At 85 they’re not too old to swim the Midmar Mile

2009-01-30 00:00

Knitting, baking and a little bit of Scrabble on the side: 85-year-old Lorna Cochran does everything you might expect the average great-grandma to do. However, this grandma plans to take on this year’s Midmar Mile.

“When I did my first Midmar, I was frightened out of my wits,” laughed Mrs Cochran. This year the great-grandmother of 15 children will make her 11th attempt at the race — and she thoroughly looks forward to it.

She has been training for Midmar since September last year. Although the Benoni-based pensioner doesn’t believe that her training is very strenuous, it is not exactly a splish-splash either.

“I go to the gym and swim for about an hour or so … you know, 10 minutes just won’t do,” she said.

Mrs Cochran said that when she got married, she left work to look after her children and didn’t have much time for sport. But when her children all left home she took up several sports, including tennis, to keep busy.

She never thought herself much of a competitive swimmer until her son persuaded her to do the race at age 75. “He said, ‘Come on, old lady. This sounds fun’. I hadn’t swum since school and that was ages ago.”

Mrs Cochran soon got into the swing of things and learnt several styles of swimming.

Last year, her 10th attempt, was the highlight of her swimming career. “One of my grandchildren said to the others, ‘It’s granny’s 10th race, let’s all go’, and about nine of them swam — or perhaps 10 or 11 … My grandson brought his two-month-old twins to the dam, it was really special.”

On the day, they presented her with a frame of her green number and a medal for the oldest female racer at Midmar that year.

This year, however, she is not the oldest racer at Midmar. Roy Reese (85) takes that honour by just a few months. “On the day, I will still be 85 years old, but on the 24th of February, I will be 86,” he said.

Mr Reese is the oldest racer in this year’s Midmar Mile. “The oldest racer at Midmar was 89 years old. In 2013, I plan to take the record … I’m hoping to beat him by a couple of months. So I have a lot to look forward to.”

Mr Reese, who retired at 74, first attempted the race in 1998. This year will be his 10th race.

“I’ve missed a few because of flu or not being able to make the deadline, so this year will be number 10.”

The father of three was born in Wales and attended naval school at age 14. After six months of seasickness, he dropped out and joined the army. After serving in wars in India and then Burma, the thrill seeker responded to an advert in the paper looking for guards in the then Rhodesia.

He has been in southern Africa ever since, and spent most of this time in the mining sector.

Mr Reese will be swimming this year’s race with a guide due to an eyesight problem. Everything else, he said, is in tip-top shape.

He did admit that the race was a bit challenging, but then at his age, everything is.

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