New Zealander Garth Barfoot was the oldest competitor at start of this year’s New York City Marathon – and although he pulled up short before the finish line, he’s already eying new challenges.
On Monday, the Aucklander was the oldest person to participate in the iconic race that stretches 42.2km through the Big Apple.
The 87-year-old told the Herald the New York race was impressive because of the atmosphere and masses of supporters.
“I was a lot more conscious of the numbers here,” said Barfoot.
“When running through the streets of the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, there’s a greater proportion of the population.
“I think when you close the streets on a Sunday (UST), they’re all trapped, so may as well come out and watch the race,” Barfoot said.
He said it was clear how passionate the supporters were.
“I mean, they wouldn’t come out if they hadn’t liked it ... and this is the first race I’ve actually had to take my hearing aids out because I found the noise of the cheering crowds, somewhat overbearing.”
The patriarch of real estate company Barfoot & Thompson tapped out of the race two-thirds of the way through because of the conditions.
“I wasn’t enjoying it, it was getting colder,” Barfoot told the Herald after the race. “It’s winter, early spring and once the sun goes down it gets quite cold.”
He said he usually prepares for morning races and he didn’t bring the right clothes to run in the evening.
“I was frightened it would get too dark before I finished, and it would be hard for me to get back to base, so after 30km I stopped.”
Regardless of where he finished, Barfoot sees it as another few kilometres he could add to the list of more than 30 completed marathons and countless Ironman triathlons.
Throughout his hundreds of hours of racing, the indefatigable endurance athlete revealed what he thinks about on course.
“I think about doing all the things my Pilates instructor has told me to do, be tall.
“She says try to put your head through the roof of the tent – don’t slouch.”
Born in May 1936 – three months before the Berlin Olympics where New Zealander Jack Lovelock struck 1500m gold – Garth went on to carve out a hugely successful career in real estate.
However, in the second half of his life, he has embraced endurance sports.
In 1990 he completed the first of his 18 Rotorua Marathons – crossing the line alongside his wife, Judy – a race which provided many vivid memories.
Fast forward to 2023 and less than a week after partaking in the event in New York, Barfoot is already targeting the 60th edition of the Rotorua Marathon next May.
He sees his 19th completed lap of Lake Rotorua as a perfect compensation for falling short in New York.
* An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Garth Barfoot was the oldest runner in the history of the NYC Marathon. The oldest entrant is believed to be former US Marine Jonathan Mendes, who completed the course in 2016 at the age of 96. New Zealander Colin Thorne completed the race in 2013, at the age of 89.
Bonnie Jansen is a multimedia journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective and was part of the Te Rito cadetship scheme before becoming a full-time journalist.