Is it ever too late to follow your dreams? At the age of forty, you are not very likely to pick up a new sport and then qualify for the Olympics. However, if the dream is not a medal, but the joy that sport and nature can give you, then you can never be too old. In fact, more and more people are discovering their passions after they retire. Digging into articles about the oldest athletes on earth, especially those who found their calling late in life, is as heartwarming as it is inspiring.
Playing the long game in running
If you think that running a marathon is only for the young, think again. Plenty of octogenarians are entering races around the world, but compared to Fauja Singh, they’re youngsters. The India-born runner completed his last marathon at the age of 103 after picking up sports in his eighties. And if his astonishing athleticism isn’t enough, Singh also has a great sense of humor: he’s the president of a UK-based running club called “Sikhs in the city.”
When it comes to ultra-marathons, the longer distances and grueling terrain are more prohibitive to elderly runners but you might need to rethink the meaning of “older.” Recently, 70-year-old Bob Becker became the oldest person to complete the notorious Badwater Double, regarded as the toughest footrace in the world. But Becker is not necessarily an anomaly as scientists believe that peak performance in long-distance running is actually achieved by those over forty.
Climbing into old age
In 2017, the climbing community was stunned by the news that 87-year-old Robert Kelman had become the oldest person to summit the iconic Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Just over a year later, Dr. Bill Weber, a retired veterinarian, felt inspired by Kelman’s achievement and decided to give Devil’s Tower a go. He was accompanied by two guides and two of his adult sons, but they could not do the climbing for him – the effort was all his.
“I doubted whether I was going to make it,” admitted Weber. “But I thought, if I croak while I’m doing this, at least I’ll die doing something I wanted to do and I’ve had a good and long run.” On the day he stood atop Devil’s Tower, he was 91.
And it’s not only men realizing their climbing dreams later in life. Climber and journalist Natalie Berry recently shared a photo from a Chamonix outing with her grandma. Nan Berry tried climbing for the first time at the age of 87!
The call of Everest
Retired office worker Tamae Watanabe from Yamanashi became the oldest woman to stand on top of the world… twice: first in 2002 and then in 2012. At the time of her second ascent she was 73-years-young.
Her compatriot Yuichiro Miura holds the record as the oldest man (80) to scale Chomolungma. Similar to Watanabe, he broke his own record in 2013, a decade after achieving the feat for the first time. It has to be said that Miura is no novice in the mountains: back in the seventies, he was the first person ever to ski the slopes of Everest. And he has no intentions of slowing down, as reportedly he’s gearing up to beat his own record again in celebration of his 90th birthday.