BY A.J. HECHTNEWS EDITOR
Prudy Hilger is proof that age is just a number.
An esteemed runner, the Centennial resident is a member of the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame, inducted in 1988, and has competed in the famed Boston Marathon–all while over the age of 50.
Hilger, while competing in the 1980s, established herself as one of the top Women’s Masters 50-and-over runners in the country. The Colerain, Ohio-born runner finished fifth, sixth and seventh in her age group while competing in three consecutive Boston Marathons, which, due to the race’s qualifying time requirements, features an elite field of runners from all over the world. One of the few runners to place in three consecutive races, Hilger cemented herself as a world-class Masters runner.
In addition to her accomplishments in Boston, Hilger also established herself as one of the top runners in Colorado, three times winning the Sportswomen of Colorado’s Outstanding Sportswoman Award for Masters Running, qualifying her for inclusion in the organization’s Hall of Fame.
But it’s her numbers, not the awards, that put her in close company with some of the best athletes in the state’s history. In her 50s, Hilger won over 50 races between 10-miles and marathon distance, including the Parker Half-Marathon, the Evergreen Town Race, the Georgetown Half-Marathon, and, most impressively, the 1987 Columbus Marathon in Ohio, in which she passed the Masters age group’s national 5k record-holder to take home the win.
In addition to her many victories, Hilger set age group course records in several events she participated in, including the Wheeling, West Virginia 20k classic, in which she eclipsed the previous mark by over seven minutes.
A 1957 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, Hilger also won the Indy 500 Half-Marathon, the Great Race Half-Marathon and the Notre Dame Alumni 10k. During her 30th college reunion in 1987, Hilger competed, for the first time, in the DePauw Reunion Race. While winning her age group, the Colorado resident narrowly missed taking the overall victory, coming home closely behind a woman returning to DePauw for just her fifth reunion.’
Unfortunately, at age 60, a knee surgery put an early end to her exceptional running career. However, the Hall of Famer didn’t quit being active. Following the major surgery, Hilger began teaching water aerobics and water arthritis classes for 13 years until retirement. Even today, at 84-years-old, Hilger remains active, swimming a half-mile or walking five days a week and regularly attending yoga classes. Unfortunately, Hilger was recently hospitalized after breaking her hip in a fall, but just three weeks after the accident, the former runner is already mobile and will be returning home later this week.
Recently, her husband, Jim Hilger, led a campaign to have his wife inducted into her alma mater’s athletic Hall of Fame. After nominating her for inclusion, it was revealed in May that Prudy will be joining another group of esteemed athletes as a member of the DePauw University Athletics Hall of Fame, making her only the second athlete to be included based on their post-collegiate accomplishments. The other is Mary Washburn Conklin, who won a silver medal as a part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.
Prudy will officially join her second Hall of Fame later this year when the University hosts its annual induction ceremony in September, where she’ll be honored at halftime of the DePauw football game on September 28.
But her husband says that Prudy was never motivated by the competition or the accolades. It was simply her desire to get the most out of herself.
“I asked her why she ran and she just said, ‘I just wanted to do my very best,” Jim Hilger said. “She never wore a watch. She never went to beat someone.
“And I think that’s a good enough reason.”
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