Running Survivor - Barbara Conley
Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 5:57PM
Tim in Barbara Conley, Profile, Profile, Survivor

Barbara ConleyBarbara Conley was born in May 1944 in Potsdam, Germany while her father was fighting for the Third Reich on the eastern front in mother Russia.  The family lived in Berlin, but relocated for a time to Potsdam due to the heavy Allied bombing raids. Barbara grew up in the late 40s and early 50s playing in the rubble of bombed out apartment buildings and balancing on beams of bombed out bridges. Due to the presence of dangerous, unexploded munitions left from Allied shelling, the police would report the children to their parents for playing in the rubble, where they made little caves and dungeons.

Barbara was fond of and excelled in school, especially athletics such as track and field (javelin throw and shot put included) and was on her high school swim team.  She matriculated in a three year technical college, majoring in accounting and economics.  She found herself with a position working for the Berlin city government in the family services office for a reform school for boys.  Barbara and JimIn 1964 she met and married her husband of forty-seven years, Jim, an American soldier from the mountains of NC.  They migrated to the United States in 1967, settling in Georgia.  They have two children, Bobby (age 46) and Patty (age 44), and several grandchildren.  For the next 30 years, Barbara concentrated on raising her children and maintaining a career with Lanier Business Products as a contract administrator.  She retired in 2005 after thirty-two years with the company.  Although an athlete in her youth, exercise was not in her lifestyle until her children were grown.Barbara's Family

Barbara gave up smoking in 1993 and began nightly walks that evolved into short runs from light post to light post or tree to tree. In 1997 Barbara was persuaded to participate on a Lanier Business Products company team that entered the Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile walk/run in Atlanta. She enjoyed the venture and began to participate in nearby 5K races with friends.  By chance, she picked up a Georgia Runner magazine and was surprised to see herself listed in her age group….with points for the races in which she had participated.  She made friends among the running circuit and began to look forward to Saturday morning races.  After four years of running 5K  races, Barbara ventured into marathons, marveling at the participation of Kathy Givens and Anne Patrick in the Ronald Reagan Marathon (the last full marathon at the Ronald Reagan in 2001). Her first marathon was the Museum of Aviation Marathon at Warner Robbins AFB in 2002, followed by one in her native Berlin, Germany, the Nashville Country Music Marathon, the New York City Marathon, another in Washington, DC and in the Atlanta Marathon twice.  She experienced extreme pain in her lower stomach the last six miles of her last Atlanta Marathon in March 2008 that continued when she participated in the Sweetwater Park (Douglasville) Cross Country Half Marathon.

This led Barbara to seek medical attention.  Tests led to a diagnosis of stage three ovarian cancer that had spread to her colon and liver.  Barbara was shocked, as she had no family history of cancer or illness.  Barbara underwent a series of surgeries in May 2008, where attending physicians concurred that she would not have survived had her body not been in such good shape. Nevertheless, she lost forty pounds during this period.  Barbara was encouraged to run again after six months of chemo treatment and did so, almost regaining her pre-cancer stride, only to have the disease resurface in April 2010.  The second round of surgeries, chemo, and hair-loss proved a more difficult recovery.  Barbara still participates running events and has been “overwhelmed” with friends who always wish her well.  Barbara undergoes maintenance chemo treatments every three weeks and appreciates life more than most of us.  She treasures the memories of her seven marathons and twenty-six half marathons, although she knows doing another half is a distant dream.

Bob checking out, from the back of the pack.  Look for the March profile on Athens high achiever David Eckles and the April profile on south Georgia race promoter, Brenda Gail Wall.

Article originally appeared on Black Bag Race Series (
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