Louise Reed carries the torch at a 2022 ceremony at Berwick Comox Valley in the countdown to the 55+ B.C. Games in Victoria. File photo

Louise Reed carries the torch at a 2022 ceremony at Berwick Comox Valley in the countdown to the 55+ B.C. Games in Victoria. File photo

Still going for gold: Louise Reed, determined 88-year-old athlete

If you are up early some morning and feeling rather energetic, you might opt to head down to the rubberized track in Courtenay for some exercise. If you do, you won’t find many people about, but most likely you will see an elderly woman walking around the track.

Six days a week, weather permitting, Louise Reed is out there practising her competitive power walking. For an hour she strides around the track, clocking the kilometres at just over eight minutes each. I’ve tried to walk that fast, and it is not a leisurely pace. It requires effort and determination.

When you realize that Reed is 88 years old, her achievement and will power become even more impressive. In 2022 she competed in both the B.C. 55+ and Canadian Masters Games, as she has for the past three decades. Last year, she was the only competitor in her age class. But power walking isn’t her only track and field event. Reed is also a sprinter. She has competed provincially, nationally and internationally in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 metres, and is regularly a medal winner in all of them. She has ranked among the best athletes in the world in her events for decades.

Reed has been an athlete most of her life. As a young woman in Ocean Falls, she played basketball. When she moved to Campbell River, she played softball. In Richmond she took up running, cycling and skiing in her 50s.

In the 1980s and 1990s she specialized in five- and 10-kilometre distances, and competed in races around the world. She credits her time at CP Air and Air Canada for getting her motivated to compete. As a retiree from these companies, she was able to use travel privileges to attend track meets across the globe.

In Richmond, she joined the Kajaks Track and Field Club. It was here that she started training for sprints. In 1995, she won the 100, 200 and 400 metres (60-64 years) at the Canadian Masters Games in Hamilton, Ont. In 2002 she was named Richmond’s Masters Athlete of the Year. Not long after she moved to Calgary and then to Comox.

Throughout this time, she competed in track around North America. In 2020, she was preparing for the World Masters Games in Toronto, but the event was cancelled due to Covid-19. Organizers allowed participants to compete a virtual challenge by runningevents individually under supervision and submit results. Reed called a friend to act as a ‘competitor,’ set up pictures of ‘fans’ and took to the track. This act speaks volumes about her commitment and determination.

Her home contains a display of hundreds of medals she has won over the years. However, despite her many victories over three decades, she remains focused on the future. As she ages, the number of similarly-aged competitors dwindles, but she has always said she wants to “run the 100 when I’m 100.”

She helps out with running clinics in Courtenay and with races on Vancouver Island. If people ask her for advice, she says, “Just keep moving.” So every day she will be out on the track, trying to better her times. She will practise her breathing. She will do intervals. She will monitor her performance and, as always, strive to keep moving.

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