Suncoast runner overcomes medical issue to excel in senior circuit

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BRADENTON, Fla. - There is a t-shirt out there on the front of which it states, ‘they said I couldn't do it.’ On the back it simply says, ‘just watch me.’ All of those people who told Ellen Jones of Bradenton 28 years ago she couldn't compete in track after a near-death experience are now just watching her.

As a senior track star, Ellen Jones of Bradenton is out there trying to get better every day, and she is 3rd in the state in the 200m, 400m, and the 1500m runs, and she is 4th in the state in the 100m sprint.

"I often joke that winning my age group, as I have 54 times in 5k races or longer, is just about showing up."

She has recently returned from the National Senior Track games a few weeks ago, but it was an episode 28 years ago that has shaped who Jones has become -- both as a runner and as a person. “At the age of 28 I almost died from a colon blockage. Doctors said they had never seen a blockage of that size in a person that young before, and I would need to be on medication the rest of my life. That is when I started making changes."

After changing her eating habits to a vegan diet, others in the sport told her she would never reach great heights on that diet. "They see me wearing my vegan shirts, and they say ‘you can't run, or race, or be in the Olympics as a vegan.’ Of course I point out current vegan Carl Lewis, who has done and is still doing quite well. And then I also say to people, 'does it look like I ave a protein deficiency?'"

Her current track coach, Rae Ann Darling Reed, also coaches Manatee High School track to a high level, and she is amazed by her. "She is very inspiring. She has run a marathon, and she runs the 100 meters, and she runs everything in between. Not many runners can do that."

In the end, Jones' best finish at nationals was 7th place in the 1500, but the top 20 finishes in all 4 events is leaps and bounds above what many thought she would achieve. "I think it’s so important to understand that this is not rocket science; that you can improve your health just by getting off the couch and making a few small changes."