They are Forever Young — a hundred-strong group of running seniors in Richmond, B.C., determined to push back at Father Time by staying active.
The clock and distance aren’t crucial for this crew, but getting out in their sky blue team kits and moving their feet, one step at a time is physical, mental and social therapy all at once.
“A lot of retired people want to stay fit as they grow older, stay active and they see our group as a good way to do that,” says John Young, 69, who put the club together for the 55 and older crowd. He recruits by word of mouth, often stopping a runner on a path to invite him, or her, to join them. “We run a different pace, a different speed, different distance so I try to accommodate that.”
Gwen McFarlan, 81, is one of the club’s superstars, setting age-group world records for the marathon. Last year she aced the Ottawa Marathon in 4 hours, 12 minutes, the fastest time on record for a woman older than 80.
“Before I started into my marathons I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It made me wake up and get out there and start moving,” says McFarlan. That was in 1994 when she was 60 and teaching junior high. “I’m now cancer free. I love to be positive every day. I’m so happy to wake up to a new day.”
Many of the Forever Youngsters suffer the perils that come with age, but they still run and compete. The crew gathers two mornings a week for 10K runs and many race in marathons and halfs. The group is even launching a new event exclusively for runners over 55. The inaugural Forever Young 8K is Sept. 13 at Garry Point Park in Steveston. “We haven’t been able to find another event in Canada that’s like this,” says Young, himself a recovering heart surgery patient. “It’s something new and we hope to honour the people our age who like to stay fit and be an example for others as they grow older.”
When asked about the sedentary lifestyle many seniors are living today, McFarlan has simple advice. “You have to get out there and be active. Then you would live to be 80, 90 even 100!”