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Toronto senior says running during pandemic has changed her life

Sitting on a park bench, grinning from ear to ear, 69-year-old Mary Lollar proclaims, “I’m crazy, I’m nuts, I’m always in a good mood and driving people crazy.”

Spend some time with her and it becomes apparent, there really is something about Mary.

Similar to so many of us, life changed dramatically for the Toronto resident one year ago. “On March 15, my husband and I were out having lunch and I got a text from my boss, Dr. John Granton, saying I wouldn’t be going to Florida because of this ‘Corona’ and I thought, what?”

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Two days later the gym at her condo closed. Coming home from work, Lollar was eager to expend some of her endless energy.

“I’ve never ran before. Never…So I put on my running shoes and I ran down Parkside, and I just kept running.”

The next day, Mary decided to go for another jog, the same thing happened the following day.

“Then it was 10 kilometers, then it was 11 kilometers, then it was 13 kilometers.” Just like Forrest Gump, Lollar has kept on running for 365 consecutive days.

“Running has changed my life. COVID has changed my life.”

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An administrator at Toronto General’s Respirology unit, Lollar’s office is right above the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Her boss, Dr. Granton, has been in the trenches picking up shifts in the ICU throughout the pandemic. Her work with Dr. Granton has in part propelled the senior citizen to nearly unthinkable lengths on the open road.

“When you talk to someone on the phone you’re calling them and giving them an appointment and they’re breathing heavy, you can hear them. Listening to someone like that makes me think ‘thank god I can go out running.”

As weeks turned to months, Lollar started snapping photos of herself holding up a banner to document her progress.

Factoring in a leap year, today is the 366th consecutive day Lollar has gone for a run. She believes she’s covered more than four thousand kilometers over the last year, through wind, rain, sleet and snow.

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With Dr. Granton and dozens of colleagues standing by with balloons and flowers to surprise her, Lollar marked her remarkable year of running, with a 10 kilometer jog to work, dedicating it to all those who’ve lost their lives in the past year, and to all those left behind.

“She’s gone the extra distance all through her career so this is another example of her going that extra mile. And she’s really done it for everyone here. She recognizes the personal sacrifice that people have put in with their families and personal lives,” said Dr. Granton.

When asked if she’ll take tomorrow off, Lollar teases, “I don’t know, you’ll have to stay tuned. Maybe instead of 13 kilometers, I’ll do 10 tomorrow. We’ll see.”

The soon-to-be 70-year-old is quick to point out that she couldn’t have done it by herself. Thanking her husband Peter, Dr. Granton and her close friend Denise.

Reflecting on all those steps over the last twelve months, Lollar admits, “When I started running a year ago, it was just running. Then as COVID really took over and Dr. Granton was down in the ICU and I saw everything that was going on it became much more.”

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“I’m a lot stronger than I knew I was. I never knew I could do this. One foot after the other.”