It is not often a person is grateful for rather unpleasant news from the doctor but, having been a heavy smoker when younger, at the age of 55 I was diagnosed with the lung condition bronchiectasis. This started me on an amazing adventure that continues to this day and included becoming the World Duathlon Champion in my 70th year (2018). Talk about a runner’s high!
Very reluctantly I started running to strengthen my lungs and prevent my condition getting worse. Running grows on you slowly. After several months I grew to appreciate the meditative quality and the energy it generated. I was entered in a hill-ridden cross-country race and, oddly enough, found the ordeal enjoyable, particularly as I won a medal for coming third in my age group. I was hooked.
A whole new world opened up. I was introduced to the amazing camaraderie of the running community and, since moving to Bristol two years ago, I have been quite overwhelmed by the generous support and encouragement of local runners of all ages as I attempted my first track events.
I was a part of the GB gold medal 4 x 400 metre team for the 70-74 year age group at the Malaga World Masters Athletics Championships in 2018. In the same competition, much to my amazement and delight, I won three individual bronze medals in the 800m, 1500m and 5000m. But the best bit was wearing the British vest and being part of that amazing group of athletes of all ages. Such an honour. If I can do this it shows others can too!
As you get older you need to find new dreams and goals. With running there is always another little challenge, whether you are trying to complete your first parkrun, knock a couple of seconds off your 800 metres, or simply enjoy a morning run with friends. You can turn anything into a challenge – and that is what I love. It is not about racing; it is about being the best you can be on a specific day. It is about keeping fit enough to enjoy your grandchildren and being able to live independently for as long as possible.
We must stop age being an artificial barrier that inhibits the desire to be become fitter, stronger, more adventurous. I am probably more willing to have a go at things now than I was in my 40s, and I have never been happier.
Photo courtesy Alex Rotas.