Age stole a march on youth when 73-year-old David White became one of the first fundraising volunteers to complete St Barnabas Hospice’s 100km Gone Running challenge. The retired journalist needed just nine runs between September 12th and 29th to clock up the ‘ton’.
David, who lives on the Carlton Centre estate in Lincoln, admits he had a head start on younger runners. “As a pensioner I have a bit more time on my hands than people who have to cope with juggling work and bringing up a young family,” he says.
The former Lincolnshire Echo sub-editor took up running when he was 48 and wanted to regain some fitness before he hit 50. “At first, all I could do was jog a couple of hundred yards and then take a break before jogging another 200 yards, but over the months I gradually built up the distance until I could finally manage 10k non-stop,” he said. “That first time was one of the few occasions I actually experienced a runner’s high.
“From there followed a few half-marathons and I managed my one and only marathon in 2001.”
But work and family demands, plus a string of injuries — including one that necessitated a nine-month lay-off — meant that over the years David became just an occasional runner.
Two years ago, however, he finally called time on his 52-year journalism career — during which he worked on newspapers in Grimsby, Exeter, Aberdeen, Lincoln, Newark and Nottingham — and since then he has been building back up to running more regularly, getting out three or four times a week. About the only extended break he’s had from his exercise routine was five weeks at the turn of the year when he and his wife Stella visited their two sons in Malaysia and Australia, accompanied by daughter Helen.
“At my age,” David says, “I don’t think it’s wise to run every day — I need a rest day between runs.
“I made an exception during the coronavirus lockdown from March to May because we were limited to an hour’s outdoor exercise a day and walking the dog took care of that. That meant I had to resort to the treadmill in our garage. But treadmills are boring and I can’t stick them for much more than 30 minutes a time, so I ran indoors just about every day of lockdown in the hope it would make up for missing my longer outdoor runs.
“In reality, it barely kept me ticking over and when the lockdown restrictions eased and I was able to get outside again, I had a lot of catching up to do to get back to last year’s level of fitness.
“It’s still a bit of a plod — any mile under nine-minute pace is good for me these days — but at least I’m still getting out there and clocking up the hard yards.”
So what made David tackle the Gone Running 100km challenge? “I kept seeing posts about it on social media and thought ‘Chances are I’ll do the distance anyway so why not try to help out the hospice?’
“It provides vital care and support to people across Lincolnshire affected by life-limiting or terminal conditions, and I was aware how badly charities’ fundraising had been affected by the pandemic, so taking up the challenge was a bit of a no-brainer.”
It’s not the first time David has run for the hospice. He got a place in the London Marathon in 2001 and because the Lincolnshire Echo — for whom he worked at the time — was backing an appeal to build a day care centre for St Barnabas, he used the 26-miler as a fundraiser.
So how did the marathon go? “It was incredibly hard work – so hard that I don’t remember towards the end running past landmarks like Big Ben – but I finished a few seconds inside four hours — not too bad for a guy who was a week or so away from his 54th birthday.”
Would he do it again? “Not very likely now. I did apply last year but didn’t get through the ballot. I was secretly very relieved!”
So far, David’s Gone Running effort has raised £300 for the Hospice. If anyone would like to make a donation, they can do so at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-white91
To sign up and take part in your own Gone Running challenge this autumn, click here…