Growing Old, Still Disgracefully Fast!
Posted on May 11 2021
Last month I was approached by Liza Howard from iRunFar to furnish a photo of my old self for an article she was writing to celebrate the determination of runners to keep up their competitiveness as they grew older. She has written a great article which you can read HERE:
It's a great article because it not only highlights a long list of global superstars, who, despite reaching an advanced age and are still cracking out fabulous performances, but also shows the diversity of people now running for the fun of it even as they get older.
It got me thinking about our community here in Hong Kong and it made me realise what a fantastic group of older runners we have, and have had, who are still seriously competitive, well into their 50s and above.
I arrived in HK in 2000 at the age of 40 and found a fantastically vibrant running community which I didn't expect at all. It would be impossible to mention all the people I have met over that time who were the same age or older but who still had an iron will for competition. Many of them had and still do, have a big influence on running in HK.
AVOHK (Athletic Veterans of Hong Kong) was THE club to be part of, and regularly dominated the podium in all age groups, not just in the older categories. It didn't matter what age group you were in, if you wanted to podium you were going to have to leave it all out there. But that was not all. Watsons Water had an awesome group as did a few of the other Chinese clubs.
Chris Wardlaw of course, stands out as an already accomplished Australian Olympian, with a track record (pun intended) that would be the envy of anyone. Ran for Australia in the Olympics more than once, had a 2:12 Marathon time and a sub 29 min 10 k time. However it was his performances in Hong Kong well into his 60s that made him remarkable. He regularly won the KOTH, was running sub 1.17s in the Standard Chartered Half well into his late 50s and was the guy to beat for pretty much anyone in a race.
Lee Kar Lun, also a legend from his early days in Hong Kong with sub 2:25 marathon times under his belt was dominant in all of his age categories right up to this day. A tiny, diminutive figure with a great sense of humour but such a tough competitor. Not so long ago in Happy Valley he said to me "Peter, you look ...erm, very healthy!" ... I said "You mean Fat?"..... "Ohh no, not at all" he replied, "I saw you 3 weeks ago , you looked fat then!" with a big grin on his face :-)....I never beat the guy, he always one step (or ten) ahead of me.
Mo Devlin, a very active part of our Gone Running/Joint Dynamics Team, who at 55 is still pushing out a 36 minute 10k time and whose training routine is not for the faint hearted. Be it on the bike, on the trails or on the track hearing his Scottish drawl on your shoulder mid race, means you are going to loose!.
Phil Booth, a long time member and Chairman of AVOHK was also the Team Captain of the AVOHK Sedan Chair Racing Team. A role he played for 25 years without a break.
Getting "that call" from Phil when he was getting the team together for summer practice was something to keep you up at night. You just knew this race was going to be the most painful 8 1/2 minutes of your life that year!. His "come on, push hard" on the last 500metres to the Matilda Hospital made you hope CPR would be available at the finish. The faces above tell it all, but Phil was always there!.
And then there is Bob Shorrock .... in his youth a top contender in UK Cross Country and someone who maintains the competitive passion to this day. He is the one who talked me into doing the Mt Blanc Marathon on more than one occasion.
In 2015 he was once again giving the tough 42km course a bash and in the last 2km tripped and bashed his head on a rock. Despite blood pouring down his face he still went on to complete the race in very close to 5 hours, crushed his age group and finished in the top 15 of the race. In that top 15 by the way are the likes of Kilian Jornet.
These are just a fraction of the older runners in Hong Kong who are still finding their way to compete. Janine Canham, another of our Gone Running/Joint Dynamics Team completing 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days and completed a full Ironman. Mike Cartwright who at 60, completed his 200th Marathon and now does one pretty much every weekend as his long run (for a great cause by the way)... the list goes on!
Last but not least it would be remiss not to mention Yuko Gordon. Yuko dominated Hong Kong women's marathon running for many years and represented HK at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 where she ran 2:46.
Photo credit: Handout
Yuko just set a new over 70s British Marathon record in Windsor in April 2021 by running a fabulous 3:29:01, taking 6 minutes of the previous best time.... just stunning!!
Kudos to you all folks, let nobody every say they are too old to run!!