Grandad Wilfred gets on his marks

Wilfred Laidler and his son Derek.
Wilfred Laidler and his son Derek.

The old saying that age is just a number certainly rings true for one North Tyneside grandad.

Wilfred Laidler, 77, is living proof that it’s never too late to take up running.

The grandad-of-seven got the running bug after a heart attack at the age of 71 and now he’s in training for his first 10K, the Active Northumberland Kielder 10k next month.

Wilfred, from Killingworth, had to undergo triple heart bypass surgery after a heart attack six years ago.

He wasn’t getting much exercise and after a fall while on his way to get the paper one morning, he became even less active. Concerned for his health, he turned to his son Derek for advice.

Derek said: “My dad wasn’t particularly active before the heart attack, but became even less so after it happened. I was really concerned for his health and wellbeing, he very quickly became like a frail old man and when he came to me for help, I suggested he tried becoming more active.

“The first thing he did was get a fitness tracker and started building up the amount of steps he did each day. His first goal was to reach 10,000 a day and once he started doing this he began jogging between the lampposts where he lived.”

Wilfred didn’t stop there though. He started setting himself bigger goals – jogging between two, three, four sets of lampposts and pushing himself further week by week.

He joined Derek, himself a keen runner, on a local parkrun in Ganavan Sands, Oban, and managed the three miles in a respectable 48 minutes.

He began running local parkruns every weekend, doing a couple of miles most days, and joined his local gym and running club.

Wilfred said: “It’s been a gradual process, but I’m living proof of what can be achieved through a little hard work and determination.”

The 10k event is part of Active Northumberland Kielder Marathon Weekend, on October 7 and 8, and is run by Events of the North, a company led by Olympians Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley, in conjunction with Northumbrian Water, Active Northumberland, and Northumberland County Council.

Derek added: “We are all really proud of dad, the change we’ve all seen in him has been incredible and the next challenge is the Kielder 10k in October. I will be doing the Run Bike Run event on the same day and we are both excited and looking forward to taking part.”

Race director Steve Cram said: “Wilfred is a real inspiration to us all and his story really highlights the benefits running and exercise can bring no matter what age you are. I hope he enjoys his first ever 10k and he couldn’t have picked a better location to do it in. I wish him and Derek the best of luck with the event.”

David Hall, head of leisure strategy at Northumbrian Water, said: “To see Wilfred and Derek on the starting line for the 10k will be fantastic. Its stories like theirs that make the Kielder Marathon weekend what it is and we are delighted to have the reservoir and Kielder Waterside as the backdrop to the amazing events.”

Northumberland County Councillor, Cath Homer, cabinet member for leisure, said: “Well done Wilfred. This is a fantastic achievement and proves you are never too old to get active.

“Whether it is a gentle walk, swimming, or in this case running a marathon, we know that regular exercise helps us to live happier and healthier lives, especially through our later decades. It sounds as if Wilfred’s training is going really well so I am sure he will rise to the challenge and enjoy the day.”