Jill L. Mottus

Longtime member of Baltimore Road Runners Club ran in 26 marathons, including Boston, New York

March 29, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Jill L. Mottus, a marathoner who was a prominent member of the Baltimore running scene for more than 30 years, died of cancer March 21 at Roland Park Place. She was 71.

Jill Louria Ross was born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, N.Y. After graduating from high school in 1955, she attended Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

She worked for a personnel agency in New York City before marrying Stephen J. Mottus in 1958.

A Pikesville resident since 1964, Mrs. Mottus enjoyed entertaining family and friends. She learned to cook from her mother, Elaine Ross, who wrote for Gourmet magazine and was the author of seven cookbooks.

Mrs. Mottus had worked at the old Kitchen Bazaar and Williams-Sonoma, as well as several local catering companies. She later worked for six years at the Hess Running Center at Towsontown Plaza.

"She began running in her late 30s with a friend, and for Jill, it was a good way for her to enjoy good food and burn off calories," said Mr. Mottus, an investment manager with Stiffel Nicolaus & Co. Inc.

"I was actually the one who introduced her to running," said Shirley Strazza. "She had been biking, and one day I told her that jogging was the new in way to stay fit.

"We went out to Milford Mill High School and she ran circles around me, and I had been running for five years," Ms. Strazza said. "She was long-legged and ran like a gazelle."

In 1977, Mrs. Mottus began regularly running on the Milford Mill track, where she caught the attention of Ann D. Darden, who was then coaching the girls cross country team.

"One day I approached her and said that I had noticed her using the track," Mrs. Darden said. "I then told her we had a scenic course of a mile around the school and asked her to come along. That's when we began running together."

The first significant race that she participated in was the old Lady Equitable race in downtown Baltimore in 1978.

"Jill did not do anything without a great commitment. She was committed to her cooking, running, and later, biking," said Mrs. Darden, who teaches at Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences in Georgetown, Del. "She also got great satisfaction from being outdoors."

During her running career, Mrs. Mottus racked up an impressive record of 26 marathons, including seven Boston, 12 New York City, five Maryland and two Marine Corps races.

"She truly earned the name 'Marathon Mom,' " Mrs. Darden said.

A son, Keith A. Mottus of San Diego, said, "She was a real competitor and finished as high as six in her age group at the Boston Marathon. It is a race that needs to be qualified for."

In 1996, while preparing for the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, Mrs. Mottus was the victim of a hit-and-run accident near Sudbrook Lane and Old Court Road, which left her with a broken ankle a few days before the race.

"I did all the training, I've been obsessed with this and it's like, 'Have you ever wanted something so much in your life and then had to deal with not being able to have it?' " Mrs. Mottus told The Sun in an interview at the time.

"She actually had been hit by cars several times and bitten by dogs when she was running," her husband said.

Ed Hewitt, a longtime runner and retired Sun editor, was a longtime friend.

"I first met her on the track at Milford Mill on a dreary, cold January day and that's when we two crazies bonded," Mr. Hewitt said, laughing.

"I remember when she had her third child: She went to the track in the morning for her normal run, and then went to the hospital in the afternoon and gave birth," he said.

"Jill was very outgoing and always very encouraging to other runners. She ran well into her 50s, and was still winning her age group," he said.

"She was the happiest when she was out on the road running. She didn't like being cooped up and ran every day without exception," said another son, Kevin N. Mottus of Los Angeles.

He recalled his mother's visits to his California home.

"It would be 90 degrees in the high desert and she'd run us into the ground. And then, when we got back home, she'd then go biking," he said.

Mrs. Mottus was a longtime member of the Baltimore Road Runners Club. She was BRRC Female Masters Runner of the Year in 1981 and 1982, and winner of the Female Masters Club Championship series in 1981 and 1982. She had also placed in more than 200 races.

Three years ago, Mrs. Mottus was diagnosed with cancer.

"Jill ran as long as she could and then she began walking four to six miles a day until going into the hospital," her husband said.

For years, Mrs. Mottus was known for the lavish Super Bowl parties that she held in her Pikesville home.

"Everybody contributed their favorite dish, and she was responsible for the desserts and drinks," Mr. Hewitt recalled. "They were fabulous, and she explained the key to her desserts was the fact that she always used real butter."

Mrs. Mottus had been a board member of the Executive Women's Network, now the Women's Leadership Alliance, and had received the organization's Mandy Goetz Award for outstanding service. She also organized and collected food-oriented donations for local charity events, family members said.

Services were Wednesday.

In addition to her husband and two sons, Mrs. Mottus is survived by a daughter, Karin A. Mottus of Annapolis; and a brother, Neil Ross of Aspen, Colo.

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