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LifestyleTravelYour 70s is the best decade of your life...

Your 70s is the best decade of your life – meet the women who prove it

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Some of my favourite marathon memories are from the majors (New York City, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo). It’s a wonderful way of sightseeing. In London you get to see Tower Bridge, Cutty Sark and Docklands, and you’re witnessing them on foot rather than on an open-top tour bus. In New York City you go through the five boroughs of the city, which I would never have done were it not for the marathon. And the atmosphere is everything. In Dublin I remember in the early 1990s women would make cups of tea on the side of the road, ready for you to drink. Last time I was in Belfast there were kids coming out with their little sweets and jellies; it makes them feel good if you come along and take them.

Not all are like that, though. In Tokyo there were tightly regimented cut-off points: if you were a couple of seconds late, you were gone. In Beijing the roads were manned by Chinese soldiers instead of cheering crowds. When I run I like to have a craic with people and a smile, but it’s not like that there. They want you to get around the course, to get on with it and then get off the road. That’s not really my style.

What next? My target is to reach 1,000 marathons before I hit 75. There will be times when I run marathons on consecutive days: I’ve just run 10 marathons in 10 days in the Great Barrow Challenge in Bury St Edmunds. People say, “How can you do a marathon day after day?” but the body adapts. The key is to keep going. Even when I had Covid I regularly ran a mile, to keep my running streak going.

I feel so privileged to have seen so many places around the world, and I can’t describe how thankful I am that I can run. I want other people my age to see that they can run, too. If you have the desire, I would say forget about your age and start slowly, building up gradually. Start with a short run, then a 5km run, then progress to a 10km. If you’re in your 60s, give yourself a couple of years to build up to a marathon. Even if you’re in your 80s you can still start running –you’re never too old.

The secret to marathon running is all in the head: believe it, and you will achieve it. There will be moments when it’s really rubbish weather and you’re freezing cold, and these are the times when you must distract yourself. Do another mile. Cross that bridge, get over it, and keep going. Because you will finish. If you’re strong mentally, it’ll get you through an awful lot.

As told to Greg Dickinson

The 79-year-old who circumnavigated the world

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