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A reason to run

People take up running for a very many reasons, some want to get fit, some want to shed kilos and some have a different person motivation. CORSA catches up with one of its oldest participants – Kevin Russell – as he shares his inspiring story and explains why he took up running later in life.

Kevin, how old are you?

I am 72, but feel much younger. When I am running, I feel amazing and that’s why I enjoy running…

Hang on Kevin! We will come to that in a second, but before we get there, you’re English, but how long have you been in Malta?

I’ve been in Malta for 31 years, my wife was Maltese. We were living in England and were quite settled there, but her daughter was two or three and we wanted a better life for her than we had in England.

I’m settled here and have no intention of leaving my Malta.

So lets get down to business, how long ago did you start running Kevin?

I started running about 3.5 years ago, through David Gladwish.

I was doing a lot of charity work after my wife passed away six years ago. When she passed away, I spent about a year like a zombie. I didn’t know what to do because my life had turned upside down completely.

The Malta Community Chest Fund had helped so much with some very expensive treatment that she had had, so I wanted to give something back, so I started doing charity work.

After a few months I got in touch with David Gladwish regarding doing charity work and it was David that got me interested in running… I was going to climb a mountain with him, but this fell through as I broke my arm, and then later he suggested a charity run in Attard.

So, I went and ran it and I loved it! I loved the feeling of wanting to be young again. It really gave me a buzz, and found something new to make me happy.

When my wife passed away it was like lying in the bottom of a chasm, in the dark and feeling sorry for myself because of what I lost, and then I looked up and saw a little glimmer of light, and I had to take one step at a time, and sometimes those steps are very hard.

Especially when I am running for the first time, I was exhausted and thinking why am I doing this, but after a little while you go into a happy zone – just enjoying the run.

Basically, through running I have reinvented my life. I had to change my direction because I was faced with two choices, one – I mope around and feel sorry for myself, or two – I turn a corner and try to find an alternative, because life is precious.

But from a practical point of view, you started running in your late 60’s, was there never a time when you were worried about taking up running so late, ‘Am I too old for this?’

You’re never too old. Yes, I might be too old to win trophies, but I run because I enjoy running. Before I started running, I was one of the laziest people you could meet!

My wife would ask me to go and get the paper and I would always find an excuse, so it was hard to start, but that was more mental than physical.

So who guided you as to how to run, who encouraged you?

Again, it was David Gladwish. I joined the Mid Week Miles, which I am now in charge of for him. I started walking, and then I started running and walking, and then through that I became more enthusiastic.

Then I met Tara Abdila – who made such a difference. She looks after me and doesn’t allow me to do anything that might cause injuries. Now I am one of those people who will go out running in any weather – even in the pouring rain.

But you’re not just running – you are taking part in races as well. So, what’s your longest distance to date?

That would be the Endurance race a few weeks ago I did 27 kilometres.

But now this April I am running for a charity in the London Marathon, so I have to go up to 42 kilometres and I am looking forward to it. So, Intersport La Valette Marathon is part of my training.

It is important to me to have something to aim for, because at my age it is so easy to sit back and take things easy but with a goal I know I have to start training towards the London Marathon, and I will crawl across the line if I have to, but I am going to finish it. It’s been on my bucket list.

You’re running the Intersport La Valette Half Marathon again, what is your motivation for running this?

When I ran it last year, I looked at it and thought to myself ‘The route looks interesting…’ I ran with my daughter Lynn Russell and at the end she said ‘Trudy was calling out your name!’

I came in mentally tired, but I knew there were all these people cheering me on. I loved it. I enjoyed running it and I enjoyed the feeling afterwards, and I finished it on a personal best of two hours and 18 minutes.

I’m not really competitive at all, but when I see that finish line in the distance and there are three or four younger runners in front of me I sprint, and I love the look on people’s faces when they see this old man who could be their grandfather sprinting to the finish and passing them!

That makes me feel like I am back in my 30’s again, it is a lovely feeling!

So if you had a word for anyone who might be thinking of taking up running – or is running – what would your word of encouragement be?

Age is just a number. If you are wanting to be physically fit and listen to your body, anyone can run. The way to start running is slowly.

We have Mid Week Miles and we have some ladies who want to run, but they start by walking and I say to them ‘let’s just run to that third lamp post and see how you feel…’ so we run there and they say ‘yes yes – that was good, I liked it’ and then we carry on doing that and over the weeks we end up running the full 6km without stopping.

I love to share what running has given me with other people, regardless of age.

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