The man who didn’t know he could until he did
People say that with age comes wisdom, so why are we all so afraid of getting older? Is it because we believe that our bodies will deteriorate once we reach a certain age, or that our minds will start to play unwanted tricks on us?… well, after spending some time chatting with Hughie Thomsen, I have a new attitude towards the later years of life and we can all take comfort in the fact that life IS “what you make it”.
It is October 2002, one month out from the Masters Games in Melbourne whena 72 year old man comes into the Practice at 69 King Street Caboolture requiring treatment for a Hamstring Injury, an optimistic man trying to get a 6 week injury fixed in one month. He was meant to compete in six events that year but only managed to complete one. This Gentleman has never had an injury like this before and believed that his running career would soon be over. But here he is 11 years later, 83 years old with a shoe box full of Medals from the masters Games and he has never looked back…
What motivated Hughie to begin running?
The idea of competing/running came about in Gladstone after retirement. After seeing an Australian Judo Champion for regular massages it was suggested that he should participate in some form of sports. It took four years of convincing, then training began at the age of 71. Being unfit and a little over his ideal weight “The first three weeks were hard” After only 10 months of training, Hughie competed in his first Masters Games at Newcastle in NSW walking away with two silver medals.
To be a Master you have to be 30 years of age with the age categories running in 4-5 year increments. Hugh currently falls within the 80-84 year age category. To still be competing in the 60m, 100m and 200m sprints at his age is remarkable.
How many Masters Events have you attended?
Around Easter time each year there is a Masters Games held in one of the major capital cities, I have been to every games since 2001 and have competed in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney multiple times.
How often do you train? Daily.
He is up before daylight, starting with a few stretches and as soon as day break comes he sets off on his 3km loop from his home at Woody Point, both walking and running while he watches the sun rise. What a way to greet the day. Not bad for someone whose first thoughts of the idea of living an active lifestyle were “you are too lazy to train”.
“Tuesday mornings are a good morning for me”. Each Tuesday Hughie begins his morning in the pool where he swims for about an hour and twenty minutes, grabs a coffee and some raisin toast for breakfast then visits Ruth for his weekly massage.
Enjoyment must play a massive part; you seem to really love what you do…
“I don’t compete to break records. To keep doing this and being able to it is a great joy”
The last ten years have been great. Motivation definitely helps him to keep going. He finds it motivating to come into the practice, seeing Ruth, meeting the new and familiar faces that constantly come in and out . “I find Kaye very motivating”. She is fantastic at what she does (the physio with a big heart).
“It takes discipline, determination and consistency. If you put in the effort it is amazing what can happen”.
Hughie had a few setbacks in earlier life. Being raised as an only child by his father after his parents divorced when he was only three, he found a lot of kids at school to be cruel, coming from the only broken family in the district, they weren’t very accepting of his situation.
Life became easier as he grew older and left school halfway through grade seven to work on the farm with his father until the age of nineteen. Since then he has travelled around a lot, he was married at Twenty five to his first wife for 17 years, they had 3 Children.
Upon moving to Gladstone (where he lived for 34 years) he met the love of his life whom he only ever referred to as “A Gladstone Lady”. They bought a 10 acre block of land and Hughie took over the build of their family home after the foundations were complete. Hughie and his Gladstone Lady had a daughter together. They were also married for 17 years before she sadly passed away in 1994. He finished off the house, sold the property and moved to Brisbane where he has been taking care of himself ever since (he can even sew on his own buttons).
So full steam ahead- no signs of slowing down?
Well I am slowing down; my best time for a 100m sprint was 16.8sec and am now doing it closer to 19 seconds. I used to compete in the 400m and 800m heats as well as the 60m, 100 & 200m sprints but have dropped the longer ones. So I have slowed down a little.
Taking this in his stride, with a smile on his face and a little giggle. You can see the sheer joy in his eyes when he talks about being able to continue doing what he does.
Hughie competing 2012 – on left
Hobbies, favourite way of spending free time:
“Free time”! He says with a laugh… he enjoys watching a good movie or some quality television “when there is something on”. “I have a nice chair, it reclines all the way back”.
I guess what it comes down to, is Relaxing.
Hughie likes gardening, with a vegie garden that he made out of a busted plastic water tank. He loves cooking, (his apple pie is a crowd favourite), he likes to get creative in the kitchen and is always coming up with a new juice or smoothie mix…
Age doesn’t define who you are. It is all about attitude. Our mind and bodies are programmed and built to thrive. Hughie has focused on his mental and physical wellbeing with actions, not thoughts or fears. Here is to an inspirational person who has truly embraced their age and has made the most of life… which reiterates a favourite quote of mine “If you feel good you are good and if you feel bad, change it”.