100-year-old competes at Rotorua Marathon

Walking the race with his daughter Pauline Dinsdale and his son-in-law Rob, Thorne has modest goals for the Rotorua Marathon. Photo supplied.

Colin Thorne does not believe in the saying “the older I get, the better I was”.

The 100-year-old is set to bring down the curtain on his Red Stag Rotorua Marathon journey in May as he laces up his shoes to participate in the First Credit Union 5.5km.

Whangārei-based Thorne has a long history with the iconic race, completing 22 full Red Stag Rotorua Marathons, the most recent of which took place in 2014 when the former dairy farmer was aged 90.

Still incredibly active, Thorne regularly participates in parkruns and exercises six times a week, combining walking with gym work and aqua jogging to keep in shape.

Around 7,000 runners of all abilities are expected to compete in the 60th anniversary of the Rotorua Marathon. Photo: Alisha Lovrich.

His next big goal is to compete in the 5.5km distance as part of the 60th anniversary edition of the Red Stag Rotorua Marathon – which he believes is the perfect opportunity to sign off his longstanding history with the event.

“I’m suffering a bit now,” he explains. “I had a knee replacement 18 years ago and my right hip has worn away and I also only walk these days. But as it is the 60th anniversary, I thought I’ll do the 5.5km walk, that will be long enough. I’m looking forward to it.”

A former hockey umpire, Thorne only took up running at the age of 64 to “do something for himself” and he joined the local Hatea Harriers.

All smiles – throughout his career Colin Thorne completed 22 Rotorua Marathons. Photo supplied.

He was hooked. Within his first year of running, he completed his first marathon in Whangārei and on the encouragement of a friend he completed his maiden Rotorua Marathon in 1989.

Having competed almost half his 50 marathons in Rotorua, Thorne understandably has a close affinity with the event, which has given him so many rich memories over the years.

“There is something about Rotorua, it holds a certain attraction,” he says.

He recorded his fastest Rotorua Marathon time of 3:28:33 as a 68-year-old in 1992.

“The hills out the back are a challenge. Rotorua is always something special, although I think a full marathon would be a bit far for me today.”

Walking the race with his daughter Pauline Dinsdale and his son-in-law Rob, Thorne has modest goals for the 2024 Red Stag Rotorua Marathon, which is run by Athletics NZ.

“I’ve been walking a lot of parkruns so I can probably comfortably do the 5km,” he says. “But I’d rather do that than strain myself completing the 10km. I realise I’m a bit old now, but I’ve been very blessed and I’m very lucky to still be entering races.”

The great-great grandfather admitted he “broke down in tears” after completing his first Rotorua Marathon and he hopes his presence at the 60th anniversary event will act as a spur to others.

“Hopefully it will encourage others to get off their backside and go out for a run, that is what I would love to see,” he adds.

The famous Government Gardens archway on the home strait of the Rotorua Marathon. Photo: Alisha Lovrich.

ACC injury prevention leader James Whitaker says for Thorne to still be participating at 100 years old is truly remarkable.

“What an incredible feat,” says Whitaker. “Colin is a great example to all of us. If you look after your body, put in the hard work, you can keep doing what you love for a very long time.”

Whitaker says the Rotorua Marathon is an iconic event and it will be special for all runners and walkers to compete in the 60th anniversary of the famous race.

To stay fit and healthy like Thorne, Whitaker says it’s important to wear correctly-fitted shoes, warm up properly, run at a comfortable pace, warm down, stay hydrated, and allow time for rest and recovery in training.

“Running is great for your health and offers so many benefits, both physical and mental,” says Whitaker.

“We want all people who are taking part in the Rotorua Marathon to stay injury-free and enjoy the incredible feeling of crossing the finish line.”

The Rotorua Marathon has come a long way since it began in 1965, where 16 men competed in the inaugural event. Photo: Alisha Lovrich.

Rotorua Marathon Fact Box When: 3 - 4 May, 2024 Distances: Full Marathon (42.2km), Half Marathon (21.1km), 10km, 5.5km, Lakefront Mile, Runway 5 Marathon Records: Paul Ballinger 2:16:05 (1988), Nyla Carroll 2:37:37 (1994). For more information: www.rotoruamarathon.co.nz

Running injuries by the numbers – fact box

· In 2023 ACC accepted 13,368 running-related injury claims at a cost of $9.7 million to help people recover.

· The leading regions for running related injuries are Auckland, Canterbury, and Wellington.

· People aged from 25 – 49 make up around 52 percent of all running related injuries

· Soft tissue injuries make up around 90 percent of all running related injuries and the most affected areas were people’s knees and ankles.


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