By Umer Nangiana
If you have any doubts when they say age is just a number, you have probably not contended with the spirit of Jurgen Kuhlmey. The 77-year-old German has run more than 500 marathons in the last 30 years. And next week, he is headed to the Caribbean to run six races in six countries in a row!
He is applying for a Guinness World record for the oldest person to run all 7 continents in 90 days. An ageing body might have cut his pace by a notch, but a thrill-seeking ever-young heart still thumps with the same vigour.
While Kuhlmey still runs to be active, he satisfies his urge for speed and thrill with his 1300 CC heavy bike. With Suzuki Hayabusa, he has so far driven more than 6000 kilometres in Europe and has no plans to hang up gloves yet.
“Speed is part of the game. I need activity otherwise I feel nervous. When I ride my motorbike and it is going at more than 200km/h, I feel comfortable. I always want activity,” Kuhlmey tells Community in an interview. He was recently in town to run the Sheraton Doha Corniche Marathon.
Kuhlmey has also flown planes. He has jetted all over Europe in his own Cessna and rented planes in four other continents. Turning 78 next month, Kuhlmey says he does not feel he is getting older, and therefore, has no plans to stop running or training.
Running to him is more than just a passion. It allows him to go places and connect with people, something he values the most in life. Having a doctorate in chemistry, Kuhlmey has been in the pharmaceuticals business. Now, his two sons take care
One of the oldest active athletes, Kuhlmey is a member of Marathon Country Club and an associate member of Marathon Grand Slam Club, comprising runners, who have completed a marathon on each of the 7 continents besides the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole Marathon.
He believes age must not restrict you from doing what you want to do in life and whenever you want to do it.
“I started running (full marathons) 30 years ago when I was 48. I was at an exhibition; I saw a marathon and decided to participate in it. I had done some short distances before. It was a really hot day and I saw people collapsing on their way to the finish. I managed it in four and a half hours,” says the athlete. And that is how it started for him.
The next year, he did two marathons and three the following year before running on to achieve 10 races in a year. “It was becoming easy for me and I got inspiration to run further with every race,” recalls Kuhlmey.
Beginning at 48, he achieved his best time of 3 hours and 29 minutes at 55. Down the road, Kuhlmey acknowledges he has slowed down a little, but “not that much.”
“My aim always is never to be last. I am always in the middle of the second half and I am very much satisfied. My time might be decreasing but my endurance is increasing. In many cases, I feel better than before,” says the German.
He loves to partake mountain races besides ultramarathons and, most often, he is the only one competing from this age group — something that makes Kuhlmey proud.
In 1997, he was the second person in the world to run Antarctic-Marathon, doing 7 continents in one year. The Baikal-Lake-Marathon in 2006 is the one that he describes as one of the most exciting races of his life. The temperature was -15 with strong winds.
In 2007, he was one of only two people, who finished the Titicaca-Lake-Marathon in Bolivia, at an altitude of 4,000 metres, out of 21 starters.
“I love running. It is such an amazing activity that I have not seen a doctor in several years now except for whenever I broke my bones,” he laughs.
He broke his leg while skiing before getting his ribs fractured in a motorbike fall. The second such fall was the worst in which he broke his shoulder bone and four ribs. It landed him in hospital.
“That is not a problem. I am a sportsman. In the hospital, the first thing I asked the doctor was how soon I could run marathons. He said in four months, but there was one coming up in three months and I managed to run that without any problems,” narrates Kuhlmey.
“Running for me is not just a sport; it is a reason to travel and meet people. I don’t like sightseeing. It bores me. I like to do adventures and discover new places and people. The Museum of Islamic Art here is one such beautiful place,” he adds.
With more than 500, Kuhlmey stands at 125th in the world rankings amongst people who have run the most marathons.
Kuhlmey discovered his love of marathons when he set out for the promotion of his pharmaceutical company to a number of countries. On the way, he would search for the nearest marathon and participate in it.
Later, his business trips became less business and more marathons. Gradually, he started getting invites for special races and began exploring the more challenging ones. Besides running, he also loved sailing. However, he discovered sailing was a little too slow for his taste.
This is when he decided to sell his boat and purchase his own plane. With his Cessna 172, he travelled all over Europe, his wife by his side.
“We flew a lot all over the world. We would mostly fly our own four-seater. In the rest of the world, we rented the planes and flew North America, Africa and other continents,” says Kuhlmey.
After 15 years of flying, he had to sell his Cessna as it was damaged by hail. And by now, he was more into marathons and biking. Kuhlmey runs 30 marathons in a year now and says he needs no preparation. Every marathon is only a preparation for the next!
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