As the rain began to soak the grounds of the University of Limerick yesterday afternoon, an 82-year-old professor was running around the college grounds on his 43rd marathon.
Walter Bortz, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, was visiting UL to promote the benefits of exercise on age.
As he picked up the pace at the halfway 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 America’s most recognised scientific experts on aging and longevity, the sprightly pensioner was convinced to run a marathon around UL while visiting with his friend, and multi-millionaire, Chuck Feeney.
The American philanthropist has donated millions of euro to the university over the years, and was visiting a number of parts of the city yesterday while on a whistle-stop tour.
“When Chuck says to me we are going somewhere I always say fine — all I have to ask is when do we go,” Prof Bortz said. “I’m feeling great, I’m just after waking up,” he beamed, as he descended on mile 14.
Prof Bortz is on a 10-day research mission in Ireland promoting the effects of exercise on a persons age.
“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.”
Prof Bortz took up running when he was 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,” he asserted.
Prof Bortz was joined by director of sport at UL, Dave Mahedy along with Derek McAntee, of the UL Sport Arena, Rosemary Ryan, a former Irish Olympian runner now with the Limerick City Sports Partnership, and Simon Baker, an Englishman in training at UL to become the first one-legged man to run the Dublin marathon.
“We have an awful lot of facilities here for marathon runners and triathletes as well as people who just want to walk the dog around the pathways and walkways through the university,” said Mr Mahedy.
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