Fairfield Resident Sees the World Through Running
By Alex J. Hayes
Through running, Trudy Gladhill has faced grief, improved her health, met friends and traveled the world.
In March, the Fairfield resident earned her spot in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal Hall of Fame. She is one of the thousands of runners who have crossed marathon finish lines in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.
Trudy’s running journey began in the late 1970s when she joined the Fairfield Area High School’s cross country team. Similar to today, Fairfield was a small school and struggled to recruit enough runners for its team. Competitions were often forfeited, but Trudy still had the opportunity to run.
Her interest in the sport waned over the years. She married her husband, Eric, and they had three children. Occasionally, she would run with her kids, but her focus was always elsewhere.
In 2008, Eric and Trudy’s son Dusty died from a drug overdose. The grieving mother needed an outlet, so she turned to the sport she loved. “I always said it was a little harder to cry while you are running,” she says.
Trudy remembered hearing about the Boston Marathon in high school, and crossing that finish line was something that had been in the back of her mind for decades. After completing the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2010, the dream of Boston transformed into a goal. She trained extensively to improve her time, never giving up. When two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated near the race’s finish line in 2013, killing three and injuring hundreds, Trudy became even more determined to cross that storied finish line.
In 2018, Trudy ran through freezing rain, 30-degree temperatures and headwinds up to 25 miles an hour on the coldest race day in the Boston Marathon’s 121-year history. She crossed the finish line with a time of 4 hours, 4 minutes and 1 second. Even though she had just run 26.2 miles, the weather made simple tasks challenging.
“I had trouble calling Eric after I crossed the finish line because my fingers were so cold,” Trudy remembers.
Conquering unusually frigid temperatures may have discouraged some runners—but Trudy wanted more. She soon discovered the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal Hall of Fame.
Runners who finish the Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, Tokyo and New York City marathons earn a special medal that includes a star for each accomplishment. Some runners earn their six stars over several decades; Trudy wanted to complete the challenge in a few years.
Traveling the world and building relationships with people from other countries has long been one of Eric and Trudy’s interests. Eric chaired the Rotary Club of Gettysburg’s Youth Exchange Program for several years, and the couple hosted several students themselves. Now it was time to see the world on foot.
Six months after finishing the Boston Marathon, Trudy traveled to Chicago to complete that city’s marathon. Temperatures ranged between 57 and 64 degrees—much more pleasant than frigid Boston earlier that spring. Trudy crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 16 minutes and 26 seconds.
At that point, Trudy was committed to earning her six stars. Shortly before she left for Berlin, she received an email alerting her she had been accepted into the 2020 Tokyo Marathon.
In September 2019, Trudy ran the Berlin Marathon in 4 hours, 3 minutes and 51 seconds. She and Eric explored the country’s rich history, including a visit to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was partially destroyed during a bombing by the Allied Forces in 1943. The Gladhills were even able to reconnect with Valentin Brack, a former Rotary Club exchange student who lived with them during the 2014-15 school year, and spend time with him and his family in his home country.
Running a marathon and touring Europe was an incredible—and exhausting—experience, but Trudy didn’t have time to fully regroup. Five weeks later, she was at the starting line of the New York City Marathon.
The south central Pennsylvania native had visited America’s largest city numerous times in her life, but traversing it on foot gave her a different perspective. “When you are driving in a car, you don’t get to look up at the buildings and see it from the street view,” she explains.
Next up on her marathon list was the 2020 Tokyo race scheduled for March … or so she thought.
Trudy was one of the first people in the United States to have her life disrupted by COVID-19, even before it became widespread in the country. The pandemic halted the race in Asia, one of the first countries hit hard by the virus.
Although Trudy’s local running group, the Gettysburg Beer Runners, also took a hiatus during this time, she stayed focus on her goal. Trudy only had to complete two more marathons to earn her Six Star Medal—and a global pandemic was not going to stop her.
The pandemic raged, subsided—and raged again—but in 2022 life started to look a little more normal. Trudy headed to London in October 2022 for the 42nd running of the London Marathon. The race was originally scheduled for April, but like most events during that time, the schedule shifted due to COVID.
She crossed the London finish line in 5 hours, 44 minutes and 12 seconds. While she was there she took in the sights, including a visit to the Tower of London and viewing the Crown Jewels.
Trudy had five down and one to go: the coveted Tokyo Marathon, three years after she was initially scheduled to run it.
She ran with her son Shane. They experienced a city much like New York, but cleaner, and people were kind, she recalls. Trudy finished in 5 hours,
20 minutes and 15 seconds.
And earned that coveted sixth star.
“I was practically jumping across the finish line, I was so excited to get the medal,” Trudy says.
On that day, she earned four medals: one for completing the marathon, one for entering the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal Hall of Fame, one for registering in 2020 and not being able to run due to COVID, and one for being a part of a group that earned a Guiness Book of World Records accomplishment for the most six star medalists in one race.
Today, Trudy believes her marathon days are done. Training takes a lot of time, and her new focus is appreciating the wildlife sounds she hears as she runs through Michaux State Forest.
Eric is proud of how many members of the Gettysburg Beer Runners transformed from couch potatoes to runners due to Trudy’s encouragement.
And she still strives to encourage others. She hopes her journey inspires people to create personal goals and commit to accomplishing them.
“Set a goal and be patient with yourself, especially if you have to recover from an injury. You will get there,” Trudy says.
Run and Have Fun
The Gettysburg Beer Runners combine running and responsible beer consumption in the interest of good health, relaxation, camaraderie and community. Runs happen on Wednesday evenings, year round, rain or shine.