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Consolo pictured with her favorite trophy from her favorite race: the Ken Keener 5km Classic in Millerport.

Olympian among OU’s faculty

When students log on to Kitty Consolo’s class, they are immediately met with a cheerful, vibrant professor who has a passion for teaching her students about the importance of nutrition as well as physical and mental wellness. What the students may not know, however, is they are being taught by an accomplished runner and Olympian.

Born in Iowa City, Consolo, an associate professor of health sciences, grew up in Granville, Ohio, where her father taught at Denison University. Consolo said her dad was known for his noteworthy and sometimes unconventional style of teaching English to his students. One of those students, Michael Eisner, would become an American businessman and former chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company. 

Eisner was so impacted by his former English professor that he encouraged Disney to make a movie about a vivacious college professor. When Al Pacino was not available to depict Consolo’s Italian father, Robin Williams was casted, thus creating “Dead Poets Society.” Although other members of the Disney team had a former teacher who influenced the making of the character of John Keating, Consolo said Eisner went on to donate $1.75 million to Denison University in Consolo’s father’s name.

“So, I have a lot to live up to with my dad, but I was thrilled,” Consolo said.

Consolo said her father’s origin from an immigrant family taught her family and her to value education. Many of her family members are teachers, and she proved herself in terms of her skills and passion for teaching when she won the 2022 Ohio University Zanesville Outstanding Teacher Award.

“That award means more to me than anything because teaching is what I do and what I love,” Consolo said. “Running is too, but to know that those efforts have been recognized for students is really great.”

At Ohio University, Consolo teaches a variety of classes about an array of topics including "Introduction to Public Health”, "Introduction to Health" and "Lifestyle Choices.” Consolo now teaches exclusively virtually, but her reputation at OU precedes her.

“Word of mouth means so much to me, especially now that we’re on Zoom,” Consolo said. “With 40 years in the classroom, and the last two virtual, I do try to make it feel like we’re together (like) one family.”

Kitty and Lance by tiger liies.JPG

Consolo grew up with immune system issues and a variety of severe allergies, preventing her from excelling at the variety of sports she attempted. During a sabbatical in England through her sophomore year, however, Consolo began running alongside the English Channel.

“I just fell in love with running,” she said. “That was the beginning of my athletic career. Sports were not anything I was great at until I found running.”

In 1975, Consolo enrolled at Wake Forest University where she joined the women’s cross-country team. Because of Title IX, she ran on the men’s team, and she said that was when she began to take running seriously. 

Although Consolo reflects on her early running career with fondness, she faced some adversities in the male-dominated sport. Something so trivial as clothing proved to be a challenge, but Consolo made do with what she had.

“Back then, they had no women’s running bras, so I wore my own little pink bikini bathing top because it was hot and humid in a 15-mile race,” she said. “So, there’s this picture of me winning this race in this little skimpy pink bathing top and yellow shorts, and it went across the nation and my uncle from California called (and said), ‘What the hell are you doing running half naked?’ but it got the attention of Nike shoes.”

While still at Wake Forest, Consolo said, she overestimated how significant her running with the men’s team was going to be. She said the team and public were very accepting, but what seemed to be a bigger deal was there also being a Black runner on the team. Consolo said she did not think anything of it until they traveled to the South where she witnessed discrimination against them.

“We would be running down the street in Winston-Salem, and cars would literally drive up on the sidewalk to see a white female with an African American male running together,” she said. “It was just not heard of in 1975.”

Consolo went on to be sponsored for the next 21 years. Her sponsorship made it possible for her to travel all over the country to run while still earning her master’s degree and PhD. As a graduate student at Kent State University, Consolo continued to travel.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I was on a plane all the time. We went to Bermuda and Barbados and all over the place. It was really fun.”

Consolo was honest, and she said there was no way she would have been able to travel if it were not for the Adidas National Team that she ran for.

“Here I am making $3,600 a year as a grad student, but I’m flying to Bermuda,” she said. “I was so poor, I used to take the little hotel soaps and shampoos and put them in my suitcase.”

Consolo said the runners were given $25 a day to eat out, but instead of going to a restaurant, she would go to the local grocery stores and bring the groceries home in her suitcase.

“It was so great to get free shoes in those years and free clothing and free travel,” she said. “It was really great – I loved getting to do that.”

After her education, Consolo qualified for the first women’s 1984 Olympic Marathon trials. Her participation in that event was historic because it was the first time there was a marathon for women.

“It was like making history getting to go there,” she said. “It was exciting.”

Although she did not come home with a medal, Consolo said the experience was extremely rewarding, especially being there with her parents.

Unfortunately, Consolo had to give up running marathons in 1998 due to her worsening asthma, but she still continues to compete in 5k to 10k races, competing in the 10k Road Race at the National Senior Games in 2013.

Her regimen includes running 30 miles a week, and in November she finished her race season of eight races, winning her age group in six out of eight of the races, finishing second female overall in two of the races. Consolo has her goals set already for next year with entering into more competitive races, including the Columbus 10k in June.

It is one of the oldest 10k races in Ohio, and it will be during Consolo’s 48th year of racing. There will be awards for the top five in her 65-69 age group, and Consolo is confident she could snag one of them.

Although conscious of her health, Consolo takes necessary precautions and has no plans to stop running any time soon.

“I really hope I can run forever,” she said. “It’s how I start my day, and it’s who I am.”


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