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12 June, 2020

Wilf’s epic 80th birthday running challenge

A pensioner from North Tyneside chose to mark a big birthday with an epic challenge to raise funds for St Oswald’s. Wilf Laidler turned 80 on Friday 12th June and aimed to run 80 miles – one for each year of his life - in the four weeks running up to his big day.

Wilf, who lives with his wife in Killingworth, North Tyneside, was inspired by the amazing efforts of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who used his 100th birthday as a way to raise money and awareness of NHS Charities during the Coronavirus pandemic.  A mere spring chicken compared to Captain Tom, Wilf decided to tie on his running shoes and aim to run a whopping 80 miles in four weeks, finishing on his big day. But Wilf underestimated himself as he managed to hit the 80 mile target a week early, so he decided to up his daily run and go for 100 miles instead!

Talking to us a week before his big day, Wilf said:

With my 80th birthday coming up, I wanted to do something special to mark it, and I was inspired by Captain Tom. I thought ‘If he can do it, so can I!’ and that is where the idea came from!

In 2011, I had a triple heart bypass, and a few years after that, my son, a physiotherapist, noticed I was starting to slow down a bit. I could feel myself ‘ambling’ instead of walking, so he bought me a fitness tracker and I began by aiming for 10,000 steps a day. This progressed to jogging, and in October 2016, I took part in my very first Park Run in Scotland. I had done no proper sports since school, so it was a big step for me, especially as the course is one of the hilliest of all the Park Runs!

Wilf caught the Park Run bug, and signed up to take part in his local event each week at the Rising Sun Country Park. Over the three years, Wilf has completed over 145 Park Runs, which has set him up perfectly for his birthday challenge, as he explains:

At first, I decided to try and run 80 miles and started on 16th May. I calculated that this would mean running just under 5km each day, which seemed doable, although I didn’t know how quickly I would recover. Luckily, my running went well, my legs held up, and I hit my target with a week to go. That’s when I decided to round it up to 100 miles – with almost a marathon to cover in one week!

Wilf first took up running as a way to stay fit as he got older, something which he thinks has been a particular benefit over the past few months.

I truly think you are never too old to get fit. Covid-19 has been proven to more seriously affect those who are overweight and unfit, so I am glad that I have continued with it. Park Run is a brilliant way to stay motivated. You will never be last as there is a tail walker and you are not in competition with anyone else, as it’s all about improving your own times and fitness levels. I also love the social aspect of it, it’s great to see the same faces every week and people of all ages and fitness levels take part.

I chose to fundraise for St Oswald’s as they are a local charity who care for people right here in the north east. All the money they receive goes straight into supporting the community. My neighbour spent his last days at the hospice, and my brother Tom is a volunteer gardener thee, so I know just wat wonderful work they do. I am delighted to have been able to help and hope that I might inspire others to do their own challenge – you are never too old!

We caught up with Wilf on his birthday, to wish him many happy returns and find out how his challenge had gone. He said:

I am pleased to say that I beat my target by running 110 miles in total! Today, the final day, was the first time I got wet during my whole challenge, but it was worth it. I was feeling a little sore yesterday, but much better today thankfully. I am delighted to have raised £615 so far for the hospice.

Now that I have completed by challenge, it’s time to enjoy my 80th birthday and a well-earned rest. I had a lovely visit from my grandchildren who came to wish me a happy birthday from the end of my drive.

We would like to say a massive thank you and well done to Wilf and wish him a very happy 80th Birthday from everyone at St Oswald’s Hospice.

If you would like to support Wilf by making a donation towards his fundraising, you can visit his page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wilf-laidler1