Lessons from a 78 Year Old Runner

Do you ever find yourself feeling compelled to speak to someone or to know them? For as long as I’ve lived in my neighbourhood (many years), I’ve always seen this older man running. It could be 6am in the dead of winter and I’d still see him running on my way to work, or see him out there on a sweltering summer day putting in work. Having been a runner now for 12 years, I’ve always been curious about this man.

A couple of days ago, I went on an impromptu run, just for the sake of it, because I could, with no goal in sight. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to move in such a way. So off I went, in shorts no less, and I had an amazing run. Everything, save the funny looks I got from people, was standard up until a certain point. With a bit less than a km to go before I was home, I saw that same man, running ahead of me on the same path.

Shorts in winter!!

I ran by him but looked back to see if he’d look up, which he didn’t. But I felt compelled to look again and slow down. He paused and waved and we greeted each other with smiles. He immediately asked me if I was cold, point at the shorts, to which I replied I wasn’t! I actually felt warm, despite the -6 temperature. While we only spoke for a few minutes, it was very insightful. He told me that he was 78 and runs every second day. In fact, he’s been doing it for years! The astounding thing is that he looks incredibly youthful and still moves very well all things considered! He recounted stories of training and competing for dragon boat races and how his team of older adults actually placed first last year. We spoke briefly of the beauty of running and the feelings of gratitude that typically accompany it.

20 some kms into the Golden Ultra in BC

In many ways, he reminded me of myself and the reasons I love running and physical activity in general.

  1. The sense of freedom that you feel on runs is unparalleled, especially in the woods.
  2. It gives you a deep sense of appreciate for yourself and for the body and its abilities. Each run I go on gives me immense gratitude for the fact that I’m able-bodied and so fortunate to engage in something I truly love doing.
  3. I view physical activity as preventative. I never want to reach a point where I’m dependent on someone else to assist me with simple tasks like walking up the stairs or bending down to pick something up. I believe that lifelong exercise and self-care will do my body wonders as the years go on.
  4. It sounds funny, and maybe it’s runner high, but there’s a sense of joy, giddiness and euphoria that sometimes washes over you while running. I see and feel it in myself and I saw it him the second I turned around and saw his face.

Photo by Rob Little

The whole experience served as a reminder for me on many levels. To continue to enjoy, love and express gratitude for myself and the activities I am fortunate to engage in. Often times, especially when I used to compete in track and xc, I’d have a tendency to be very hard on myself. I expected to push myself to the edge on every single run. It reached a point where all the joy was sucked out of it and I’d feel anxious before simple training runs. I can gladly say, however, that this is no longer the case.

Finally meeting this 78 year old legend inspired and motivated me. It also goes to show just how a friendly and simple little hello can turn into so much more!


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