History was made on Sunday at the Great North Run in Newcastle, U.K., as a 102-year-old World War II veteran completed the 21.1-kilometre race, becoming the oldest person to finish a half-marathon.
Bill Cooksey, originally from Wales but now residing in Newton Aycliffe, not far from Newcastle, completed the race in five hours and 41 minutes, accompanied by his walking partner and friend, Gavin Iceton.
A true inspiration. 💙
At 102 years old, Bill Cooksey has crossed the AJ Bell #GreatNorthRun! 👏
Huge congratulations, Bill! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Ssu1cShr6e
— Great Run (@Great_Run) September 10, 2023
Cooksey, a former English teacher and a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF), prepared for the big day by walking 10 kilometres a week. He and his team battled unfavourable conditions on race day as heavy rain began pouring during the latter half of his race.
“I wish we didn’t have to go through all that rain–but we did it,” Cooksey told The Daily Mail.
According to The Daily Mail, Cooksey served with the RAF from 1941 to 1951. The centenarian took on the half-marathon as a new challenge after already completing most of the long-distance hikes in northern England. His goal was to raise approximately £1,500 (CAD $2,540) to support County Durham and Darlington National Health Service (NHS) Trust. He has currently raised £1,588, with more donations yet to be counted.
This impressive feat is not the first time Cooksey has taken on endurance challenges for charity. For his 100th birthday, he walked 100 miles over 10 days and cycled 1,000 miles for his 101st birthday, showcasing his commitment to supporting causes close to his heart.