Plenty of life left in these old legs

Tuesday October 10, 2006
By Juliet Rowan

An 80-year-old Tauranga man hopes his new world record in distance walking will be an inspiration for other elderly people to compete in sport.

Colin Clifton walked 68.4km in 12 hours at the Sri Chinmoy long-distance track-walking championships in Auckland on Saturday.

It was the great-grandfather of two's first year in the 80-plus age group and he passed the previous world record in the category by 1.4km.

"I was thrilled to get an official world record," Mr Clifton said. "It was something I'd been aiming for the whole time I've been walking."

Mr Clifton, a retired bush contractor, took up walking eight years ago when he found himself struggling to run.

He has run and walked 32 marathons and 50 ultra-marathons in his life, covering distances up to 100km.

His performance on Saturday puts him at the top of his age group for athletes competing in endurance events, run worldwide by Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy.

Competitors in various age categories ran or walked the furthest distance they could in six, 12 or 24 hours for the New Zealand championships.

Mr Clifton walked non-stop from 9am to 9pm, apart from toilet breaks, although the rules allow competitors to rest.

"Some stop and lie down for a while," he said. "I just like to keep going because once I stop I don't like to start again."

He sustained himself with bits of chocolate and other "junk food".

Mr Clifton said the rules in Sri Chinmoy races were less stringent than in athletics speed-walking competitions, for example, and for that reason were ideal for older people.

He hoped his performance would inspire others to enter sports competitions.

Mr Clifton enters all kinds of walking races but said the Sri Chinmoy philosophy of "self-transcendence" suited his outlook.

"You set your life by limitations but you can rise above your limitations if you put your mind to it.