Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships athletes share the secrets of their age-defying success
Hugh Brasher, Event Director, Virgin Money London Marathon
On holding the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships as part of the Virgin Money London Marathon:
“I am absolutely super excited to be welcoming these championships to London. To see these runners and the speeds they are running at their age is quite incredible.
“I am delighted, ecstatic, and actually quite emotional about what we’re doing in London.
“It is 889 days since the last in-person London Marathon, when people were treading the famous streets from Greenwich to The Mall. I’m sure the journey’s been worth it and I’m sure this is going to be the most memorable London Marathon in history.”
Tim Hadzima, Executive Director, Abbott World Marathon Majors
On finally holding the first Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships after it was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic:
“We started this journey in September 2018 with 150 qualifying events that lasted until the end of December 2020. They were held in 82 countries and six continents, and now we’re going to crown some world champions on Sunday for first time. It’s super exciting.
“We showcase great athletes. We started with professional runners back in 2006, and then added wheelchair athletes and our Six-Star Finishers. And now we have the chance to crown these Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Champions.”
On the future of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships:
“There will be 329 qualifying events from next year, in 96 countries, so this is just the beginning of this incredible showcase for these older athletes.”
Eileen Noble (pictured in main image), GBR (F85-89)
On the secret of her success as an 86-year-old runner:
“I don’t really have a secret. It’s just a case of keeping going. I can’t stop or I won’t start again.
“Every time I get ill or injured I have to get going again as soon as possible or I wouldn’t get back to it.”
On what motivates her to keep running 33 years after she took up jogging:
“It stops me thinking about my age, really. Most of the people I run with are much younger so it makes me feel closer to their age than my own.
“I often think this is going to be my last one, but I just keep coming back to it. I will probably still be doing parkruns at 90. I hope so.
“Getting through the front door is the hardest bit. Once I get down the road it’s not so bad. But I have to push myself to get beyond my own street.”
On how she started running and how much training she does now:
“I just started running to keep fit with a friend and then got hooked.
“When I was younger I would run five times a week. But now it’s only four times, or on a bad week, three times. I’ve had to cut down because I am so much slower now. But it’s better to keep going than stop, even if I’m slower.”
On competing in the first Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships at 86:
“This is particularly exciting. I was quite disappointed last year when it was cancelled because I knew it was going to be special.
“I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be running to be a world champion at 86. I wasn’t looking that far forwards, to be honest.”
Yuko Gordon, JPN (F70-74)
On competing for Hong Kong at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984:
“It’s a beautiful memory and was a great experience. But did I enjoy it? Yes and no. Mixed feelings. The Olympics is the Olympics and I felt a bit like I didn’t belong there.
“I was an air hostess at the time with three months’ leave. I was fittest in my life but I ran slower than my PB in the race. But it was still fantastic.”
On returning to running after a 15-year break:
“I retired from running until my kids finished A-levels, six or seven years ago.
“I entered the London Marathon but didn’t get in on the ballot, so I entered in my age group. I didn’t train at all but I got in.
“Now I love London. Everybody loves the London Marathon.”
On how she started running in Hong Kong before she moved to the UK in 1998:
“I started as an everyday runner. I took it up for fun when a lady invited me to jog with her. And I discovered running is such fun, a joy. So I didn’t start as an elite, I was just jogging.
“I did my first marathon in Hong Kong in 1980 when there were only six girls, and I was second. I didn’t ever thing I would be an Olympic runner, but I guess competitiveness is in my nature so I wanted to do my best.”
Jeannie Rice, USA (F70-74)
On racing for her first world title after breaking three world records for her age group:
“This is going to be a fun race. I’ve got all the records but only because Yuko wasn’t running then. Now she’s very strong so I expect it will be very close.
“I would be honoured to be second to her. She is an Olympian.”
On when she started running:
“I didn’t start running till I was 35 but I haven’t stopped since. Now I’m 73, so I do have a lot of mileage in my legs. This will be 124th marathon.
“I’ve been running non-stop. Luckily, in 34 years I’ve never had an injury, not until I fell during a training run a few months ago.”
On what motivates her to keep running:
“I love running. It is part of my life every day. I get up, have a coffee and then run.
“My daughter, who’s 54, is also running and she’ll be running with me on Sunday.”
On running the Virgin Money London Marathon:
“I did run in London years ago, in 1983 I think, but it was very different then. We didn’t have timing chips and all that. I am delighted to be back again. It’s going to be a great race.”
Volker Rose, USA (M50-54)
On what he hopes to achieve on Sunday:
“I have three great reasons to be here: it’s my first London Marathon, my first world championships and I’m going to be a Six-Star Finisher. So I am really looking forward to crossing the Finish Line with something to celebrate.
“It is great to represent USA at the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships. The camaraderie out there will be amazing. It’s a competition – don’t get me wrong I want to cross the line first – but that’s not the most important thing. It’s also about the mutual support of runners.
On his hopes for the race:
“I’ve been training hard for 18 weeks to make sure I can run a PR here. That would be 2:50. If I can’t do that there will be a lot of excuses.
“Even at our age we’re still competitive. We want to do it well; we want to do it for the sport. But it’s still great to do a marathon in five or six hours, because those people are doing the same effort. It’s still incredible.”
On how he started running:
“I live in the suburbs of Chicago and seeing people running in the Chicago Marathon was very motivating. Then my wife signed up and ran it and I was extremely impressed so I had to follow her.
“I had a choice – to stay on the couch or get up and do it.”
On how he approaches training:
“I have a day job, but my second job is marathon training. I do 10 hours or more a week.
“By day I am a scientist, so I brought the commitment and fascination of that to the sport. I plan and execute my training, and I’m part of a team that always pushes me to be better.”
Jose Santiago, POR (M50-54)
On representing Portugal at the first Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships:
“I am very happy to be here. It is my first London Marathon and my first world championships.
“I have been training hard to run well here and I hope I can make a good race, maybe run 2:45 to 2:47. It depends.
“But for me it is just an honour to be here among all these good runners. I hope on Sunday the weather gods will help me.”