Les Williams is not your average 64-year-old.
After a massive professional running career in his youth, he moved to the 90 Mile Beach, quietly working as a horticulturist and helping to coach younger runners.
He discovered Parkrun, a free timed five kilometre run that takes place across the world every Saturday, and rediscovered his love for the sport.
That was about five years ago - he’s since won more than 60 races, including the prestigious Browne Shield - that involves winning five events in masters athletics, including cross country running, 10,000 metres on the track, and road races.
He also finished sixth in the 800m at the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2017.
At the weekend, Williams did it again - he won the 400m open handicap at the Ballarat Gift, defeating Olympians and people almost half his age.
He finished in 48 seconds, with a 90 metre handicap, after a strong heat.
The best part is, he hadn’t even planned on running the event.
“With the Ballarat Gift, I go down there specifically to have a go at the world’s richest 300 masters, which is worth $2000 for the over 35s, and I made the final,” he explained.
“I flew - I’ve been running 800s, but I lost by about a metre and a half, I was in fifth.
The next day, I entered the 400m, a big, prestigious race.
“I wasn’t going to run in it, but I thought may as well - I hit the front in my heat, just, it was 48.8 (seconds).
“I thought yeah, maybe, but I didn’t put my good shoes on, just the ones I won the heat on - but when I turned for home, I could hear them say I’ve kicked away, I thought, where are they?”
The result was a genuine surprise, he said.
“No one can work out how a 64-year-old can do that and beat the kids - I said I’ve been doing it since I was 15,” he laughed.
“It’s just so exciting, my son was there, the whole family’s there, and people are ringing me up saying that’s the greatest race you’ve ever won.
“I still don’t feel that old.”
He trains every day, he added, but always looked forward to Parkruns on Saturday.
His record at the Sale run is 18.31, an incredible achievement for someone of any age.
“I just love it, I’ve done it all my life, same with horticulture - the best two things I can do is hort and run, and it’s just made my life,” he said, adding his advice to people thinking about getting off the couch was simple.
“You’ve got to take it every day at a time, do a little bit each day, and be consistent, that’s the most important thing.
“It doesn’t matter how unfit you are, just have a goal, consistently do it each day and build on it.”
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