I’m 66 but I won’t stop running 56-mile ultramarathons in the heat

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ONE WOMAN in her 60s has revealed she’s ran over 40 marathons, including gruelling 56-mile ultramarathons in the heat, and how she has no plans on stopping, despite once ending up in hospital.

Elizabeth Jane Routley-Driver, 66, is a HR consultant who lives in Dubai with her husband Robert, 64.

Elizabeth Jane Routley-Driver, 66, has ran over 40 marathons and has no plans on stopping

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Elizabeth Jane Routley-Driver, 66, has ran over 40 marathons and has no plans on stoppingCredit: Hamza Shafique

Four years ago she completed an ultramarathon in South Africa and despite being ecstatic over her achievement, she found herself quickly being carried to hospital after collapsing following the race.

Sharing her story, Elizabeth recalls: “Collapsing into the arms of a doctor, I was carried to the field hospital, exhausted and with my legs cramping painfully, but feeling ecstatic.

“Aged 62, I’d just completed a 56-mile ultra marathon in the baking heat and hilly terrain of South Africa.”

Her love for running first began when Elizabeth moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1983, when she was 28 years old.

The HR consultant completed a gruelling 56-mile ultramarathon in South Africa aged 62

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The HR consultant completed a gruelling 56-mile ultramarathon in South Africa aged 62Credit: JETLINE Action Photo
She collapsed after the race and had to be taken to the field hospital but it hasn't put her off

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She collapsed after the race and had to be taken to the field hospital but it hasn’t put her offCredit: JETLINE Action Photo

“I moved to the United Arab Emirates from Berkshire in 1983 when I was 28 to work as a midwife, and in 1990 my son Tom was born. I’ve always enjoyed being active and was a member of a local hockey team, having played for Windsor when we were in the UK. 

“One of my teammates mentioned she was part of a running group called the Sharjah Desert Hash House Harriers and I decided to join, running with other members once a week.

“It was a good way of keeping fit and being sociable. But when one member told me how he’d run the London Marathon 10 times, and what an incredible feeling it was to complete such a long race, it sparked my competitive nature.

“I began training, running longer distances five times a week, alongside my midwifery job. I loved running, as it made me feel alive and strong, and the further I ran and the harder I pushed my body, the greater the buzz.

Elizabeth says the "harder" she pushes her body, the "greater the buzz" she gets from running

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Elizabeth says the “harder” she pushes her body, the “greater the buzz” she gets from runningCredit: JETLINE Action Photo
She credits running for its physical and therapeutic benefits

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She credits running for its physical and therapeutic benefitsCredit: JETLINE Action Photo

“In April 1994, I flew to London to take part in my first marathon. My husband Robert came with Tom, then four, to support me. It was exhausting but thrilling – the atmosphere was amazing. I crossed the finish line after running just over 26 miles in three hours, 50 minutes, beating my goal of four hours, so I was delighted.

“I couldn’t believe that just three years after taking up running, I had a London Marathon medal around my neck. Little did I know then that I’d go on to run 42 more marathons – including in Boston and Tokyo – over the next 26 years, getting my best time down to three hours, 28 minutes.”

Wanting to push herself even more, Elizabeth then turned to ultramarathons to give herself a much bigger challenge.

“I was addicted to running and getting the next medal round my neck, but by 2016, I realised I needed a bigger challenge. No marathon is easy, but after years of running that same distance, I wanted to push my body harder.

“So in 2014, aged 59, I ran my first ultra marathon. It was a 62-mile run across the UK, which I completed in 18 hours. I’d trained for it by gradually increasing my distance, and eating a diet of chicken, rice, fruit and vegetables.

“I carried nutritious shakes and bananas with me to sustain my energy levels while running. Other runners were stunned when they found out my age

I was in agony, only able to shuffle. I felt nauseous, then began vomiting

Elizabeth Routley-Driver

“Once I caught the ultra marathon bug, there was no stopping me, and in 2017 I signed up for a 56-mile road race in South Africa called the Comrades, which had to be completed in under 12 hours. I was 62, but I knew I was as fit and strong as many younger runners. Despite all my training, it was tougher than I ever imagined.

“After I hit the 30-mile mark, severe cramps in both thighs set in and I was in agony, only able to shuffle. I felt nauseous, then began vomiting.”

Not wanting to bow out, a determined Elizabeth persevered: “Bystanders and other runners gave me water and salt tablets, but nothing helped – however, I refused to give up.

Elizabeth wants to show people that running can be for all ages

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Elizabeth wants to show people that running can be for all agesCredit: Hamza Shafique

“Somehow, I found the mental and physical strength to keep going and I crossed the line in 11 hours, 35 minutes. I collapsed and needed IV fluids in the field hospital, but clutching my medal, I felt so proud.

“Since then, I’ve run the Comrades twice more – getting down to a time of nine hours, 34 minutes in 2019, which earned me second place in my age group.

“Now 66, I’m a size 8, weigh 7st 7lb and my body is lean and muscular. I lift weights at home, and though my diet is healthy, I still have a glass of wine at the weekend. I believe I’m healthier than many women my age – not just because of the physical benefits of running, but because of its therapeutic qualities, too.

“It helps me de-stress, gives me time to think, plus setting goals is great for my wellbeing. I’ve never had a bad injury, and I know to rest if my body needs a break.

“We’re a sporty family – Robert is an ex-rugby player and sprinter, while Tom, now 30, is a powerlifter. And while Robert often has work commitments, Tom, who lives in the UK, comes to as many of my runs as he can.

“As long as I’m physically and mentally able, I’ll keep putting on my trainers and hopefully show people that running is for all ages.” 

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