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'I'm 78 and still outrun 18-year-olds in the park'

John Fitzsimons wants to challenge certain stereotypes about older people.

john Source: Crusaders Athletics Club

JOHN FITZSIMONS HAS been running for over 50 years. The 78-year-old has completed 26 marathons and plenty of other races besides.

He’s a very active member of Crusaders Athletics Club in Dublin, running about five times a week.

“I’ll be out tonight. I run five nights a week, tonight I’ll do 5km on the track,” he tells TheJournal.ie.

medals John with some of his many medals, including a silver medal from the Veterans International Cross Country Championship against England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that he won in 2014. Source: John Fitzsimons

John says he still regularly out-runs 18 and 19-year-olds when running in the park, noting: “They think ‘that shouldn’t be happening, you’re an old man’. They get a bit of a shock when that happens.”

Fitness runs in the family. John says his wife Sadie enjoys swimming, while their five children all like to run.

“My parents were into football so fitness was always there. It’s a drug, that’s what [running] is with me … I’ve met lots of friends throught the running, it’s great,” he says.

I’ve never been injured, that’s the truth to god. All the lads I used to run with years ago ran 100 miles a week, none of them are running now, they overdid it. I did 60 miles a week when training for a marathon.

John, who worked as a roofer at Dublin Port, has run marathons all over the world – in Melbourne, Boston, Buffalo, and the Dublin race a few times.

john running Source: John Fitzsimons

His best marathon time is an impressive two hours and 53 minutes – which he achieved in London when he was 50 years old.

John ran his last marathon seven years ago, today focusing on five and 10km races. His maximum now is ten miles – still a pretty good distance.

John was at the launch of Age Action’s 14th annual Positive Ageing Week recently.

He says older people can often be associated with a “doom and gloom” attitude, something he has never had.

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Francis Brennan lch Age Action Positive Ageing Week with Bank of Ireland-9 John (far right) at the launch of Positive Ageing Week with celebrity hotelier Francis Brennan (centre) as well as Sadie Fitzsimons; Kathleen Keegan and Winnie O'Doherty. Source: Naoise Culhane

He thinks Positive Ageing Week is important as it challenges stereotypes and helps get older people think more positively about what they can achieve.

‘Keeping communities together’

Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications with Age Action, said: “Right across the country it’s often older people who are the glue that keeps communities together, active in local residents associations, raising money for local charities or simply passing on the benefit of their experience in local sports clubs.

Positive Ageing Week is about challenging the image of older people as having nothing more to offer and celebrating everything they contribute.

Events such as dancing, football blitzes, coffee mornings and mystery tours are already planned all over the country, with Age Action encouraging people to hold their own events.

John hopes to be running that week, like every other, telling us: “Please god I’ll still be going another while.”

Positive Ageing Week will run from 26 September to 2 October. It is sponsored by Bank of Ireland and organised to coincide with the UN International Day of Older Persons on 1 October. More information can be read on Age Action’s website

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Órla Ryan

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