(OTTAWA) 96-year-old Canadian Réjeanne Fairhead set a world record on Saturday by completing a 5-kilometre race in 51 minutes and 9 seconds.

The extraordinary feat was accomplished at the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Ms Fairhead ran the distance almost five minutes faster than American Betty Lindberg, who set the previous world record for a 5km race completed by women aged 95 to 99. Lindberg was 97 when she finished the Atlanta Peachtree Marathon weekend in 55 minutes and 48 seconds in February 2022.

“It was great,” Réjeanne Fairhead said in an interview. “I was proud of what I did, but I was glad it was over, too. »

Unlike Betty Lindberg, who accumulated records over several distances, Réjeanne Fairhead did not consider herself before, and does not really consider herself now, as an athlete. “They call me that, but I don’t know if that’s the case. »

During her first 95 years of life, the Ottawa resident’s most athletic pursuits were bowling and horseshoes. But just over a year ago, a friend at a seniors’ residence asked her if she wanted to try the 5k run during the annual Ottawa Marathon weekend.

Mrs. Fairhead agreed. She ran the event in 58 minutes and 52 seconds, setting the Canadian record in her age category. Then, she discovered that she was only about three minutes away from the world record.

Over the winter, she began training with physical therapist and running coach Richelle Weeks, who volunteered her time. Ms. Weeks set up a training plan in which Réjeanne Fairhead walked three times a week and, alternately, did basic strength exercises at home.

Last Saturday afternoon, with members of her family and Richelle Weeks around her to ensure her safety, Réjeanne Fairhead embarked on a journey that took her past the Parliament Buildings and then on a loop along the famous canal. Curtain.

By the time she hit a mile, she knew she had the record in the bag. She was going so fast that Richelle Weeks even told her she could slow down.

Only four women over the age of 80 competed and Ms. Fairhead finished second among them. She also outscored 627 other runners in all age groups.

To beat the heat, she hydrated with a sports drink and at one point grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer and threw it behind her back. Her son was watching the road around her, warning her of potholes or debris so she wouldn’t trip.

Réjeanne Fairhead raised six children and also has 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Five of them walked the course with her and many more lined up to cheer her on.

Born in 1926 in Saskatchewan, Réjeanne Fairhead, who is bilingual, moved to Ottawa in her early twenties and has lived there ever since. Her husband was in the Canadian Armed Forces. She worked for the federal government in Saskatchewan before moving and stayed home to raise their children after they were born.

She returned to government when her children grew up and held various positions for nearly two decades before retiring. She lived independently until three years ago when she moved into apartments for the elderly.

She used her runs in 2022 and 2023 to raise money for a foundation, raising more than $2,000 last year. As of the end of last week, his total for this year was over $7,400.

The day after her run on Sunday morning, Ms. Fairhead was already back doing her volunteer work.

She says she is happy to have inspired people through her efforts. She said her motto is don’t let age define what you can do. “I tell everyone that age is just a number. You know, if you’re feeling good, do something. »

But she added that if she were to compete again next year, it would be just for fun. “I’m not going to try to beat anything. I think I did my part. I think I’ve had enough. »