Ais North is 64 and training for a 100km ultra marathon on the 11th July at which she will be attempting Race to the Stones in one go, along the Ridgeway, one of England’s oldest trails. Ais is raising money for The Friends of Charing Cross Hospital where she was once a patient herself.
We spoke to her about about doing an ultra marathon in her sixties.
“In my head I’m amazing and I can run longer, faster and better than I ever could when I was young. Not that I was ever a pro athlete, I dabbled at running but in my day there were no long races for “ladies”. A mile was the longest distance women competed in. I quit in my early 20s and never competed again. In fact, I haven’t run further than 8km in the last 40 years.
So just what motivates a 64 year old woman to sign up for a 100km ultra marathon, not to walk it, but to try to run it in less than 24 hrs? I had breast cancer when I was 48 and was served well by the staff at Charing Cross Hospital in London. That led me to become a trustee of The Friends of Charing Cross, a small charity that funds projects to support patient and staff health and well being, so the first answer to the motivation question is “to raise money”. But it’s more complicated that that – I need to do this for me too. This isn’t a late life crisis thing or a retirement bucket list item, I’m still working, it’s about doing something hard and succeeding.
So that’s the second answer on motivation. It’s about me. Of course there are days when I am very aware that my legs are tired and my glutes are sore, it’s raining and I’m worried I have not completed my “strides” programme that day. I have to be careful not to push it on those days as I don’t want to make a slight injury a massive training problem. I have to accept that this was always on the cards, my body is wearing out and I don’t like it. I still feel 28 and I won’t accept that I can’t run like a pro athlete.
On the other hand, I love the routine of training. I’m not good at sitting still and running is great for clearing my mind. It’s my way of meditating and relaxing. There are good days and bad days but that’s quite normal. On the good days I’m elated and full of optimism, on the bad days I think “why on earth did I think I could do this?”
There is of course the stigma that those of a certain age should wind down in their later years. I want to melt any negative myths about women of a certain age not being able to take part in endurance running. I believe women can do anything and everything that they want to do. We should be encouraged so when I’m told “you must be mad to try to run 100km” I say not mad, just determined to run, complete the distance, and encourage other women to do the same.”
If you would like to support Ais in her admirable challenge you can do so here.