Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's 81-year-old runner setting a pace 'younger guys aren't getting near'

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A west Belfast pensioner is clocking in 5km running times someone a quarter of his age would be proud of, and his sports club is on a mission to spread the word of his achievements.

On Monday, a Twitter post by West Belfast Coolers runner Aine with a picture of 81-year-old Francis Arthur was favourited more than 1,300 times, and retweeted more than 380 times.

The post reads: "This is Francie. Francie is 81 and runs with my club, West Belfast Coolers. Yesterday [Sunday] he ran a 5K in 30.44 he is an inspiration. I want to make him famous".

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, co-founder of West Belfast Coolers Stuart Kennedy said the octogenarian would possibly be in the top-10 in the world for his age category and had been with the club since last year.

"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.

The all-abilities running club has another senior citizen in its ranks, the 71-year-old Francie Laverty, known as Francie Jr (no relation).

"There two Francies are quite exceptional I would have to say," Mr Kennedy said.

"Usually people would fade away from running in their 60s but both of them have done fantastic.

"They both would have had a strong level of fitness. Francie Sr would have been a member of Beechmount Harriers for about 30 years, and would have a fit and healthy lifestyle."

For his 80th birthday last year Francie Sr ran the Great Wall Marathon in China, and regularly takes part in running events across Europe.

"There are guys half his age not running anywhere near 30 minutes for a 5km," Mr Kennedy added.

The West Belfast Coolers is a recreational sports club set up to encourage exercised and meets on Tuesdays at 6.30pm in Woodland on Finaghy Road, and on Thursdays at the Falls Park bowling pavilion at 6pm.

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