Age no barrier for 86-year-old charity runner

By Jessica Elgot, April 21, 2011
Crest of a wave: Paul Freedman

Crest of a wave: Paul Freedman

Having watched his beloved West Ham lose to Aston Villa the previous day, the oldest 2011 race entrant, 86-year-old Paul Freedman, enjoyed a more satisfying end to his weekend.

The 20-time London Marathon man came home in six hours 43 minutes, with sponsorship money bringing to nearly £60,000 the amount raised down the years from various activities for St Francis Hospice, where his wife Renee died in 2007.

Clare McPartland of the hospice said: "He's one of our most dedicated and biggest fundraisers and is very actively involved. Everybody knows him."

The Romford Synagogue member - who has in the past run for Jewish Care and Jewish Blind and Disabled - was a late fitness convert, taking up jogging at the age of 61.

He said of his latest race: "I had a special shirt printed from the hospice which said I was the oldest runner. All the way along the route people were tapping me on the shoulder, asking me how old I was. They couldn't believe it when I told them."

He has also completed five Beachy Head marathons and the Breast Cancer MoonWalk, wearing a bra.

Mr Freedman plans to be back on the starting line in 2012, but sees younger athletic talent in the family. "My grandson Samuel has just had his barmitzvah and he's shaping up to be a good runner and has joined a local club. He can take over from me in five years time, when he's 18."

He said that being introduced to the Upton Park crowd at half-time during Saturday's game had been "quite good fun, although we had to sit near the tunnel and the seats weren't quite as good as our usual ones." Asked how he thought he would fare, he amused the fans by replying: "I'm looking forward to it but I don't expect to win."

His next challenge will be somewhat gentler - a sponsored two-mile walk with his shul to raise money for trees in Israel.

Last updated: 1:45pm, April 21 2011