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When Nature/Nurture Overmatched A Brain Tumor

July 01, 2023 5 min read 1 Comment

When Nature/Nurture Overmatched A Brain Tumor

Photo: The Jamaican Way. On grass and making the workout count with resistance from a parachute. This kind of parachute helps you fly.


*Carol Robertson leans on her Jamaican heritage for speed.

*She and her mom won gold the same day in a USATF meet.

*Pictures are at the end of the story. You'll see the size of her brain tumor is no exaggeration.  


By Ray Glier

Carol Robertson, 65, can throw all sorts of things on the pile of reasons why she runs fast.

*She identifies as half-Jamaican, the island nation of sprinters with an institutional, governmental methodology to track & field. Jamaica has produced the men’s100 meter world-record holder, Usain Bolt, and one of the most accomplished female sprinters of all time, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

*Carol eats a plant-rich diet based on foods common to Jamaica, as Bolt himself advocates. Her system is wicked clean.

*Robertson also evangelizes rigorous, Olympics-style, workouts, even as she gets ready to turn 66 in August.

*Her mother, Lupe Parsons, is still competing as a member of USATF at 89, so genetics has a role in Carol’s speed. Lupe had a National Senior Games record for 14 years in the 800.

The last thing to contribute to the Robertson anthology is the brain surgery in 2018. It is the sort of life-affirming event that seems to have an impact on people, wouldn’t you think?

Doctors worked in shifts for almost 12 hours to remove the meningioma tumor, which was wrapped around the optic nerve in her right eye. There are pictures of Robertson running down the track with her right eye closed to avoid the calamity of thinking lanes 4 and 5 are both hers. The disability of double-vision is an engravement of the surgery.

“It totally came out of left field, it was the size of a baseball,” Carol said of the tumor, a coincidental nod to her father, who is from Cuba, an island devoted to baseball.

Now, Robertson is devoted to speed. It took almost a year to heal from the brain surgery and then she got back to her roots….sprinting…like Jamaicans do.

“Something told me that I needed to start running again and competing,” said Carol, who ran track at the University of Florida and then gave up competition. “I said ‘Thank you, Lord, for saving my life’. I'm going to do as much as I can with sprinting.”

This is how we should get jazzed up as we age into our 60s, 70s, 80s. Reading what’s possible with others so we can do what’s possible.

Robertson currently has the No. 1 time in the U.S. in the 50 meters (65-69) at 7.94 (No wind indicator) set at the Polk Senior Games in Winter Haven, Fla., February 25. She ran 8.28 at the USATF Florida Association Masters Open Championships and Masters and Open Race Walk Championships on June 10, according to mastersrankings.com.

There was an even bigger thrill at the USATF meet in Ft. Lauderdale where Carol won gold. Lupe Parsons, 89, her mom, won a gold medal in the 1500m Racewalk (16:44.04). It hardly mattered they were the only women entered in their respective age group. The moment mattered more.

“How special is that?,” Robertson said. “Mother and daughter winning gold at the same meet.”

Things got un-special when Robertson tweaked a hamstring in June. She wants to be ready for prime time as she tunes her body, so Carol will skip the National Senior Games (July 7-18) and the USATF Masters Outdoors Championships in Greensboro, N.C. (July 20-23).

She is also making a big move from Melbourne, Fla., to The Villages, Fla., and says she is not prepared training-wise for national competition.

There’s another reason for laying out this summer, she admits. Robertson wants to show up to win, not just participate, which is very Jamaican-like. The last time she was on a national stage she won the women’s 100 meters at the National Senior Games in 2022 (15.15 in 65-69. She took silver in the 50. Gold is the goal.

Robertson wants to attract some sponsorship attention, but it is likely going to take strong performances in USATF events and World Masters, not smaller meets like state games, to get the billboard treatment. She’s gaining more acclaim as the tumor surgery gets further behind her and muscles come back. After all, it quite literally knocked her off her feet.

Robertson fell during several fall workouts in 2018. By November, docs had discovered the tumor in her skull. Surgery followed. She lost 25 pounds of muscle. 

Robertson was house-bound for months. She started competing on a small scale in late 2019. The pandemic interrupted her somewhat in 2020, but you could see her times dropping as her body came back to her. Carol ran 16.37 in the 100 (W60-64) in the 2020 Florida State Senior Games, then 15.74 in 2021 in the same state meet, then the 15.15 in 2022 at The National Senior Games. (www.mastersrankings.com)

Her times drop because her workout regimens go up. Robertson has extensive warm-ups and does plyometrics four days a week.

“I’m a nut about all those speed drills,” Robertson said. “I do a lot of flying 30s where you run into it. I believe in working on your speed and working on your agility drills.”

Her agility is why Robertson has a terrific takeoff out of the blocks. Like the Jamaicans, she only trains on grass, that is, when she is not training on sand.

Carol trains in Melbourne with Patricia Canuel, 55, who is also world-ranked (100, 200). They will attach parachutes to their waists and run against the wind…in the beach sand. The only time they will train on solid surface is running up a causeway bridge with weighted vests.

Robertson’s surge in masters track is a clearly a function of nurture and nature. The women sprinters of Jamaica have replaced the men as the torch bearers of the country’s heritage of the fastest people in the world. Here is a You Tube video that explains the success. Robertson fertilizes that background with arduous workouts and spirit.

It is a reminder not to let our bodies do all the work. Once Carol got her mind right, in more ways than one, she has started a push toward a world class stage. Her heritage demands nothing less.

Carol and Lupe with gold. Picture for the ages.

From this...

...to this.

The tumor really was the size of a baseball.


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1 Response


July 02, 2023

Another great read 👏🏻

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