Life Health & Wellbeing

Saturday 20 September 2014

Age is just a number for these very FIT over-50s

Gerry Duffy

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

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A man for all the ages: Fauja Singh completes another 10K run in Hong Kong last year. In 2011, he completed the Toronto marathon. He was 100 years old.

Is turning 50 a necessary milestone at which to stop running? Is it just a lack of ambition? Is it just a mindset?

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A man for all the ages: Fauja Singh completes another 10K run in Hong Kong last year. In 2011, he completed the Toronto marathon. He was 100 years old.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the south of the country. The People’s Republic, to be precise – Cork.

While there, I got chatting to a man – whom I didn’t know– in a convenience store.

By the end of this brief association, I knew more about this stranger than I did about Cork itself.

He was full of warmth and conviviality and was keen to share a pleasant word with this stranger to the area.

Despite the briefness of our connection, in less than five minutes we had chatted about the weather, the most popular lotto numbers and, among other things, physical fitness. My running attire had given away my reason for being there.

Then I asked him a question. His response was something I reflected on for the next 20 miles of my journey.

When I asked him if he did much running himself, his parting words were: “I did once, but I’m the wrong side of 50 now.”

I recall someone else, a year ago, on the same topic, responding: “Age is just a number.” From people of similar age, how can there be such a diverse perspective? Is the former viewpoint reality for some?

Is turning 50 a necessary milestone at which to stop running? Is it just a lack of ambition? Is it simply a decision to do or not to do? Is it just mindset? The truth is, perhaps it can be any of the above. For the sake of this message, however, let us assume it is not down to any ill-health that a person is unable to train.

The man in Cork looked fine and appeared to be well for sure. He didn’t visibly demonstrate any ailments or physical challenges. I surmised therefore – and of course I may be incorrect – that he was simply associating being over 50 with a mindset that he was now past it; that it was for people younger than him. As Henry Ford once said: “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Of course, stopping running is entirely his right. So is the belief that it might not be possible for him to do it any more. Thankfully, others who are ‘the wrong side of 50’ are proving what’s possible too. Go to any race and you will see people in their 50s, 60s and older – running, cycling or pursuing other fitness pursuits. My local cycling club boasts one of its fittest members to be 78 years old. Sister Madona Buder – a septuagenarian nun – might give that cyclist a run for his money. She was still competing in Ironman triathlons in her 70s.

Perhaps it is only a matter of time before both the cyclist and the nun get to match or perhaps surpass the achievement of Fauja Singh – an Indian man resident in the UK.

In 2011, he completed, and rather unsurprisingly, became the oldest ever finisher of a marathon. He was 100 years old. My second friend was right for sure. For some, and I hope – in time – for me, “age is just a number”.

@32marathons

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