Lou Billinkoff turned 95 years old Tuesday and for his birthday he wanted something simple. He wanted to run.
“Just the pleasure of it. It gives me a thrill,” Billinkoff explained when asked why so does it, shortly after practicing his sprint ahead of an official try at beating the Canadian record later this month.
Tuesday’s was far from his first run but it wasn’t a lifelong passion. It was a life changing moment only six years ago that started it all.
“I had a heart attack when I was 89, it wasn’t a serious heart attack and the doctor suggested for rehab to go there,” he said, referring to the Re Fit Centre, where he attended a cardiac program. “I was walking the track and I thought that I would try running, I enjoyed it and I continue to do so,” Billinkoff said.
Now he runs three days a week and has progressed to where he is set to shatter the Canadian record for 100 meters. The current record for the 95 and over category is at one minute 18 seconds. Billinkoff ran 50 meters is just over 14 seconds.
“Actually it’s a pleasure to know that you can do that. It’s a sense of achievement but it’s not that important, it’s not going to change my life. I just enjoy running and that’s the important thing” he said after a workout.
Billinkoff has been working with trainer Sheldon Reynolds as they eye the Canadian record.
“He has just been amazing. He is a sponge. He wants to learn how his arms move faster, why the little shorter levers move quicker. He wants to work on his start, he was asking me about starting blocks and whether they would be helping and I said no because at your age it would take a little while to get out of the starting block position so it’s better to do the Lou leap. He figured out on his own to jump at the start to get his momentum up,” Reynolds boasted.
Billinkoff was born and raised in Winnipeg and worked for 40 years at Winnipeg Hydro before retiring in 1985. He says it’s pure luck and clean living that helped him make it to this age. He will get his chance to set a new Canadian record on June 23 at the Manitoba age class championships.
“It does show what is possible. That’s what is unique about Lou is that it shows what is possible. People should get out and try it. Who knew that a heart attack would actually encourage him to run and train, it’s just wonderful,” Reynolds added.
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