Tonya Engst

I’ll admit, I do not know Tonya very well yet…but I’m getting there! I did however see her crush a PR or two during the winter track meets here in Ithaca a month or so ago…so she’s quite the impressive runner. I’ve met Tonya through the Finger Lakes Runner’s Club and marvel at all she does for our community.

Below is a bit more about this wonderful lady and life long Ithacan.


Name: Tonya Engst 

Age: 51

Current shoe: New Balance Zantes (but the Brooks Pure Flow 4s were the most perfect running shoe ever - I ran through 6 pairs of them)

How long have you been running:

I started in elementary school, ran for Ithaca High, picked up a foot injury, and took several decades off. I got back into running about 5 years ago, when I started having an easier time with my feet. 

Favorite distance: It's all good. 

Favorite Post-run Food: Copious coffee with either croissants or huevos rancheros. Or maybe scrambled eggs and bacon. Really any hot breakfast food.

Because I often run on the same roads and trails now that I ran on as a teenager--or hiked on with my parents when I was very young, running can get intertwingled for me. It's easy to forget where I am in time, and I like being slightly lost there--not being an age, not having thoughts, just feeling flow. And, it's startling sometimes, how I'll remember a particular rock, a particular tree, a particular view. Something I saw at age 5 can be the same at age 50. Or, it can be different--much harder, much easier, or possibly erased. But the smell of slush melting on mud, or the feeling of mowed grass under tired bare feet, the way creek water is cold--those things don't change. 

My running story isn't that different from the stories that many people will tell, but it's a happy tale: how overcoming injury and discouragement in running was difficult but worthwhile, how running pulls the best out of me, both in my race times and my personal life, how I value the friendships I've made while running, how I feel like my running is taking me somewhere. 

I would like people to know that I am captain of the Finger Lakes Runners Club Women's Cross-Country team. We compete in five races each fall, with one home meet and four away meets--it's like running high school cross-country. If you'd like to race in or more of these meets with us, please get in touch (FLRC men run with High Noon, and I can connect you with High Noon). Our team last year had over 50 women who ran at least one race, including one woman in her 60s who had never competed in a team event before! Some women on the team are speedy (if you are winning local races in your age group and want stronger competition, you'll find it here), but others are in it for fun or a motivation boost. It's all good.

Ellie Pell