Parkland runner completes 50 by 50 mission

With nearly two years to spare, Parkland’s Denise Harrison has accomplished her 50 by 50 challenge.

Harrison, who turns 49 in March, recently finished the Eau Palm Beach Half Marathon to put the exclamation point on her mission to complete her 50th long distance race before her 50th birthday. She finished her goal with 49 half marathons under her belt and one full marathon.

“I had a goal to run 50 by the time I turned 50,” said Harrison, who clocked 2:27.21 in the recent event. It came just one week after she completed another half marathon – the Space Coast Half Marathon in Cocoa Beach. “I ran my 50th before I turned 49, so that was [special].”

Harrison, a member of the Northwest Broward Roadrunners Club, has two children – Brooke, 12, and Grant, 10 — who are also involved in running 5Ks.

“I wondered if I could do 50 by the time I turned 50,” Harrison said. “I talked about it with a few friends and my husband, Robert, and I thought I could do it. I created a spreadsheet and laid it out.”

Harrison also completed the prestigious New York City Marathon when she was 30.

“There are so many awesome half marathons around Florida, and some destination races across the country,” said Harrison, who had finished 47 half marathons after she turned 40 and had her two children, “Once I set it, I posted it on Facebook and that was it. I was determined to do it.”

What made the Eau Palm Beach race even more special was that her two best friends from Syracuse, N.Y., Dianne Brickman and Allison Noonan, also ran in the race.

“I was really excited [about setting my goal],” Harrison said. “I had a few friends from around the country and my dad came in from New York. There were so many people from my running club [competing] and even people who had never run a half marathon before.”

Harrison’s feat was all the more significant considering she overcame a back injury earlier this year.

“I have some friends that I have raced with once and others that I have raced 20 times,” Harrison said. “I have all of the medals on the wall and that inspires me. I see what I have accomplished and it’s a good feeling. I am glad I was able to stay healthy and do it.”

“To set a goal like that seems a little crazy, maybe the cusp of crazy,” Harrison added, “but it makes you realize that you can set huge goals.”

Harrison, whose next race is the Miami Half Marathon on Jan. 24, has created T-Shirts for the full racing team as her way of thanking them for being part of her journey and helping to support and inspire her.

“She’s not a competitive runner,” said her coach, Maria Luisa Cesca, of the North Broward Roadrunners Club. “She’s a dedicated mother of two great kids…and she’s an inspiration for a lot of people. She’s a great example of persistence.”

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