EXTRAORDINARY: John Wall at 72 has put the challenge to Richard Branson or Qantas management to supply a jumbo for him to run against to prove over-70s can do anything.
EXTRAORDINARY: John Wall at 72 has put the challenge to Richard Branson or Qantas management to supply a jumbo for him to run against to prove over-70s can do anything.

Runner challenges seniors to defy their age

WHAT would you do to convince the world that you can still be extraordinary and achieve amazing things when you are over 70?

John Wall is 72 and has decided the answer is ... to race a jumbo jet.

All he needs is fellow limit-tester Richard Branson's Virgin, or the folks from Qantas, to get on board the plan and supply a plane and runway.

It may seem an extreme proposal, but the Bateau Bay man is known for pushing the boundaries.

The fastest man for his age at 62 in 2009, John won the 100m (sub-12 seconds) and 200m sprints at the Masters World Championships, and the same year ran against a jet fighter.

Nine years later, and having overcome a brain tumour in the interim, he's still running and says he's tired of chronological numbers being placed on people to define their abilities.

"I believe anyone who wants to do something extraordinary can, but they have to really want it," John said.

"I want to do something big to let people know we all have the capacity to push ourselves to go beyond where we are right now ... "

John said the realisation that he was not going to lie down to the notion of getting old came to him when he looked in the mirror at age 50 and said, "My God, what's happened, I was 19 when I woke up yesterday!"

And the majority of over-50s, 60s and beyond, he said, felt the same - even if not everyone's goal is to set world records.

However, John does recognise that even his finely tuned body takes longer these days to recover than it once did.

At September's World Championships in Spain, he came away with finals places but no medals, having only allowed himself four days post-flight before his first event.

He put that result in context by taking triple gold at November's Pan Pacific Masters on the Gold Coast, winning the 60m, 100m and 200m events for his age.

"It's a case of understanding what we and our bodies are capable of," he said.

"I want to represent this demographic who are going through what I go through every day - maybe feeling a bit down sometimes, or stiff or ill - and say, you can overcome it, you can rise above and still make a valuable contribution to your community, to this country in a big or small way."

John trains "religiously" six days a week, including gym, track and physio work - again, not something he expects everyone to do.

What we do all need, however, he said, is to decide what we want from our "Senior" selves and how actively we want to participate in life.

The dedication needed to achieve his goals is worth it, John said, both to challenge himself and to show the world "if I can do this ... you may be a Senior or a pensioner, but you can do incredible things too".

That's why, although regaining the 200m world record for age for Australia remains John's number one goal, he also wants to take on a jumbo jet next year.

"The media coverage would be sensational - the image of this small, little old man against this massive jumbo - and it would be a real opportunity to say to Seniors, give it a go, be as healthy as you can and don't surrender to your age."

John hopes businesses like Red Bull, Nike and the Federal Government will also get behind the challenge and sponsor it, with funds raised to go to charity.

"Maybe that's why I'm here ... my purpose in life is to be the light at the end of the tunnel that says to the older generation, pick yourself up, keep going, because I have, and look what I can achieve."

To learn more, email John at jonathon_sky@hotmail.com.


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