We had the pleasure of sitting down with Yul Kwon, a 79-year old resident who lives at Tapestry at Wesbrook Village in Vancouver. After hearing through the grapevine that Yul was competing in this weekend’s BMO Vancouver Marathon, we knew we had to find out more about Yul and his year round marathon training which allows him to compete in at least one marathon a year.
We met with Yul for a coffee in the Tapestry at Wesbrook Village restaurant earlier this week.
When did you start running competitively?
I’ve always been active and playing sports. I jogged pretty regularly and in 1995, my daughter, who was running at the time, encouraged me to enter a race. I was teaching at University of Regina at the time and playing tennis a lot, which led to tennis elbow. It was a good time to transition into a new type of competition. I first entered a 10 km in 1995 when I was 59 years old, then half marathon, then a full marathon. Since 1995 I’ve run multiple competitions a year. For the last two years I have just run the Vancouver marathon.
What is your goal for the Vancouver Marathon this weekend?
I’d like to place in the top two for my age category. I have been able to achieve this consistently for the past few years. As for time, until about five years ago I’ve been able to complete within four hours. My goal this year is about four hours and 15 to 20 minutes. To qualify for Boston, I need to run it in under four hours 40 minutes. I’ve consistently qualified but next year I plan on going to Boston.
What has been your most memorable marathon?
I ran Boston in 2005. At the time, my wife and I were living in Brisbane, Australia, where I was teaching at Griffith University. My son and daughter again encouraged me to enter. They paid my way to Boston where they joined me in support. My inexperience caused me some problems (Yul chuckles). The day before the race, my son and daughter went out for a run and invited me along. Many times they asked if I’d like to turn back. Without thinking and enjoying my time with them, I was happy to continue on what would end up being a long run.
I paid for this the next day at about the 30 km mark of the marathon. I got a cramp in my left thigh. And then the right thigh. I struggled for 30 minutes. I was offered an ambulance which would have meant quitting the race. I could not quit; not with my children and wife waiting for me at the finish line! So I walked it off, found a banana for potassium and finished the race. It was a longer time, four hours and 20 minutes, but I finished.
Why do you run?
I have always been fond of sports and I have always jogged. It fits into busy schedules. It also provides me with a sense of health confidence. I have strong heart health and for 50 years my waist size has remained the same! I am able to wear the same tailor made pants while changing my shirts as fashion changes! I also believe that strong physical health is related to the rest of my health. I am currently writing my fifteenth academic book. I am able to focus and even sit for extended periods of time in order to accomplish this. It’s due by the end of the year.
What advice do you have for people who want to run?
Do it. Especially young people. Regardless of our age, we should set up a goal to enforce our training, and do it for our successful aging.
Living at Tapestry at Wesbrook Village gives Yul access to run throughout UBC campus and Pacific Spirit Park. His daughter and son live very close by. His daughter runs with him occasionally but otherwise Yul is running on his own. He runs every second day doing about 10km per run during the week and integrating a longer run of 15 – 20 km on the weekend.
This past February, Yul and his wife participated in Tapestry’s Fitness Frenzy and were responsible for nearly half of all recorded activity minutes that month! They raised over $800 for KidsSport. For the past two years, Yul and his wife have organized a food drive over Christmas in support of Vi FineDay Family Emergency Shelter. Yul was so grateful for the support from the resident community at Tapestry. It makes it easy for him to participate in other Tapestry community involvement.
This Friday Yul will run 3km and rest on Saturday. Look for Yul Kwon’s name in the top of the 75-79 year category. Also look for him as he runs past half of the other runners of every age in the Vancouver marathon.