‘I’ve made hundreds of friends’: 88-year-old veteran runner on track for 400th Parkrun

The former 24-hour track race runner took part in the first ever London Marathon and has been racing 5k every day in lockdown

Bob Emmerson might be the oldest runner in The Midlands and is putting us all to shame.

At 88 years old, he would say running is second nature to him and fitness has been an important part of his life.

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He found his passion for athletics as a boy when he ran with a local running group - The Harriers - in his native Newcastle.

Later it became a way for him to pass the time when he was called up to the British Army as part of national service.

At 44, he began to take things a little more seriously and entered the first London Marathon and at 70 he had ran 100,000 miles.

Fast-forward to 88, and two new hips later, he is still as in love as ever with running in his old age.

He is on his marks to get set and complete his 400th Parkrun - where he lives in Northampton, with his wife Selma - when the event is expected to return on June 5.

Bob Emmerson, who lives in Northampton, is on track to reach his 400th milestone circuit when the Parkrun reopens in June (Northampton Parkrun/Facebook).

‘The Parkrun has kept me going’

After two new hips many of us would perhaps want a slower pace of life, but for Bob, having surgery just spurred him on.

In 2012, he joined his first ever Parkrun after hearing about it on a local radio station, and he’s been heading to the Racecourse in the Midlands town ever since, come rain or shine.

“I went every week, I did 100 and it went on and on and on until I got to 399 and it all stopped,” he said.

Bob runs every Parkrun in his favourite green t-shirt and hat (image: Northampton Parkrun).

The pandemic put a halt on Bob reaching his 400th milestone run last March as the Parkrun was put on ice during the Covid pandemic.

However, next month, Bob will be dusting off his running shoes to cross the line and become the world’s first runner at 88 to complete 400 Parkruns.

Bob puts his enthusiasm for life down to the Parkrun and says it has kept him mentally and physically stronger than living a life in his armchair.

He said: “The Parkrun has been a marvellous thing, it’s kept me going and I’ve made hundreds of friends.

The Northampton Parkrun sees hundreds take part each week at the Racecourse (Josh Codner/Northampton Parkrun)

“I’ve personally encouraged and got 20 people into the Parkrun.

“It’s a social thing, you look forward to a Saturday morning meeting all your new friends.

“I believe if you get out of bed in the morning and have your breakfast and sit and watch telly all day you’re not going to live very long, you’ve got to keep active.

“I have an allotment and a big back garden and I get out everyday and do 5k - which is 3.1 miles.”

‘I’m more well known now than when I was top class’

He said running gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you get on with your day.

“It makes you feel good for the rest of the day,” Bob said.

“Even on a Saturday morning in the winter when I get up and it’s rotten, cold and raining - I’ve done it. It’s a good way of starting the day.

“If I had been running a Parkrun in my 50s, I would have been doing it in about 17 minutes but since I’ve become over 80, I can’t say I’m very quick but I get round in about 30 minutes.

“I’m gradually getting a little bit slower but it doesn’t matter as long as I’m doing, it I’m happy.

“I’ve become more well known doing the Parkrun than what I did when I was a top class runner.”

‘Bob is Parkrun’s grandad’

Northampton Parkrun director Michelle Lewis said Bob is everyone’s friend.

He is also believed to be the oldest runner in the world to run 400 Parkruns.

“He is 88 and the oldest Parkrunner in the world to reach this milestone - he is not just a local hero, he is famous elsewhere for his age,” Michelle said.

“He’s the grandad of Northampton Park Run, he’s a legend.

“He inspires all ages and he’s not just someone who runs Parkrun, he volunteers, encourages and supports.

“Everyone needs a Bob at a Parkrun.”