|James Willis in a past race. Photo from his Facebook Page|
As a coach, one would often expect their runners to do slightly better than what they are doing at the moment. Rarely would they find them surpassing their expectations. But, here is one runner who definitely surpasses everyone’s expectations and who should be a great inspiration to many.
James Willis just ran 72 km as he turned 72 years old today (21st January 2021). Most runners would struggle to run 72km in a whole week. To run 72 km in a single day, for a 72-year-old, is just mind-boggling! And, as if that is not enough, he is preparing to run a 168km race in April!
Here is an interview I had with Willis, who is from London, UK, but now lives in Banting, Malaysia; a few days before his birthday run:
1. What inspires you to keep running at your age?
My inspiration to keep running at my age is purely so that I can and still be competitive to some degree. I love running and perhaps one day in the future, when I am no longer competitive, I will just run for pleasure only.
2. How does your life feel when you are running compared to when you had stopped running at some point?
I came to running quite late. I was an all-round sports child, but Rugby was my first love and the only running I did was while training for other sports.
It is quite a story how I first became a runner. Back in the day, it was compulsory for UK secondary schools [11 to 17 years] to hold a cross-country run each year as part of the physical education program.
Well, not being a runner during the first two years I never completed the three-mile event, I and many others would run to a thicket on the course, perhaps half a mile, and hide in there until many of the runners had passed us on their way back and then slip into the bunch for the return journey. Of course, we thought we were so clever.
In year three, now thirteen years old and an accomplished rugby player, things changed.