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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Running Strong at 89 - Legendary Larkin makes it look easy

For many runners, a birthday presents a unique opportunity to celebrate life by doing what you love most - running. It has become the vogue for many a weekend warrior to mark this milestone by running one’s years on Earth in kilometres on the road. If Deirdre Larkin had done that on the 24th of September, she’d have had to run 89km. Rather than spend the whole day completing a Comrades Marathon at altitude, the world record holder chose to run 10km at the RunZone Heritage Day Club Run which she made look easy.

Deirdre Larkin in action at a race.

Her effortless gait makes it difficult to believe that this amazing woman only started running at 78 years old. “I got Osteoporosis and for three years the doctors kept giving me drugs which made me ill. So I was ill for three years. I said no thank you. So I thought the only way was by diet and exercise,” she explains.

The success followed soon afterwards. Larkin became a world record holder within a few short years when she ran 54:17 in Durban in 2013, to claim the 10km world record for over 80’s. Soon the half marathon world record was also hers when she completed the 21km race at the 2017 Geneva Marathon in Switzerland in 2:05:13. What is the key to Larkin’s incredible longevity and running success, especially when statistics tell us that less than 2% of runners continue running past the age of 65.

The retired concert pianist believes that her regular strength and flexibility training is one of the main reasons why her body remains in such good shape. Before she took up running, Larkin participated in The Fitness League which is not too different from aerobics. That gave her the whole body workout which she still uses as a warm-up before her morning runs to this day. Larkin is no longer on Osteoporosis or any other chronic medication, which is unthinkable considering she had serious back surgery when she was 39 years old.

Larkin loves meeting new people at races. Here she is pictured running with Shaun Horsepower at the 2013 Old Eds 21km & 10km.

But aside from her functional training, Deirdre has ultimately excelled at running because she just loves it. Her training regime which consists of strength training and five runs a week, usually involves two races. The Randburg Harriers runner has amassed over 500 medals since she started running in 2009 because she loves meeting new people at the races. “It’s such a lovely vibe the races. Everybody is friendly. You meet people you wouldn’t normally meet and everybody is pleased with themselves and you’re pleased with yourself.” Happy birthday Deirdre. Here’s to at least ten more years of running!

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