Eleanor Becker, who will be 71 Friday, and her 76-year-old husband Eugene spend much of their time swimming, scuba diving, water skiing, flying, boating, riding motorcycles and jogging near their home in Perdido Beach, Ala.
"We're retired people and we do these activities because we want to," said Mrs. Becker. "Each day, I have a little planned program: walk a half-mile, jog a half-mile and so forth. I have no fetish about how far I run or the time. It's just for kicks."
While visiting her daughter and her family in the Washington area last year, Becker spent the morning of her 70th birthday competing in the Bonne Bell 10-kilometer run for women.
"My daughter was going to run so I said, 'Why not?' I'll sign up and run too," said Becker. "I didn't finish, but I didn't fall on my face. So I'm going to try again."
Competing against her today, in the fifth annual Bonne Bell, will be a girl with a 65-year advantage in age, 6-year-old Becky Novak of Ijamsville, Md. Novak, the youngest entrant, Becker, her 41-year-old daughter Bonnie and 14-year-old granddaughter will be among more than 3,000 women at the starting line in West Potomac Park. The 8 a.m. race, sponsored by Washington RunHers Unlimited, will be run over a flat course, beginning and ending at West Potomac Park and extending around the Tidal Basin and Hains Point.
Pia Palladino, a Georgetown University student, won last year in a course record 33 minutes 40 seconds, but is not entered this year.
"I run every day for recreation and I plan to complete the race," said Bonnie Becker, a Fairfax County school employe. "Amy will run with her grandmother and keep her company."
Among the race favorites are Marge Rosasco, 34, of Fallston, Md., who has finished second three times in four years; Eleanor Simonsick, 26, of Washington, the Cherry Blossom women's champion, and Sue Crowe, 26, of State College, Pa., a two-time winner of Bonne Bells in other cities. All three have run 34:30 or better in this race.
Several other national-caliber runners are entered, the youngest being 12-year-old Ann Densmore. Also entered are Trudy Ratt, one of the leading Master's runners in the 40-49 age group; Rachel Bourn, 52, a top runner in the 50-59 group; Joann Mallet, competing in her fourth Bonne Bell, and Susie Mink and Mary Ellen Williams, the torch bearers representing Virginia and Maryland at the 1980 Winter Olympics.