Florence Barron Didn’t Start Running Until She Was 59. At 80, She’s Smashing Records

Her tips on staying fit through all the seasons and on what to eat before a race.

Florence Barron running in a green shirt and black jacket, purple sneakers, and sunglasses with number 1353

Florence Barron runs in the Oceanview Provincial 5K race on August 20, 2017. (Photo, Larry’s Running Photos Facebook)

Florence Barron didn’t start running until she was 59 — but she hasn’t stopped since. Last month, the now 80-year-old set an impressive new record for her age group at the Newfoundland Tely 10 Mile Road Race, which begins in Paradise and ends in St. John’s. It’s now her fourth Tely 10 record. Finishing in just 96 minutes, she smashed the previous record, set in 2016, of 143 minutes. (Barron said humidity kept her from hitting her goal— 90 minutes — but she is still happy with the result.) “I wasn’t sore or anything after, so I feel good to keep on going,” she says.

150 Storeys High, This Record-Setting Canadian Slackliner Defies Gravity — And Fear
150 Storeys High, This Record-Setting Canadian Slackliner Defies Gravity — And Fear

Her next race will be the Cape to Cabot 20K — billed as “the toughest race in eastern North America,” with four major hills including a final, mile-long uphill climb on October 14. It’s her the sixth or seventh time doing the race (she’s not really keeping track) and she beat her personal best time last year. When not running half-marathons, the St. John’s resident is likely out jiving the night away, listening to Elvis or volunteering. Here, Barron talks about staying active and how she took her love for fitness to the next level.

On starting in her sixth decade

I lived in a remote area — a mining town in Labrador — for 30 years. After I came back here to St. John’s, Newfoundland, I heard about the Tely 10, a 10-mile road race. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve kind of been a fitness nut all my life and I’m always doing exercise. I can do aerobics for two hours, so I guess I could run 10 miles. That shouldn’t be a problem.’ So I went and I ran without not a bit of training at all — I just went and signed up, and went and ran the race, and I got a gold medal. I thought, ‘I came first place for my age! Oh my God, this is great!’ Then I eventually took some lessons through the Running Room and got right into it.

On running’s therapeutic aspects

I think it is the after-effect, the good feeling I get after a run. It’s like a therapy for me. If I didn’t run for a couple of days, or didn’t do exercise for a couple of days, I know I have to do it. I have to get out there and then once it is done, I feel so good.

Florence Barron running in black shorts, white tank, white compression leg sleeve, lilac sneakers at the 2018 Tely 10 race

Barron set a new record at this year’s Tely 10, despite the humidity. (Photo, Kyle Porter)

On the best parts of running with a group

All my friends, the friends I run with — they are so supportive. They always say I inspire them and motivate them and I think, if I can do that, that’s grand. I’m happy about that. They’re always encouraging me, ‘You go girl. You got this.’ Whatever. It’s so nice and to meet all my friends in the spring, when we start up again, we run together and enjoy the company and everything. It’s like a little community. Happy to see everybody and pick up the pace.

On her training regime

Our training starts for [the Tely 10] on the first of May, and I’m in a clinic, so I run five days out of seven. We do different types of training: hills and sprint work and so on. I go no matter what the weather, or the wind, or the rain. But in winter time, I kind of slow it down a bit as far as running goes, because I don’t want to go out and run when there is ice or snow around. I do a little bit of running inside and outside when I can, but I also do cross training. I do yoga, and I swim and skate a couple of times a week, just to keep my fitness levels up. I do love to do stuff like aerobics and so on.

Florence Barron running outside in a purple NorthFace jacket, black gloves, black pants, purple sneakers, white toque, glasses

Barron runs in the Run to Remember on November 11, 2017. (Photo, courtesy of St. John’s Running Room)

On eating like a champion

Usually, I eat fish and pasta. Sometimes, in the days leading up to a race, I’ll try and get more carbs. I try not to eat too much fibre or fruits in the last couple of days — when I start running, I don’t want to have to be running to the bathroom. I found that out over years of running. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had any problems with my stomach, but a lot of people do when they’re running.

On her family’s support

I’m a mother of five. I don’t tell them all the stuff I am doing. Every year, they want to come and I go, ‘No! You don’t need to come. I don’t need you. I need to focus on this now and run.’ This year [for Tely 10] they ignored me, they wouldn’t listen to me. They came. There was eight of them that came for this [including grandchildren]. They’re very supportive of me; I can’t tell them anything because they brag about it and tell everybody.

On running at any age

If I have the good genes, I might as well use them. Use them to the good, that’s what I say. I’m crazy in my old age, but I love it so I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can. I just want to prove to people that you can be this age and you can be fit, and you can run and you can do exercise and stay well.