I met Alfred, a United Kingdom native, a few years back on the stairs leading up a limestone mountain. One thousand two hundred and thirty seven steps up a mountain, to be exact. I was walking fast up, he was running down faster. I had seen him a couple of times before and hadn’t said anything to him. This time I couldn’t resist.
“How fast you get up to the top today?” I asked, almost afraid he’d tell me a time that was faster than I did. I had no idea how old he was, but he was definitely over sixty years of age, and his hair was whiter than the clouds floating above our heads. I had climbed those stairs hundreds of times by then. It was my favorite place to exercise for the previous three years.
“About 17 minutes, not very fast today, just a slow day. I was up yesterday and took it at a good pace,” he answered.
HOLY WHAT? Now I was definitely afraid to ask what a good pace was. Seventeen minutes? My GOD! After I spoke with him, I was sure he was seventy. He was thin as a rail, same height as me – 5’11”, and apparently fitter than any senior citizen I’d ever seen in my life. I’d been walking up the steps for years and I’d finally got down to 12m 25s to the top. It’s a 280 meter vertical climb (about 900 feet). It was super hot the day I saw him. It was 98°F for sure. The humidity was always through the roof – I’ll guess 80%.
He didn’t seem particularly beat that day I first spoke with him. He smiled, joked, laughed, and said we’d talk more next time as he had somewhere to be. As he continued running down the stairs I stared, dumbfounded. I couldn’t help feel like I’d just met the first athletic mentor I’d ever had. I mean, the guy was PURE AMAZING.
Today Alfred is 75 years old. After a bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer he is back on the steps and climbing, hitting the heavy bag at the gym, and walking kilometer after kilometer on the beach near where he lives in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Recently he completed a stretch of 7 days out of 8 in a row climbing those same steps.
The guy is a legend.
A couple of years ago he did the Malacca 12-Hour Walking Race in Malaysia. He placed 16th out of 300+ competitors, OVERALL. All age groups. He made it 50 kilometers in under 8 hours, just walking.
Though it isn’t often I have days where I don’t feel like going out to run at the park or mountain trail, or climb the stairs, when I do I think of Alfred and how he’s kicking life in the ass daily.
It’s my long-term goal to be climbing the steps up this mountain when I’m 75… 90. I want to be doing the stair climbing races in Bangkok, and other major metropolitan cities across the globe when I’m his age. Just like he is. He has done the Banyan Tree Vertical Marathon in Bangkok, Thailand for the past six or seven years in a row now. He places higher than many kids in high school, that should be beating him by tens of minutes.
Alfred is really an inspiration. There is something awe-inspiring about someone 70+ years old that can still do things many young adults cannot do.
He’s an inspiration to me and everyone that happens to catch a glimpse of him as he passes them on the stairs going up or down. Some days he runs up the section from step 840 to 925! You should see people’s mouths drop open.
He’s the real deal. He’s had tremendous adversity in his life, and he’s overcome it all. I’ve been shooting video clips of him over the years, and I’m intent on making a video to try to capture a bit of his inspiring life.
Do you know anyone of age that is inspiring?
It’s magical, isn’t it? The idea that, at that age, you too could maybe be accomplishing amazing physical feats. You know what most people his age are doing? Sitting at home watching television and thinking about the days when they ran down the beach or rode their bike a few miles on a sunny day.
Seeing Alfred to it all the time gives me the idea that I can make that happen anytime I choose. I just need to keep it up, keep having fun for the next 30 years and I can be just like that. In 30 years he’ll likely be gone, but I’ll remember him as I’m climbing the hell out of the stairs and the mountain trail we have climbed together up another hill twice as high in elevation as the hill with the stairs.
Thanks Alfred, you’ve been the most amazing inspiration… you have eliminated my fear of the future… of an older Vern that can’t hardly walk. I will be able to walk. I will be able to jog at your age. I will be able to do the things you’re doing now, well into my 80’s. I’m sure of that now.
Cheers my friend!