A Female Marathon Runner In Her Mid 70’s

October 11, 2017

Sometimes it is difficult to be inspired, particularly as you grow older. Dare I say, it is almost the ‘been there, done that’ feeling, but not in an egotistical sense.

It is more about a quest for something new, something to inspire oneself or to be inspired by others. I was fortunate enough to befriend a woman with this ‘wow factor’ during an earlier trip to the UK. I was introduced to Val, a family member of a dear friend.

The story begins
Val and I had never met before and I immediately was impressed with her casual matter-of- fact approach when we drifted into a conversation about running. In fact, it was long distance running that Val did regularly that ‘wowed me’. She had been for a two hour run that morning and some well may think, ‘so what’. An impressive feat when you are 74 years of age and run approximately 2 to 3 hours, five times a week! Further to this Val competes in marathons all around the world. Curiosity got the better of me so I asked Val how she began and what motivates her.

Here is Val’s story:
Marriage breakdown put to good use “It all began with my marriage breakdown in 1979 aged 36 and a single mother. For therapeutic reasons I started jogging short distances.  I then joined Gingerbread organisation, a charity for single parents and agreed to do a half marathon. I found after training I could comfortably run this distance.”

Life on hold for a while
“Following this I was incredibly busy bringing up three young boys and as with many single parents, my passion fell by the way side. This happened with me until I was 55 and at this stage I met the love of my life and married Alan.”

Shared passion
“Alan was already into running and in 1998 we left the UK for a holiday on the Gold Coast, Australia. I was rather irritated to be woken up at 6am when he would go for his run. Rather than roll-over back to sleep I decided to join him. I found I could still do short distances after such a long break and really enjoyed it. We both joined up with a group of friends who had planned to do The Great North Run (half marathon) in Newcastle, UK that year. It is the largest annual half marathon in the world that takes place in North East England each
September, and I decided to enter.”

Life is full of surprises
“Not only that, having watched the London Marathon on TV every year I thought there was only a slim chance of being accepted (at that time about 1 in 10 were accepted). Needless to say I was surprised to be offered the opportunity and there the real running story begins.”

A marathon of a story
“Since then I have completed 14 marathons – New York twice, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, Paris twice and London seven times. I also plan to do the Valencia marathon in November 2017. I have also completed about 80 half-marathons over the years and on Sunday 17 September completed the Bristol Half Marathon.”

A female marathon runner in her mid 70’s

Not without its challenges “I find I have long distance endurance and luckily have no aches or pains. I have suffered no bone or muscle injuries (well I have fallen a few times, usually after jogging a long distance when I haven’t picked up my feet sustaining the odd abrasions and bruises). In 2008 I also sustained a broken elbow on uneven track in South Africa (plus our much loved Siamese cat
died on the same day). A endured a couple of falls locally and had a couple of stitches in my chin and a stitch on my lip.”

Age not an issue
“Age does not seem to be a concern for me, although in the past I have done a half marathon in 1.53 and now its 2.05 hours. The best marathon time was 4.07 and now its 4.35 hours.”

How I plan and pace myself
“I begin with, for example, a 2hr 40 min run, followed by once a week longer run and build up to 3 hrs by the end of the month. By then I should reach 3.5hrs in another month and into 4.0hrs the following month. Finally, I work towards 4.15hrs into the next two months
before the marathon. I also gradually increase mileage of other runs, 5 x weekly, until the marathon. This is just my own personal training programme and suits me but, of course, everyone is different.”

The secret is simple
“In summary, I enjoy running, and that’s the real secret. If you don’t enjoy it you won’t keep it up, guess that’s the motivation. Extra benefits are I love being outside in the fresh air (not the treadmill for me unless the weather is horrendous). If ever I feel a bit down, on go the running shoes – a sure way to lift your spirits. I feel I have achieved something and have been 1st a few times in my age group, which is rather nice (3rd in 2013 New York marathon for my age) and I certainly don’t feel 74.”

Extra benefits in health and food
Extra benefits are probably a strong heart and lungs and an extra bonus is that I initially lost 2 stone and although I eat pretty healthily, I find I can pig out occasionally on a nice box of chocolates and puddings with ice cream, custard and cream on the top – my family will
vouch for this!

So let’s carry on with the jogging. If you enjoy it and can do it, why not at 74 or even a 100 – watch this space! Val is self motivated and disciplined but not to a state of being incessantly driven where she has to deny herself an indulgence from time to time. Val is an inspiration to all women.

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