Friday, 12 April 2013

Is Memory Lane the best road to run down?

Al Storie – 60 kilometres on his 60th birthday!

MANY of us mask the disappointment of getting slower as we get older by making jokes about it. We demonstrate the obscene creaking and clicking of our joints to each other, reminisce about our PBs and marvel at how standards were so much higher back in the day. Some of us even blog about life as a ‘clapped-out’ runner!

But if you look hard enough there are plenty of veteran runners around who don’t wallow in nostalgia. These are the types who laugh in the face of Mother Nature and just get out there and go for it.

In recent days I’ve come across some great examples of this, and I hereby induct three of these old ‘uns into my ‘Clapped Out Runner’s Hall of Fame’:

Firstly an old friend from Canada who turned 60 recently. Instead of keeping this unwelcome milestone quiet, he went out and told the world about it (see picture above). Allen Storie celebrated his 60th birthday by running 60 kilometres.

He emerged from his house in Ontario in the wee small hours, and set off on a run that took him nearly nine hours. He’s not normally an ultra-runner but completed this birthday ‘treat’ with a smile on his face, a bevy of female helpers smoothing his path: “I ran a loop of just over 15 kilometres from my house, around the town of Bowmanville, back to the house where I fuelled up, ate a little food, and went off again – four continuous loops in all.”

His pals displayed special signs which urged passing motorists to 'Honk for Al', all of which helped keep him cheerful and motivated. "I felt fantastic at the end. I even got down and did some push-ups. I look at it as an incredible gift that I'm able to do this at 60, running at a pace that's comfortable for me.”

Al is director of an annual road race in Ontario, staged in memory of legendary British runner Alf Shrubb (1879-1964) who emigrated there. Shrubb loved going on long excursions by foot and if he was looking down on proceedings last week would have thoroughly approved of Al’s efforts.

Next into the Clapped-Out Runner’s pantheon is Pete Duhig, one of the best distance runners ever to emerge from rural Norfolk. Pete’s name is synonymous with the small and friendly Ryston Runners club, despite achievements in the 1980s and 1990s which put him in the elite category (2:25 for the marathon, 49 mins for ten miles; 30 mins for 10k).

But injuries and the ageing process mean Pete is nowhere near that standard any more, and he admits he’s finding it tough coming to terms with running at a lower level these days: “Having passed the 60-year age barrier . . . I know I can’t do what I did in the past but should still be able to run decently for my age. I find it increasingly difficult to want to do the speedwork necessary to take myself out of the crowd and into the front runners. But I keep trying.”

However Pete still gets fleeting enjoyment from his running and is definitely not planning to throw in the towel yet: “On most days the early part of a run is now very uncomfortable. In the end I do get into a rhythm and experience a short period of enjoyment and the feeling of well-being of one who is alive and relatively fit.  But this tends to be short-lived into the last third of the run  . . .  I then feel like a wrung-out dish rag and every step is an effort of will.”

My third example of a runner unbowed by age is a well-known figure who’s never had problems with motivation – Faujut Singh of Ilford. He recently completed a 10k in Hong Kong at the age of 101!  With his highly-recognisable saffron turban and flowing white beard, he took around 90 minutes. Not the fastest of 10k runs, but one of the most amazing.

The so-called Turbaned Torpedo said he would probably hang up his trainers after this race, but that remains to be seen. He  became the oldest man to run a full marathon at Toronto in 2011 (aged 100) but his accomplishments are not recognised by Guinness World Records because he doesn't have a birth certificate to prove his age (although his UK passport shows his birthdate as April 1911).

Faujut took up running aged 89 as a way of dealing with depression after his wife and son died in quick succession. The death in 1994 of son Kudlip was particularly hard to get over because he witnessed its grisly nature: In a severe storm Kudlip was decapitated by a piece of flying corrugated metal.

"From tragedy has come a lot of success and happiness," says Faujut, explaining how running had changed his life.

So, readers, these are the early inductees into my Clapped-Out Runner Hall of Fame, where they will stand alongside a face or two from my local running scene in Essex.

Already in there is my Tiptree clubmate Jim Slater (65 years young), who won his place for unexpectedly completing a marathon in 2012 - his first in donkey’s years -  which came out of the blue and without specific training as far as we can tell. He did the Mablethorpe 26.2 miles in a highly-respectable 4 hrs 18 mins. You’d never know he was in his seventh decade from the way he eats up the trails, roads and country, not to mention regularly falling off mountain and road bikes in a never-ending quest for adventure. Long may it continue.

Rob Hadgraft’s five published books on running (plus 11 others on football) are now also available as e-books for Kindle at just £4.99 each.   Use this link:   Rob Hadgraft's running books on Amazon  or, alternatively:  


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