On 5 November, Beachhaven resident Garth Barfoot will run the TCS New York City Marathon – along with 50,000 people from all over the world. It’s one of the world’s iconic marathon’s and high on the bucket list of keen runners.
What makes Garth Barfoot’s entry special is that he is 87 years old. Garth has run more than 40 marathons, his most recent being the London Marathon last year.
For Garth Barfoot’s 2023 TCS New York City Marathon campaign he has a team supporting his efforts and is running with a good friend, "Ironmike” Tagaloa Michael Stowers. Michael has run 64 marathons and completed 19 Ironman events, which include a marathon, so that makes 83 in all! Garth has also completed a significant number of Ironman events.
“I first got to know Michael because he was the only swimmer in a triathlon as slow as me,” says Garth Barfoot. “Tony King and I went to Kona (Hawaii) a year ago to support Michael in his successful attempt to complete that World Ironman Championship.”
For Garth and Michael this is their first TCS New York City Marathon.
Michael explains that Garth was second oldest at the 2022 London Marathon; one older runner from Japan took that oldest title.
“We decided to enter the TCS New York City Marathon this year because there isn’t a cut off time, and Garth could potentially finish as the oldest finisher, at age 87.”
Garth and Michael are undertaking the TCS New York City Marathon with leading New Zealand travel specialist Marathon World Travel. There is also a support crew involved in both the training and preparation as well as travelling to New York for the event.
The crew includes coach Michael Stowers and Tony King, who will both be running in the event. Film-maker James Butterworth will film the journey and make a documentary. During the months of training Garth has also been supported by physiotherapist and Pilates instructor Fiona Hing as well as his New York Marathon mentor Allison Roe.
Garth says he has been training for six months. Over that period, he has built up to around 100km of running and walking each and every week, mostly on the streets around his retirement village at Verrans Corner. “More recently this has been reduced to allow time for exercises designed to decrease the number of my all too frequent falls. They do so much damage at my age.”
“Garth now has a programme where there is a set programme of regular short runs during the week and then a long run on the weekend,” explains coach Michael Stowers. “This had been ignored by Garth and he was just continuously doing up to 15km a day of walking. A meeting with mentor and winner of New York and Boston marathons, Allison Roe, has changed this. He has most recently been doing one long weekend run, taking one rest day and a game changer is that he has taken on Allison’s advice of doing physio and Pilates work on his run posture to strengthen his body, legs and core. This has improved his run stance to a more upright posture and has removed the limp run style he once employed. Garth has had three hip replacement operations so one leg is shorter than the other. This was corrected by physiotherapist and Pilates instructor Fiona Hing, with the use of heel raiser inserts in one of his shoes.”
The main goal is for Garth is to finish the New York marathon. The goal is under nine hours. His progress can be monitored live online.
A challenge for Garth is that being one of the slowest, his starting time is not until 11.30am, so that means a finish time of after 8pm. It will be dark so there is risk of a fall. Michael says the other challenge will be eating and drinking enough to sustain Garth for the eight to nine hours.
What will be making things easier for Garth and Michael will be the organisation provided by Judy Wolff and her team at Marathon World Travel.
“They have been doing tours to this race for so long they have masses of tips to navigate the pre-race procedures, inevitable when there are 50,000 competitors, leaving me free to concentrate on preparation for the race itself,” says Garth. “For me personally it is the added bonus of having someone to mollycoddle me at the end of my race. I hope I won’t need it, but I am sure I will!”
“Judy and Marathon World Travel’s experience means they have sorted out the hassles of entry and accommodation, which is very close to the finish line of the marathon,” adds Michael Stowers. “Judy has provided us with expert advice on preparation and what we are in for at New York Marathon. We have had a pre-departure seminar in which an experienced marathon coach and New York marathon finisher gave great tips for the marathon, lead-up and on the day. This build-up has us already excited to look beyond New York and book future marathons overseas with Judy and her team.”
For more information visit: marathons.co.nz