Off the Clock: Schwartzstein Becomes Midlife Triathlete for a Worthy Cause

Posted: October 6, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Linda Schwartzstein
Linda Schwartzstein
Creative Services photo

Linda Schwartzstein ran her first marathon in San Diego three weeks before her 50th birthday. That was four years ago. Since then, she has completed three marathons, four half-marathons and in August finished her first triathlon in Ellicott City, Md.

Schwartzstein, vice provost for academic affairs, vice president for enrollment services and professor of law at George Mason, says her major motivation to begin training was to be in better shape by the time she turned 50.

”Between work and family, I find this is a way I can carve out a little space for myself,” says Schwartzstein, who is training for the Nov. 5 New York City Marathon. “It has added a great deal to my life.”

But Schwartzstein is not just competing for herself. She is a member of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. The team not only trains and competes together, but also raises money to help fight leukemia and lymphoma. She has no personal or family connection to leukemia and lymphoma; instead she was impressed with how the organization operated. “They use their money responsibly,” says Schwartzstein.

She has helped raise $10,000 to $15,000 since she joined Team

In Training. “It is a good feeling, especially when you see the survivors.”

In late August, she was one of more than 1,800 women who competed in the RYKA Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon at Centennial Lake and Park in Howard County, Md. The course included a 0.62-mile swim, 17.5-mile bike ride and 3.3-mile run. More than half of the participants were taking part in their first triathlon, as was Schwarzstein.

The field included Madelaine Sayko, who survived the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center; Amy Benson, who has a prosthetic right leg; and Sadj Bartolo, the 65-year-old president of the Mid-Atlantic Triathlon Club. Margaret Shapiro of Annandale, Va., was the winner in a time of 1:21.48.

Schwartzstein says that while she did not get to meet those competitors, their stories inspire her. Schwartzstein’s coach for the triathlon was Katie Sleep, a Mason graduate and the president of List Inc., a Northern Virginia-based company.

“She was a terrific coach. She made all of us on the Team in Training team believe that we could complete the triathlon. Her support and encouragement made that true,” says Schwartzstein. She also credits a great personal trainer, Melissa Dalio.

The mother of three grown daughters who has been on the Mason faculty since 1979, Schwartzstein takes early-morning weekday runs near her Maryland home or in Fairfax before she starts her workday. She swims at Mason, and does longer runs and bike rides on weekends. Schwartzstein also does strength training twice a week and estimates she spends about 15 hours per week preparing for endurance events.

“I hope I inspire other women in midlife to become active. My goal now is to be fitter at 55,” she says.

Write to at