Trying to arrange a phone interview with Liz Borrett isn’t easy, because the 80-year-old from Kelowna, BC who won her age group at this year’s Boston and London Marathons, never seems to slow down. After racing London, she toured around England for a few days, arriving back in Kelowna just in time for a Mother’s Day celebration with one of her sons. The next day she had a 10K run scheduled with her club, the Kelowna Running Club. (She also runs with her local Running Room and volunteers regularly with her local Parkun). A few days later we finally connected, right after her spin class.

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Liz Borrett. Photo: Facebook

Borrett is one of those people who had always been very active, playing baseball and badminton and working out, but who didn’t actually take up running until she was in her early 60s and retired from her nursing career. Her husband had passed away, and her first marathon was something she did to help a friend fundraise. She also wanted the trip to Hawaii (where the race was), but she didn’t train, because she didn’t realize that people trained for the marathon. Rather than turning her off, it motivated her to start training, and since then she has run “about 25” marathons. She credits the group experience for keeping her engaged. “Your support system offers the opportunities you wouldn’t even know were available if it weren’t for them,” she says.

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Borrett (second from right). Photo: Facebook

We asked her if anything was different since turning 80 in February. She admits it takes her a bit longer to recover from long races than in the past (while asserting that she generally recovers much faster than most people), and she’s very much in tune with how she’s feeling, not taking on more races than she feels she can handle. “My common sense is probably kicking in a bit, too… ” she says. A year ago, Borrett slipped on the ice and broke a bone in her foot (the first injury to prevent her from running) and since recovering from that, says she is now running “smarter.”

But “smart” is relative: so far this year Borrett has done the Disney’s Dopey Challenge (78.3k over four days), the Boston Marathon and the London Marathon (winning her age category at both). This is in addition to all the small weekly 5K and 10K local races she does as part of her regular routine when she’s at home.

Liz Borrett of Kelowna. Photo: Facebook

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It’s a measure of her determination and her sheer love of running that Borrett first ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 (the year of the bombing), and was undeterred. “The bomb went off just as I was running down the finishers chute,” says Borrett. “Initially it sounded like fireworks… There was little to no panic–everyone co-operated without realizing the magnitude of the disaster…

the silence was powerful. [It was] one of those experiences never forgotten.”
Borrett went back to Boston in 2014 and 2015, and then again this year. In 2015 she ran Boston2Big Sur–the Boston Marathon followed by the Big Sur Marathon in California mere days later.
Last year she trained for and travelled to the Chicago Marathon, but came down with a cold and the flu, so she simply walked the race instead of trying to run it, finishing in 5:53. It was one of the few times she has not won her age group. “I was not going to fly all the way to Chicago and not do the run,” says Borrett. “I would love to go back and actually run instead of walk.”
Borrett has run all of the Abbott World Majors except Tokyo, which she is hoping to do next year. And she has a friend who’s trying to persuade her to run the Athens Marathon in 2021. “I keep saying I won’t, but I probably will,” she laughs.

 

Liz Borrett in London in 2019
Borrett says she’s trying to do more walking and biking, but says she’d never give up running. “I enjoy it way too much to give it up.”

 

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