Rather than relying on healthcare, 72-year-old Bob Butterworth turned to running to stay out of the doctor’s office — somewhere he’s only been once in the last decade.
A former smoker whose physical activities consisted mostly of playing fastball in his youth and walking his dog, he decided to change all that five years ago by lacing up a pair of runners.
“I think that we’re guilty. Our generation is guilty of not taking care of ourselves and then, suddenly, at 50, 55 they want to start doing something. Sometimes it’s too late,’ said the lithe Butterworth who possesses a boyish demeanor.
His wife was actually the one that inadvertently got the proverbial ball rolling by asking for a treadmill because she was interested in taking up the sport.
“I had no intention (of going on it),” he said, keeping true to his word.
Quickly outgrowing indoor running, his wife asked him to register with her in the TC 10K. He politely declined, but his resistance didn’t last long and he soon found himself pounding the pavement along with thousands of other people. He managed to finish the race, but in a very winded state that left him confused.
“I was watching (Canadian triathlete) Simon Whitfield one time about a year before that and I noticed that when he won in Melbourne… five minutes later he’s talking to the reporter like he hadn’t done anything. And I thought, there’s got to be a key to this.”
To investigate further, Butterworth joined a TC 10K training clinic at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre that changed his perspective on the competition forever. He learned the ins and outs of running competitively — although he pointed out that the only person he is ever competing with is himself — and has participated in the event every year. He set a goal of running his first marathon by the age of 70, which he did at the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 2008 when he was 69.
He’s done six others since then, including two back-to-back events in two months. He recently returned from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon where he placed third for his age bracket (70 to 74) with a time of 4:45:24.
“I did the Victoria Marathon in October and I did this one now,” said Butterworth. “I wanted to see what effect it would have on my body.”
The effect of running two back-to-back marathons in as many months has been negligible at best — if anything, he feels in better shape than he ever has.
“I think it actually assisted me. When I finished the other one I only dropped down so much in my training, I still maintained a sort of a high level.”
Butterworth said it’s not necessary to run to receive a health benefit, and nowadays there are just as many people that choose brisk walking instead.
“I spoke at one of the clinics last year at Juan de Fuca. When I first started the clinic about five years ago, runners were the epitome (but) not anymore. It’s changed, it was half runners half walkers,” he said.
“Get out there and walk, get out there and do some activities, good activities. (People have got to) help themselves so they don’t get into a position at 60 or 70 depending upon the medical system.”