This parkrunday, 10th March 2018, 84 year old Queenslander John Taylor will become the oldest parkrunner in the world to complete 250 parkruns.
JT, as he is affectionately called by his parkrunning family, started running at the age of 43. He refers to beginning the pursuit as his ‘mid-life crisis’ and he ran regularly for the better part of a decade before other commitments saw it fall by the wayside. When it was announced that a parkrun would launch just 3.5km from JT’s house in October 2012, it had been 30 odd years since he had been for a run. Although tempted by the prospect of the event, and encouraged by his daughter Melissa to attend with her, JT was performing in a concert the night before the launch and the late night made the early start less than appealing. The decision to skip the launch became even easier when he considered his ongoing hamstring and hip ‘niggles’ which were still being investigated by his doctor.
Launch day came and Melissa reported back on what a fantastic morning it had been. Not wanting to miss out again, JT decided a few niggles weren’t enough to keep him away, and freshly printed barcode in hand, off he went to Event #2.
The ensuing five and a half years of parkrunning have been both rewarding and challenging for JT, whose health hasn’t always been conducive to exercise. In the late 1970s JT had a significant health scare which caused him to consider his mortality and perspective on life. He made the conscious decision then, that ‘when they come for me I won’t be standing still’ and it’s this mantra which has kept him going through many a challenging moment.
A heart attack in 1999 began six years of declining health. The turning point came with bi-pass surgery in January 2006. Although on the improve following surgery, JT’s cardiologist recommended that he stop exercising whenever he became out of breath and has reiterated this repeatedly over the years. When asked what his doctors think of his participation at parkrun, JT is quick to divulge that while his GP has always been 100% behind it, it took some time for his cardiologist to come around. ‘He was against it for years, then there was a point after some tests where he said ‘keep up the good work.’
JT says the feeling he gets from parkrun is ‘confirmation that I’m still alive’. He has employed different strategies to improve his times and performance over the years, opting to walk/run the 5 kilometres, increasing the running stints as weeks progressed. He vividly remembers reaching his goal of jogging the whole 5k for the first time in 2015 and the elation he felt at the achievement.
Volunteering has played a vital part in the journey to 250 for JT, and he was proud to join the 25 club two weeks ago. As well as volunteering purely to help out, he has done so when injured or following operations on a few occasions, to keep in touch with the community. Barcode Scanning was an early favourite which has more recently been trumped by the Timekeeper position. JT openly admits to initially being ‘dead scared of timekeeping’, however after taking on the challenge one weekend he ‘realised it was a piece of cake’ and now it’s his preferred role.
With 250 parkruns soon to be under his belt, JT is looking forward to the next milestone. While he concedes that this year he is beginning to feel like age is catching up to him, his permanent resolution is to ‘keep on running’. parkrun is one of the highlights of his week and although it has been a few years since his last PB he still has hopes of improving on his times again. While the 500 club may seem a ways off for now, it’s definitely on the cards and he has no plans to stop anytime soon.
‘parkrun is in my life and it’s just something I do, it never occurs to me that I wouldn’t go.’
If you’d like to see JT reach his 250th milestone, join us on the parkrun Australia Facebook page this Saturday – we will be live-streaming as he crosses the finish line.
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