As the rain soaked the grounds of the University of Limerick yesterday an 82-year-old professor was running his 43rd marathon. Walter Bortz MD, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University school of medicine, California, was visiting UL to promote the benefits of exercise as we age. As he picked up the pace at the half-way mark, he joked: “I’m looking for my wife to give me CPR.
“A little mouth-to-mouth action should do the trick.”
Regarded as one of the US’s most recognised scientific experts on ageing and longevity, the sprightly pensioner was convinced to run a marathon around the grounds of UL while visiting his friend, the Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney.
The professor is on a 10-day research mission here promoting the benefits of exercise. “I like to show people they can stay 26 years of age all their lives. The key to a long life is exercise, keeping fit.
“I just took part in an exercise study in the States recently and the results showed I was 30 years younger than my age.” Professor Bortz took up running at 39 after becoming depressed following the death of his father. Every year since, he has completed a marathon. “I was depressed, my father was dying. I decided to get up and go out running. It’s the best medicine. It’s cheap and there are no side-effects. People shouldn’t just be taking pills – they should be exercising.”
Professor Bortz was joined on the marathon by UL director of sport Dave Mahedy; Derek McAntee, UL Sport Arena; Rosemary Ryan, a former Irish Olympian runner now with the Limerick City Sports Partnership, and Englishman Simon Baker, who is training at the university to become the first one-legged man to run the Dublin City Marathon. Simon Baker completed around 10km of the run with Professor Bortz as part of his training programme.
The former plasterer lost his right leg, from the knee down, in a building site accident in 2004, having fallen 12ft and shattered the bones in his leg. In 2008, after a battle with depression, he realised he needed a challenge to turn his life around and decided to be the first below-the-knee amputee to complete the Dublin City Marathon. For more information and to follow Simon's progress, visit his blog outonalimbproject.weebly.com
by David Raleigh
See full print of story in Irish Times and Irish Independent.