Mind and Body 70 year old First-Time Marathoner on qualifying for Boston

70 year old First-Time Marathoner on qualifying for Boston


By: Peter Symons 

I never set out to become a runner, it never even crossed my mind.  

I did however know I needed to lose weight.  At 63 years old and 260 lbs, I was potentially heading for some health issues, not that I’d had any warning signs, but excess weight and no exercise just can’t be good for you, despite what the doctors say.

I started walking around the block.  As it turns out, walking round the block becomes pretty boring pretty quickly.  To make the distance go faster, I started to walk and run.  Pretty soon, I was running around the block.  

As I got more serious, I joined a group organized by iRun’s Ben Kaplan, the I joined BlackToe’s run club and the difference was amazing. Proper coaching and immersion into the running culture is critical if you want to improve your ability and avoid injury.

I’m now 70 years old and this past weekend I ran my first full marathon in Hamilton.  I managed to place 3rdin my age group and qualified for Boston. Marathons are tough, physically and mentally, the desire to quit in the last 5K is truly overwhelming. 

So, given that last 5K, why do I run?  Why do I strap on hideously expensive sneakers and run 42 kilometers?  And why do I keep doing it in the heat and humidity of Toronto summers and the bitter cold of Toronto winters?

The answer is complicated. For me, there are five core reasons I run, the importance of which ebb and flow depending on circumstance. In that last 5K distance of a marathon, with your family and running buddies who have stood out in the cold for hours cheering you on, you have your reason.  On a dark, windy, and cold solo run, the feeling of accomplishment pushes you on. So, although the answer is complicated, my five reasons to run are pretty straight forward: 


You spend a lot of time training for a marathon.  It constantly interrupts family time but having a family that tolerates and encourages your efforts is a sign of a strong family.  And it sets a good example to one’s grandkids that perseverance pays dividends.


The running community is like no other. It is a beacon for tolerance, inclusion and camaraderie. Origin, gender, orientation, politics, speed or age simply don’t matter, doing one’s best, whatever that is, is the only thing that matters.  


Being fit is a remarkable feeling, you can do more, have more energy, need less sleep, it just feels good.


Running is good for you, period.  It doesn’t ruin your knees and yes, runners have heart attacks while running, but then so do people while riding on a bus.  That said, I recognize that I got very lucky in the lottery of life in that I have the basic ability to run, some people just cannot do it and I never underestimate that.


The feeling of finishing a marathon is indescribable and will carry me through many cold, dark and sometimes lonely training miles over the next months and hopefully years.   

Sore legs notwithstanding, a few days post-marathon, the euphoria continues. And now I do have one big challenge: which marathon do I run next?