In Christopher Kelsall’s most recent interview he chats with 79 year old Victoria runner Maurice Tarrant. Maurice has won his age group hundreds of times and is widely considered the best Canadian runner in his age group.
Note: this article was originally published on Flotrack and has been reproduced here with permission.
(C) Copyright – 2009 – Christopher Kelsall
Maurice (‘Morris’) Tarrant of Victoria, BC holds or has held 48 Canadian age-group road and track records spanning distances from 3,000m to the half marathon. He turns 80 in less than a year from now (January 4th 2010) and will continue to tear apart the Canadian record books.
At 75 years of age Maurice ran the Bazan Bay 5k in Sidney, (just outside of Victoria) finishing with a time that when calculated on the WAVA age-grade calculator works out to 14:17, which neither past winners Dave Milne, Graham Hood, Scott Simpson, Jim Finlayson or anyone else have managed to achieve on this course. In fact 14:17 would be the open course record by nearly half a minute, which Milne currently holds with his time of 14:44.
Maurice has been at this assault of the Canadian age-group records for some time, 14 years ago he took down the 65 – 69 age-group 10k record, crossing the line in 37:29, which translates to a 29:22 another ‘plus 90%’ age-grade level performance. At the age of 58 he ran a half marathon in Seattle in 76:20, which works down to a 64:33 a standard only a handful of Canadians manage in the open category.
Another astounding standard of his is the fact that Mr. Tarrant has won 230 consecutive Vancouver Island Race Series races, following his three victories so far this year.
What is the secret to his continued success?
Maurice grew up active; he ran competitively through his youth, so I asked him, “in your early years did your high level of physical fitness allow you to make a smooth comeback at middle age?”
“Yes I believe so. By the age of eighteen I was playing rugby in the winter and rowing during the summer in bow position for coxed fours. In rowing we trained six days a week and were well coached, resulting in several successful years in this sport. Another factor that helped in my development was that my family never owned a car, so I walked, took the bus or ran everywhere! Including home from school at the age of ten to deliver newspapers!”
Maurice hales from Devon, England. Yes he grew up involved in sports and delivering those newspapers on the run. It is likely his early conditioning gave him the ability to make steady progress from running a half-mile loop on his lunch breaks at work, building up to 50 miles per week minimum, including a 16 to 20 mile long run every-other-week.
Maurice joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 21. The following year he was talked into entering a half-mile track race where he came in second. He ran competitively in cross-country, track and road races, representing Devon in an Inter-country meet at White City. He found road running as fun then as it is now.
CK: What do you attribute in your current training to your consistency now that you are nearing 80 and still running very well?
MT: Running has become a lifestyle for me; I enjoy the fitness it brings and the companionship of other runners during training or racing. Keeping to fairly regular training program of at least three runs a week with “rest” days in between. This could be weight training; I prefer the rowing machine, or carrying out projects such as gardening or home improvements. In other words staying active!!
Don’t assume by the above statement by Maurice that he isn’t a little competitive, John Woodall, who in self deprecating style refers to himself as ‘Mr. Second’ had this to say about Maurice:
Maurice and I went for our Saturday morning training run, along Lochside trail. Maurice, ran me into the ground and after completing the 22K, I was left the usual “blethering incoherent idiot”. He is on a new kick this week, with a new watch giving him his heart rate. He likes to run at a 120 HR, my HR is reading 155, he is a marvel of the running world. I feel that I am very lucky and privileged to run with such a good and knowledgeable friend. He is unquestionably a member of the ‘Outliers Club’.
Maurice seems to be really looking forward to his 80th birthday, where his ambition I am sure, is to break every age related record in the book. He is setting me up to run 80K on his 80th birthday as a celebration, what do you think to that idea.
CK: You have been married for 58 years; Phyllis must have been very supportive to allow you to race as much as you have for the past 30 years.
MT: I could not have stayed so fit and well without the support and love from my partner in life. Phyllis not only supports my running but she keeps me healthy by baking and cooking meals full of nutrition and has plenty of fruit in the home at all times.
CK: Do you practice a strict diet of any sort?
MT: Not really, I avoid red meats and I am mostly vegetarian. I enjoy chicken and fish. I try not to over eat, but I have a passion for desserts, when I can over indulge. I like a sherry every day and a glass of wine 4 or 5 times a week, with the odd beer or two. (draft preferred)
CK’s note: When I am 80, I will drink Hermannator.
CK: Are you doing any special training to get ready for the 80+ age-group records?
MT: Not yet. However it is my intention to increase the number of running days in the week from three to four or five. This will include some track work in my program. I want to do this six or eight months prior to my next birthday.
CK: Who (if any) are your running heroes?
Past: Chris Chataway, Chris Brasher, Roger Bannister, Gordon Pirie and John Landy.
Present: Jon Brown, Jim Finlayson, Todd Howard and Scott Simpson.
MT: What a great idea, perhaps you could be my P.R. person?
CK: (laughing) …Done.
Maurice’s (masters) personal bests
½ Mara. 1:16:20
CK: Do you have any specific time or percentage goals for next year, perhaps keeping the percentage of age over 90?
MT: I would like to take my performance to over 90%. In my late fifties I managed a 93.1%, but I would settle for 90.01%!!
When Canadian age-group phenom, Rosamund Dashwood asked Maurice about his various records, he said, “don’t make too much of all that, I’d much rather you said more about the enjoyment it brings me”.
Maurice has also been quoted as saying, “at heart I am lazy”.
Apparently so was multi-time world record holder Peter Snell. Maurice is in good company then.
Club-mate Marge Melvin once said, “Maurice Tarrant is a man who is as personable as he is talented”.
Now that is saying something.
Christopher Kelsall is sponsored by Island Runner Footwear, located in Victoria, BC - Check out the store’s site: Island Runner. – Site temporarily down due to maintanence.