Mon | Mar 19, 2018

Marathon man - Heading to his 90th birthday, Roy Thomas has no plan to stop racing

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMJamila Litchmore
Roy Thomas, the 89-year-old runner training, in Beverly Hills recently.
Ricardo Makyn/Multi Media Photo editor Thomas with some of the awards he has received over the many years of marathon running.
Thomas with one of his dogs, Julia, after an early-morning training session in Beverly Hills, St Andrew, recently.

At 89 years old, Roy St Clair Thomas is one of the oldest marathon runners in Jamaica.

Born in 1927, Thomas has been running for more than 60 years and has no intention of slowing down.

"At the end of a run, I might be tired and maybe look as if I can hardly stand on my feet, but I feel good, I feel good all over," said Thomas during an interview with The Sunday Gleaner at his Beverly Hills, St Andrew, home.

Age is no deterrent to this marathoner, whose eyes are always on the finish line. For him the benefits of running are "mental and physical".

The octogenarian got his start in long-distance running as a student of Kingston College (KC), where after years of playing the "giddy goat" at previous institutions, he said he finally found discipline and purpose.

"Kingston College, I don't know what I would have done without Kingston College," said Thomas.


Puny kid


As a youngster, he was not a natural sportsman, something the 89-year-old attributes to his small frame. "The only thing we used to do was the running, but we couldn't run in like say the 100 yards ... No, we couldn't. My form mate and myself, we were puny little kids," said Thomas.

In fact, Thomas would often finish last in his school's distance races, which he selected because it was the only sport that would admit him.

"In those days you had to be good (at sports). A form mate and I, only thing we could enter, because it was open, was the mile, so we did the mile," shared Thomas with a chuckle.

"When we came in, we came in at the tail end, nobody was behind us," he added.

After leaving school, the dedicated runner started a backyard gym for weight training, buying weights one by one.

He developed a system for his distance running, one which included lighter weights and more repetition to increase endurance. He saw many gains but would not continue for much longer, the exigencies of life forcing him to put running on the back burner. But not for long.

After years of living and working in the United States, he returned to the island in 1955 to marry his soulmate, Dorothy. They would go on to have three children: one girl and two boys.


Good advice


Thomas thanks Sydney 'Foggy' Burrowes for getting him started again in running.

Burrows, who Thomas describes as a brilliant sportsman, was also a KC graduate and gave him advice which he follows to this day.

The advice: "Roy, just run your own race and don't pay any mind to anybody else."

Motivated, he got his feet wet in a Guinness road race, from Six Miles in St Andrew to Central Village in St Catherine, and has been running ever since.

As he ages, the resourceful road runner is invested in keeping himself occupied, healthy and running.

He has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. It gets painful as he gets older and can make running difficult but not impossible. Thomas is vigilant and uses inversion therapy for treatment.

He shared a story of running into a brick wall once while participating in a specially arranged ultra-marathon years ago.

"My feet said to me, all right buster, we've had it. I don't know what you plan to do but we're not going any further. I had to kind of psych out myself. It took me a little while before I could get to continue and finish," he recalled.

But he did finish.

Thomas will turn 90 this year but does not anticipate age to be a brick wall. "It's more in your head than your body," said Thomas.