Jean is 79 years old and a part-time fashion model. She has a certain sartorial elegance – straight line haircut, trademark floral baggy trousers and Doc Martens boots – that has made her a local celebrity in her home city of Bath. In 2013, she was the subject of a Channel Four documentary that questioned assumptions about ageing, and focused on attitudes to life. In 2014, Jean’s picture was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery. Here, in her own words, is her sporting story.
“I’d always been into fitness, in some form or other. Me and my husband Paul used to do country walks together. My sons have always been serious runners [both Alec and Guy Woods are national standard cross-country runners] and they inspired me to run, aged 45. I ran locally, starting with a few 10k runs. I really enjoyed it. I joined a club aged 51, to reach my potential. This gave me the confidence to run a half-marathon, which I did in two hours and 20 minutes. In between I did lots of races, including the local Bathwick Hill Fun Run, and got some medals. When Paul died ten years ago, after 56 years of marriage, I got more into exercise, walking five to six miles a day and joining the Ramblers’ Association.
“But doing exercise isn’t about competition. I love the freedom it gives me. You can just walk and run in the country. Sadly, a knee replacement has meant that I don’t run as often as I once did. In fact, I stopped running altogether at 78, and now use a cross-trainer, because there’s no pressure on my knees. I still do lots of walking, though. About eight miles at weekends, plus I walk the two miles to work [in a Bath boutique shop] each day and back…so I’m on my feet all the time. Last year I walked 100 miles in six days to complete the Santiago de Compostela [one of the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St James the Great in Galicia, Spain].
“The vitality of exercise is lovely! I love it because you’re out, you make more friends…and honestly, I can’t imagine a life without it.”