With much of the news throughout Covid-19 focusing on the perceived vulnerabilities of the older generation, Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action has decided to celebrate the city’s elderly population by launching its own Year of the Older Person.
It’s been 32 years since Sam Graves won the Dundee Marathon at the relatively old age of 39.
Now 72, he’s proving that you can still still be fit and active whatever no matter what your age.
Sam took up running while at Morgan Academy after he was challenged to a race from Dundee to Newtyle by a runner who noticed his stamina while playing a game of football.
Having never run before, except in his footie matches as part of the school team, Sam managed to finish the seven-mile route in third place.
“A guy had noticed that after playing 90 minutes of football I was able to keep my stamina up more than the rest of the teams and had asked me if I wanted to take part in the Dundee to Newtyle race to make up the school team,” Sam said.
“When I came third I think it definitely gave me confidence and I thought that maybe running was for me. From then on I was hooked.
“Following that event I went in to track running and won the East of Scotland Junior 800 in 1966 and went on to be in the Scotland reserve team in 1974 for the 1,500 metres.”
Later in life Sam thought it was time to try his hand at long-distance running and entered his first Dundee Marathon in 1983.
It would be five years later that his hard work eventually would pay off when he was the first to cross the finish line at the event in 1988, a month before his 40th birthday.
“I definitely think my running improved with age. I was definitely a bit older than what you would normally expect to be to win a marathon but it was my sixth attempt at it when I finally won.
“I definitely didn’t do too badly at my previous attempts though as seventh was the worst place I finished. It was an amazing feeling to finally win the marathon and I still have all my memorabilia from that day and a picture of me crossing the line hanging in my home.”
As well as his running efforts Sam also worked as an analytical chemist, a career he got in to after leaving school, and continued to work in the field until his retirement in 2008.
It was during his time working for City Analyst in the early 70s that he met his future wife Ann who he would go on to marry in 1975.
“Analytical chemistry was something that I wanted to get in to since I was at school and I was lucky enough to do it right through until I retired,” he added.
“Ann and I worked beside each other for a while before we eventually got together, I thought I would give her a chance after her chasing me around the benches for long enough, and we got married in 1975. We also have two sons together, Scott and Stewart.
“Throughout my working life I can always remember that fitness and being outdoors was still a big thing for me. If I had a tough day I would head home and go for a walk to clear my head and it often helped. It couldn’t fix all of my problems but it definitely helped.”
In recent years after suffering with arthritis Sam has had to hang up his running shoes in favour of walking or swimming and also a more unusual activity- Tai Chi.
Sam became involved in the Chinese martial art after talking to an old running pal about his aches and pains seven years ago and was recommended Chi Kung, a variation of Tai Chi that is often referred to as “meditation in motion”.
He is now a qualified instructor in the practice and even visits care homes around the city getting residents involved, including some aged more than 100.
He added: “After attending a Chi Kung class I absolutely loved it, it is a gentler side of the Tai Chi martial arts. Once I started going to care homes I realised that the residents loved it and even had one woman who was 100 join in, so it shows that fitness and wellbeing can be done at any age.
“I think it is really important especially as we get older to keep our fitness up and keep enjoying the fresh air not only for physical fitness but also for your mental health.
“I also work alongside a local group named Nae Limits 60+ with my wife and we organise events for the older folk in the area such as tea dances to get everyone out and about and socialising, it is great seeing people who maybe don’t get out much able to enjoy themselves.”