Photo by Don Fennell
One morning earlier this summer, John
Young, his wife Joan, and 40 others ran or walked 10 kilometres through
Richmond’s city centre.
It’s a routine they practice every Monday and Wednesday, rain or shine. The lone exception is if it happens to be Christmas Day.
“We run on our own volition,” explains Young, who as a 70-something retired teacher supports his position that seniors are more active than ever before.
The city centre route is just one of 16 followed by the Forever Young Running Club, which Young helped to launch almost a decade ago.
“Sometimes we get more than 50 runners out,” says Young, whose club boasts a membership of more than 100 and currently has a waiting list.
“Parking and coffee are becoming our biggest challenge.”
Participants—mostly golden-agers although a few “youngsters” have been known to join in—cover the gamut. Gwen McFarlane, who has five age-group records in the half-marathon and marathon, is perhaps the club’s most famous member, but there are also many talented recreational runners. Perhaps surprisingly though, it’s walkers who make up two-thirds of the group.
Three years ago, Young, perhaps further inspired by the growing interest in the Forever Young Running Club, launched an event to complement the year-round venture. The Forever Young 8K—scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Richmond Olympic Oval—is the only race of its kind exclusively for seniors 55 or older.
Overseeing the event for its first two years, Young has embraced the opportunity to pass the proverbial organizing torch to the oval. Gerry De Cicco, director of sport services at the oval, says it “provides yet another opportunity for the oval to engage with a fantastic, healthy community of vibrant seniors.”
“The run is really an example we can set for the country, to make this an event that continues on for years to come,” explains De Cicco, who is quick to praise the many contributions the Youngs have, and continue to make to the Richmond community.
For his part, Young says he hopes the Forever Young 8K race “gives the oval more exposure to seniors and fitness and all the programs they have there.”
“One of the goals we have is that the 8K will show the world that seniors are active,” he continues. “They’re out there and staying fit. And I hope it will build a reputation that spreads across the masses. Last year we got two runners from Washington state and a fellow from Illinois, who read about it while he was in town that weekend. Eventually, I’d love to see it go right across Canada with events in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, you name it.”
Suggesting there is becoming a glut of running events, Young has deliberately tried to separate the Forever Young 8k run from the pack. For example, first-place finishers in their respective age groups receive a bottle of B.C. wine, instead of the traditional gold medal.
“The last thing many of them need is another medal, they’ve got shoeboxes full of them,” he explains.
A not-for-profit initiative, the Forever Young 8K charity of choice is the Dream On Seniors Wish Foundation. Similar to the more recognizable children’s Make-A-Wish Foundation, its goal is to give older people, who perhaps can’t afford it, the opportunity to attend a professional sporting event or acquire a cane or repair a walker.
“We gave them about $7,000 last year and the person looking after the site was flabbergasted,” Young says.
Distinctive in their sky-blue t-shirts, participants in the 2017 Forever Young 8K will be distinguished in a second way too. They’ll be the ones with huge smiles on their faces because, as Young puts it, “the social side of it is arguably as important as the run.”
For more information or to register for the Forever Young 8K contact Angela Straker at firstname.lastname@example.org.