Mays won a gold medal in the annual world duathalon competition held this fall in Ferrara, Italy, an event which combines running and biking over a 55-kilometer (approximately 35-mile) course. One of 110 American representatives - who also included Ryan Davenport '97 - participating with duathletes from 31 countries, Mays completed the course in two hours and 47 minutes, good for first place in her age category.
Phyllis Mays displays the gold medal she won after completing the 55-kilometer course in two hours and 47 minutes, the best time in her age category. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
While she is proud of the medal she won, Mays seems to take even more satisfaction from simply having gone to Ferrara and done her best.
"It was a great time and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to be part of it," Mays said. "I guess I always run faster in a race than just on my own or with another person. What helped motivate me was the crowd along the course and all their cheering and support. Then the coach for the US team handed little American flags to the team members as we crossed the finish line. That is an experience you don't forget."
Mays did not set out to take part in the world competition. Earlier this year, she raced in one of a series of duathalons held regularly in Marlboro, only to discover later that it had been a qualifying meet for the event in Ferrara and that she had made the cut. Mays arranged to take several days off from work and head off to Italy.
One factor Mays feels worked to her advantage was the crosswind blowing the day of the race: It appeared to affect the solid-wheel bikes used by some racers, but not her traditional spoke-wheel model. Still, it was hard for her to know exactly how she was faring, since competitors from all age categories raced together; Mays did not learn of her gold-medal finish until the awards ceremony the next day. Davenport took 13th place and was the second American finisher in his class.
"I was passing people and they were passing me," Mays said. "I had no idea where I was in terms of standings, but then again, you want to concentrate on yourself and keep going."
Mays says she became a physical fitness buff partly out of necessity. Trying to keep a household with eight children organized, she explained, meant a lot of running around - literally.
"I would be getting dinner ready and there'd always be a few of the kids who would say, 'We don't have time to eat, we have to go out running,'" Mays said. "Finally, I thought, if I can't beat them I might as well join them. Soon, I was running right along with them."
A few years later, Mays entered her first duathalon and has participated in many others since. She also takes regular jaunts around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the Flynn Recreation Complex, among other locations.
"It's very relieving of stress," Mays said. "I think women in particular should take the opportunity, if possible, to do some regular running. I find I get my best ideas when I run."
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