City of Joburg, South Africa: While younger runners battled it out for top positions in the Joburg SPAR Women’s 10km Grand Prix race at Marks Park on Sunday, the runner who captivated everyone was Runzone runner Deirdre Larkin, who ran as a special guest and completed the race in 70 minutes.

Larkin turned 90 on Heritage Day. She finished the race in 70 minutes and received a special award from SPAR.

“I started running in my 70s. My son was staying with me, and he runs every day, so I decided to copy him and I found I enjoyed it. There was a Valentine’s Day night race and we entered that together. I thought it was fun, and I started entering other races as well. There are a lot of races around Johannesburg and Pretoria to keep me busy.”

Larkin, who had been a concert pianist, and who taught music at Kingsmead School, said she had run a number of half marathons, including Two Oceans on several occasions.

“Two years ago, the television programme Carte Blanche took me to Geneva to run a half marathon there, and I broke the world record for my age group,” said Larkin.

“I finished the race in two hours and four minutes.”

Larkin said she would encourage other older people to start running

“Many people, when they turn 60, retire and just sit in an armchair with their knitting. It is very important for older people to keep exercising. I run for about an hour every day except Fridays and Mondays, when I have a rest. My club has a club run every week and there is a different route every time, which makes it interesting.”

Larkin said she was a vegetarian and avoided sugar, salt and white pasta.

“I eat a lot of vegetables and lots of protein,” she said.

Ethiopian runner, Tadu Nare, who won the race in 33.20 minutes, said Larkin was an inspiration.

“I had planned to stop running at 40,” said 20-year-old Nare.  

“Now I am not so sure about stopping then, having seen what Deirdre can do.”

Sunday, 22 August – Pietermaritzburg
Saturday, 4 September – Cape Town
Saturday, 11 September – Durban
Friday, 24 September – Tshwane
Sunday, 3 October – Johannesburg
Saturday, 9 October – Gqeberha