By Hannah Simpson via SWNS
This senior couple took up running in their 70s and 80s and have run an impressive 8,000 miles EACH in the past four years.
Eileen, 79, and John Hieron, 85, fell in love with running after Eileen started in 2014, with John soon following in 2016, and now they clock up around 20 miles each a week.
The sporty pair, who have been married 58 years, train together three times a week.
Their schedule includes two 4-5 mile runs, and one long run of up to 12 miles, and they also enjoy leisurely walks at the weekend.
Eileen also does weight training sessions with a personal trainer twice a week to improve strength, flexibility and balance.
They run alongside other runners at the Dursley Running Club in England.
Some of the club's members are 40 years their junior, but they said they always feel welcomed and are treated as equals.
Eileen and John consider their hobby to be a great benefit to their physical and mental well-being, as well as their social lives but they admit that many of their contemporaries think they are "crazy."
Grandmother-of-six Eileen first took up the sport in 2014, aged 72, when she started running with a friend who was training for a marathon. Soon afterward John, a retired grain merchant, started the 'Couch to 5K’ program, when he noticed Eileen was getting fitter and winning medals in competitions.
Eileen, a retired health practitioner, from Dursley, England, said: “I decided to give running a go in my 70s and I haven't looked back.
"It didn't take long to rope my husband into it too - now we both love it.
“It certainly does me good, not just the running but the friendship aspect, and it's a good de-stresser."
“A year later, John got the running bug himself, aged 79. Now there's no stopping us.”
“On our runs, John loves stopping for all the kids, dogs and almost anyone we meet, so it’s a very sociable kind of running!”
Since 2018, Eileen has participated in four marathons with a personal best of 5 hours 21 minutes at the 2021 London Marathon.
She was awarded sixth place at the Wanda Age Group World Championships in the 75-79 category at the London Marathon which she considers her ‘greatest achievement in running.’
John and Eileen have now participated in road, trail and even cross country events in England and other countries and completed the weekly 5km Parkrun events in locations including New Zealand, California and Singapore as well as the UK.
The couple volunteers regularly as running marshals at the Wotton Parkrun to give back to the community. John has volunteered over 80 times.
Eileen said: “We’ve always been sporty but when you’ve been out running you feel much better.
“Running is now a great hobby to us and though it’s not expected in our age, no one at our club makes us feel any different.”
Eileen and John were the oldest man and woman to participate at the London Landmarks Half Marathon on 3rd April 2022.
The pair were made VIP guest runners and completed the 13.1 mile race in 2hr 43:11, having set a target of 2 hours 50 minutes.
The grandparents are raising money for Parkinson’s UK, a cause close to the couple’s heart as John’s sister, Joan, 79, has lived with the condition for 20 years.
John said: “There were crowds all the way around and they all sang ‘Come on Eileen,' even the drum band burst out singing the song to her.
“They all found it so funny.
“It was just wonderful, we had a fabulous day.”
Eileen added: “That was John’s Personal Best by 16 minutes overall and only his second run.”
Since taking up running, the pair have both been presented with gold medals by an amateur athletics society, for winning their age categories in a series of races held locally to them.
The couple, parents to Paul, 51, and Sarah, 50, have six granddaughters ranging from 15 to 22.
They consider their ability to stay active into their 70s and 80s a blessing.
Eileen said: “John and I realize that we are lucky to still be able to run and keep active and hope to be able to do so for years to come.
“We’ve had our health problems obviously but I’m also quite a positive person which I think is important.
“Our friends say they’re very pleased for us.
“They always support our efforts and came along to the virtual races in lockdown to cheer us along at the finish line.”
The couple, who met at a dance in 1962, revealed that sport has always played an important role in their lives.
John said: “Meeting Eileen at that dance and asking her to dance with me were the most important three seconds of my life.
“The reason for our long marriage is that we support each other in sport and all other areas of our life.”
John played for a rugby club during his early life and enjoyed golf and cycle racing for 30 years until his early 70s.
Meanwhile, Eileen played hockey, and badminton and enjoyed walking with friends.
John said: “We each have different strengths that complement the other and we are always there for each other.
Eileen added: “We are both from families who have had a life-long interest in all areas of sport so it was only natural that we continued to be active in our later years.
“It’s the enthusiasm in both of us that’s kept us going,” she said.
“And not wanting to sit down and do nothing.”
To donate to Eileen and John’s JustGiving page for Parkinson's research, visit here.
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