents about better eating habits.” 

And what would she say to others who would like to embark on an exercise regimen for themselves? “Start slowly and don’t compare yourself to others,” Crossno said. “If you want to take up running, start with a Couch to 5K app on your phone. Some days I would repeat the plan from the day before until I was able to do it without feeling tired. This was where I learned that I did not have to compare myself to others’ abilities and could feel great about my own accomplishments.”