Belfast Telegraph

Belfast runner Francie (81) does 5k in 30 minutes


By Michael Sheils McNamee and Stewart Robson

An 81-year-old pensioner from west Belfast has completed a 5km run in just over half an hour, a time his running club say someone half his age should be hitting.

Francis Arthur achieved the feat in 30 minutes and 44 seconds in the Community Multi Sports Run in Belfast on Sunday.

The octogenarian, who ran the Great Wall Marathon in China for his 80th birthday last year, is a member of West Belfast Coolers running club.

The club's co-founder Stuart Kennedy said Francie Senior, as he's known in the club, is an inspiration to other members by also taking part in running events across Europe.

"I know the way sometimes people say someone or something is inspirational, and it can seem a bit like they are just saying it for the sake of it. But with Francie he really is an inspiration to everyone," he said.

News of Francie's achievements started to spread via Twitter when Aine, another member of the club, posted a picture of Francie after he'd completed his run.

The tweet said: "This is Francie. Francie is 81 and runs with my club, West Belfast Coolers. Yesterday he ran a 5K in 30.44 he is an inspiration. I want to make him famous #gofrancie #legend".

The post was retweeted nearly 500 times by late yesterday afternoon and favourited more than 1,700 times. One person commenting saying: "Wow! At the age of 43 it takes me longer than that!" another was impressed by Francie's stature and said: "You're built like a bull Francie, tell me what you're eating lad!"

Mr Kennedy continued: "He came to the Falls Park run with us first which we organise every Saturday. He came to me and asked if he could join and he's been with us for around the past year.

"People can't actually believe his age when they see him," he added. "When you see him face to face, you wouldn't put him at 81, nowhere near it.

"He's a great role model and takes time to talk to people about his experiences."

And Francis Laverty (71), known as Francie Junior, is another fighting-fit pensioner within the ranks of the club which meets at various venues in the west of the city.

Mr Kennedy said that Francie Junior is just as impressive an athlete as his older counterpart.

"The two Francies are quite exceptional I would have to say. Usually people would fade away from running in their 60s but both of them have done fantastic.

"Francie Senior would have been a member of Beechmount Harriers for about 30 years. There are guys half his age not running anywhere near 30 minutes for a 5km," Mr Kennedy added.

The West Belfast Coolers meet on Tuesdays at 6.30pm on Finaghy Road, and on Thursdays at the Falls Park bowling pavilion at 6pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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