• Club: Hastings Runners

  • Fav Race: Loch Ness Marathon

  • Mantra: ♫ “I Feel Good”

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  • Never tell yourself you are too old to run

  • Join a running club to meet new friends and be inspired

  • Look after yourself with a healthy diet

  • Include Yoga and Core strength work in your training

  • Set yourself challenges and strive to achieve things you’ve never done before

  • Seek a 2nd or 3rd opinion if you are unhappy with a diagnosis

Sarah Marzaioli

Written by Simon Linklater

Posted Thursday 20th June 2019

Age is a concern for all of us and a common question I see bandied around is “Am I too old to take up running?”. I’m no expert and in no position to give you advice, but what I can do is tell you the inspiring and heartwarming story of fellow Hastings Runner, Sarah Marzaioli.

Sarah kindly gave up an hour of her time to talk to me and on my drive home I almost had a tear in my eye thinking about how brave, courageous and just damn right incredible this lady is. Sarah is now in her early 70s, she’s completed 90 Marathons and hasn’t finished yet. 100 is her target and I fully expect her to achieve that goal.

What makes that statistic even more special is that Sarah didn’t take up running until her early 50s. In the year 2000 she had set herself the challenge of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru in a bid to raise money for charity. To help in her quest she decided to take up running and that’s where her story really began.

Having done very little running up until this point, other than playing with her children, there were obvious concerns when she first started. “Am I too old?” she asked herself, and “Do women really compete in races at my age”.

These doubts were quickly quashed as Sarah joined the local club Hastings Runners. She soon found inspiration in fellow members. Sylvia Huggett who is now a close friend was a strong runner and this gave Sarah someone to look up to.

After just a matter of months Sarah completed the Hastings Half Marathon. By now she had caught the running bug and decided to set herself the challenge of completing a full Marathon, something she’d never thought possible before she began to run.

In 2001, a little over a year since first lacing up a pair of running shoes, Sarah completed her first ever London Marathon. She described it as “unreal” and the feedback from friends and family was a huge boost to her self-esteem.

Sarah has gone on to complete 15 London Marathons and on 6 occasions she posted sub 4 hours, including at the age of 66. Wow!

In 2009, the day after completing the London Marathon, Sarah’s life was turned upside down when her husband sadly passed away. An event like this would be enough to shatter anyone and I can’t imagine the pain and grief that must be involved. With the help of her family and running friends Sarah picked herself back up and started a new challenge.

Her goal was to complete a Marathon every month for a year, to raise money and awareness for the charity Diabetes UK. This goal gave her something to focus on during the toughest time in her life and there were occasions where it felt like her husband was running alongside her and encouraging her to complete the races.

It wasn’t just Marathons. Sarah completed a number of Ultras during this time. These included the London to Brighton (65 miles including going off-route), Country to Capital (45 miles), Kent 50 Mile Challenge, and two multi-day events, The Druid Ridgeway Challenge (82 miles in 3 days) and Pilgrim Challenge (66 miles in 2 days.)

She surpassed her target and completed 17 races. With the assistance of her son, the two of them raised over £10,000 for the charity. This courage and determination to bounce back so quickly from such a body blow and to achieve these incredible feats at a later age in life is hugely motivating and will certainly stay with me for a long time. “Wonder Woman” springs to mind!

It wasn’t the only setback Sarah has suffered since taking up running. Whilst casually checking one another’s pulse, her daughter discovered something was wrong and that Sarah’s heartbeat was irregular and would often go 5 seconds without beating.

To ease any concerns she sought medical advice and was told in no uncertain terms that she was “far too old for this running nonsense” and that a pacemaker was the best solution. Naturally Sarah was upset and deflated. It seemed her running days could be over.

But again she wasn’t ready to quit. Sarah decided to get a 2nd and then 3rd opinion. It was only when speaking to the London Marathon cardiologist that she was told to ease back on her training and that would have the desired effect. To which it did.

Since receiving the news that she was too old to run, Sarah has completed a further 55 Marathons. The most recent was London in 2019 which she did in a time of 4 hours, 28 minutes and 16 seconds. That was good enough for 5th place in her age category. The same position that Mo Farah finished in his age bracket (Just saying).

Even at the age of 70, Sarah still feels great. “I feel fitter now than when I was in my 20s”. She is 10 Marathons away from reaching her goal of 100. That may not seem a lot but when like me you still haven’t run your first, it’s a hell of a target. Her medals take pride of place in her hallway, hanging from the bannisters. To say I was jealous at the collection would be the understatement of the year and I got the impression there were many more tucked away safely out of sight.

In terms of training Sarah believes she is “Marathon fit” and doesn’t necessarily use specific training plans. To help assist with her running she does Yoga every day and some core strength training such as planks.

Her running has taken her all over the world, including Vancouver, Rome, Paris, Istanbul and New York. She’s made lifelong friends. Every day she inspires her 3 children to be the best they can and strive for greatness. Sarah still works for the NHS in Speech Therapy and didn’t even mention her British Empire Medal which she was awarded on the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2018 for her services to the NHS.

Sarah is a special lady. An inspiration to me and hopefully after reading this, to you as well. Running has played a huge part in the last 18 years of her life. It’s kept her fit, improved her self-esteem, made her lots of new friends and most important of all, helped her through her most difficult times.

Be Like Sarah

Be a Runnur

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