It’s billed as ‘a fun run like no other’ but for 95-year-old Logan Campbell resident Russell Parrish, yesterday’s Round the Bays was all about the fun, and less about the run.
“I was right at the back of the walkers group,” says Russell, who has entered the event at least eight times before.
“I completed it in two hours and two minutes which was within my estimate of between two hours to two hours and 15 minutes so I was happy with that. I felt reinvigorated!"
Russell was the second oldest entrant to this year’s event, with another 95-year-old, Bruce Nicholls, just three months older.
Unlike Bruce, Russell’s running days are over, and he now just sticks to walking but he is still as dedicated to fitness as he ever was.
“I have been going to the YMCA gym for 53 years. I can still manage walking up to 10km, it’s not a burden or a challenge to me at all.”
Father-of-five Russell’s fitness journey began in his 40s when he set up his own business and worked a second job re-treading tyres at night.
This had slimmed him down and got him fit and he decided to join the gym and start jogging to maintain it.
“I could never dance or play tennis, and it never worried me, but if there was ever team events I was always a burden on others. That’s why jogging appealed to me because you could go whenever you wanted and at the pace you liked.”
Russell said he and his late wife Mary would often run together and he completed numerous Round the Bays with Mary at his side.
The couple were even photographed in a 1982 poster to promote the 10th ever Round the Bays which Russell proudly shows off to this day.
Russell and his son Murray hold up the poster from 1982 where you can just make out Russell and his late wife Mary running alongside thousands of others (below).
“I used to run it with my wife Mary. We’d run from our home in Epsom to the start line at Victoria Park, we’d run round the bays and then run home again and we didn’t think anything of it!” he says.
“Back then there 84,000 people taking part but the highest number we saw in this one was 47,000.”
The last time he entered Round the Bays was five years ago when he was 90 and he admits it was a somewhat last minute decision to enter this year’s event, but the staff and fellow residents at Logan Campbell Retirement Village gave him plenty of encouragement.
He is still dedicated to keeping his fitness up, and actively participated in Ryman Healthcare’s Walking for Wellness initiative last year, enjoying the extra bonus of the company of residents from his and other Auckland villages.
Yesterday, Russell’s son Murray acted as his support crew, with the pair getting special t-shirts made with ‘Russell – 95 and counting….’ for Russell to wear, and ‘Russell’s back-up’ for Murray to wear.
“Some might say it’s just a pathetic attempt at an old man to get attention,” he laughs. “But it’s just fun and you’ve got to make life fun and if I don’t do this I’ll get more and more miserable!”
The t-shirts proved to be a big hit, with lots of people stopping Russell and Murray, and Murray’s wife Robyn who also walked alongside them, for congratulations and photos.
Indeed, as he crossed the finish line, the commentator saw from his t-shirt that his name was Russell and personally congratulated him as he completed the 8.4km course!
Yesterday’s occasion was a real family affair, with his two daughters coming along to meet him at the finish line, along with his grandson Flynn, 24, who entered as a runner and was also there to meet him at the end.
Says Russell: “He finished it in exactly half the time it took me!”
Russell, right, with son Murray, left, and grandson Flynn, centre.