Unlike the majority of her age group — who hung up their running shoes long ago — Te Awamutu 89-year-old Phyl Jones is still savouring success.
Jones was the oldest entrant out of around 33,000 competitors from 51 countries, across all races, to participate in this year's 40th annual Gold Coast Marathon, including a record number of entrants from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.
The Te Awamutu Marathon Clinic wonder woman was first walker home in the 85 to 89 age group 10km race in 1hr 49m 51s.
Jones has been first in her age group at the Gold Coast for many years, regularly receiving her trophy in the post on her return home.
In August, 2012 she won the 80-84 year-old section of the 5.7km challenger walk held in conjunction with the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
Her time of 55.08 minutes not only saw her head off the six other athletes in her age group, but finish 1793rd overall out of 2791 — leaving many a much younger participant a little red faced. That year, 28,224 participated across all races, including 10km, 5.7km and children's events.
Jones' feat was all the more remarkable six years ago considering she broke her back in a vehicle accident a year earlier.
"At the time my surgeon told me to get out and get walking, so I've done so ever since," she says.
Just two months after breaking her back, she completed the Morrinsville 10km walk.
Jones recalls that she had to drive herself to Morrinsville as none of her mates were available to compete that day.
Daily walks and frequent exercising in the pool at Livingstone Aquatics at Te Awamutu Events Centre has enabled her to remain fit.
"Health permitting, there are no excuses for being lazy and inactive no matter what age you are.
"The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. Be grateful for everything you have, stay smiling and keep walking."
Jones has crossed the Tasman 10 times, in all, to be part of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
In 2007 and 2008 she and her Te Awamutu Marathon club-mate Phyl Linsley, who turns 93 this year, completed the half marathon (21km walk), followed by the 10km in 2009.
There is no hint of the pair slowing down.
Clinic publicity officer Christine Ball said Phyl Jones has always brought back enthusiastic reports about the Gold Coast Marathon.
"This year a group of 12 Clinic members joined her, participating in a variety of running and walking events across the Tasman.
"It was an extremely well organised event with local volunteers ensuring everything ran smoothly. Transport to the venue was free on the tram and the start area was set up to cater for the large numbers."
Ball said the 5km and 10km were held on Saturday, followed by the half and full marathon on Sunday over a fast and flat course with lots of crowd support.
Wayne Strong completed his 49th full marathon, covering the 42km in 5.29.22.
Strong is presently working out on his bike, training for the Northland Cycle Tour. He will then turn his attention back to running in preparation for what will be his 50th marathon at Rotorua in April, 2019.
Alton Melville completed the Gold Coast half marathon (21km run) in 1.59.05.
Those to complete the 10km walk, besides Phyl Jones, were Christine Ball in 1.20.15, Maria Double 1.28.47. Ross and Hillary Thomas 1.29.30, Dawn Devine 1.31.45, Raewyn Easton 1.31.47, Colleen Williamson 1.35.52 and Cathy McCartney 1.49.21.
Double, like Jones, was first home in her 80-85 age group and Devine placed third in her 75-80 age group.
The event was initiated by the Rotary Club of Surfers Paradise Central as part of a health awareness campaign for the Gold Coast.
During its 39-year history the Gold Coast Marathon has become the pinnacle of road running events in Australia and one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.