Saturday, 11 August 2012

Running Strong at Age 80

If you've ever bumped into me on Dailymile, you will know that my long term running goal is to enjoy running until I'm 90, and beyond.  I just love it so much!  Great was my delight when recently I stumbled across the blog of a fellow runner who is doing just that: Running strong and loving it at age 80.  What an inspiration!  

Gordon Booth running strong at age 80. [Source.]

Gordon Booth, born on 6 May 1932 in Brighthouse, West Yorkshire, started running in 1986, at age 54, to restore his physical shape and self-esteem.  Running literally changed his life: Regular jogging lead to a better diet; sensible sleeping habits; weight loss; and a more ordered social life.  Plus he discovered that he was really fast!  He completed his first marathon on a hot, humid summer's day in 1987, at age 55, in a blistering 3:30:04.  The following year he broke the over 55 course record for the Pennine Marathon in 03:05:47.  At age 60 he finished his first London Marathon in 02:54:18, landing him the MV60 title and  the top spot on the British Rankings for that year.  And that's not the end of it: His list of running achievements is literally just as long as it is impressive!

Gordon on his way to a 03:05:47 marathon at age 56 in 1988.

Today, at age 80, Gordon is still running strong and shared the following about his running:

Running the Race (RtR): Why do you run?
Gordon Booth (GB):   It had taken me all those years to discover something I was reasonably good at. How I wish I’d found out earlier. I’ve always been an outdoor person but now I’d added a new dimension. To run through wild countryside, over mountains and heathery grouse moors, is one of my greatest joys. I can no longer imagine life without running. I recall being in Scotland running joyously over three of my last Munros (mountains over 3,000ft in height) singing as I went. Previously, I’d just been a walker, a plodder, but as a runner I felt far more in tune with my environment and all the birds and animals that live there. At times I felt to be floating in a shining world, riding the wind, a disembodied soul, unaware of time or distance or the ground under my feet. Why do I run?  How can I not run?

Gordon, on one of his recent adventures.  [Source.]

RtR: What does a typical training week look like for you?
GB:  I’ve never had a rigid training programme or a set plan. I’ve just gone out and done whatever I felt like doing, almost everything off-road. Previously, while training for marathons, I’d occasionally do repetitions up to a mile on the track, but most of my speedwork was in the form of pyramid sessions round a nearby cricket field. Long runs, up to 18 miles, were over rough fells to the top of Great Whernside, a 2½ thousand foot hill, and back. When I came down from the hills onto flat tarmac I felt to be flying. In eight marathons I won my age category in seven of them. The 8th, where I ran third, was a bit ‘iffy’: The winner was not at the prize-giving (prompting me to think a younger runner had used his number) and the second was later banned from racing for two years for lying about his age.
Nowadays, at 80 years old, I’m very much ruled by the weather and reluctant to do anything that hurts. I can comfortably handle and enjoy 200 m reps on a sandy track up local Castle Hill, near where I live, but I rarely do longer ones. On flatter surfaces, i.e. riverbanks, I run my own little fartlek sessions; accelerating over ten Rt foot strikes, then twenty, then thirty – up to eighty when I’m fit, then back down to ten with a short jog between each. I don’t do tempo runs any more (too stressful at my time of life), counting races as tempo runs. I like to clock about 20 - 24 miles a week, most of it enjoyable off-road runs in wild and solitary places.
RtR: What is your favourite racing distance and what is your (post 75) PR over this distance? 
GB: I suppose my favourite distance (post 75) is 10K, though I might revert back to the track before this summer is out. 
Post 75 PR’s are:
  • 5K – 00:22:24;
  • 10K – 00:45:32;
  • 10 miles – 01:16:20;
  • ½ Marathon – 01:49:52;
  • 400 m – 00:01:12:09;
  • 800 m – 00:02:46:71; and
  • 1 500 m – 00:05:39:83.
 I’ve only run one 10K, a hilly one, since turning 80 and finished in 54:31, so that’s my current PR. I might do better on a flat course, but there aren’t many of those around here.

RtR: What is the best piece of running advice that you've ever been given? 
GB: Being entirely self coached, I’ve never really been given any racing advice, though there are quite a few motivational quotes I like: 
The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Stephen Covey.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!  Goethe.
Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.  Muhammad Ali.
Watch this space for some running advice from Gordon, as well as his plans and aspirations for the future!


  1. Impressive!!! His post 75 prs kick my butt!!!

  2. Oh yes- the Old runningfox is going strong! I also enjoy his blog. There is some great advice in here. I sure hope to be running still at 80!

  3. Inspirational! I want to run when I'm 80!

  4. He is an inspiration. Again very fast and motivated.
    Great post.
    I don't know if I will have some not broken bone in my 80s.

  5. I like to think I'm half way there, but in 38years time (when I'm 80) I will have a lot of running behind me and if my body still works it will be amazing!!! Maybe I need to slow down now so I'll last another 40 years...

  6. WOW! I wish I could run even close to as fast at more than half his age! My favorite part though? Why he runs. Very cool!


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