By Noemie Olive and Lucien Libert
EAUBONNE, France (Reuters) – At 83, Barbara Humbert dreams of taking part in next year’s Paris Olympic Games ‘Marathon For All’, a race opening the Olympic route to non-elite competitors for the first time – and she’s got the pedigree to beat some runners half her age.
Not your typical great-grandmother, the German-born Frenchwoman runs 50 km (30 miles) a week, has competed in dozens of marathons, and has the medals to show for it.
“It’s extraordinary to have the Olympics in Paris,” said Humbert at her home in Eaubonne, an hour’s drive north of the capital. “It would be a gift for my 60th marathon,” she added. “For me it would be a crowning achievement.”
That’s far from certain, as the number of race bibs is limited to 20,024, to be chosen in a random draw.
Husband Jacques, her biggest supporter, is helping where he can, and waiting for a response from the sports ministry to a request to reserve a bib for his wife. The ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Dozens of medals hang in the entrance of their home.
They remind Barbara of all the races she’s been part of, from Athens to Boston and beyond, amounting to some 8,000 km run, according to her own calculations.
More than 40 years after she first started racing, last year Humbert beat a world record in her category during the French athletics championships, by running 125 km in 24 hours.
How did she do it? By training a lot, and being careful with her diet, she said, encouraging others to follow in her footsteps.
“It gives you a balance. You run, you empty your head, you feel so much better afterwards.”
And she’s not planning to stop anytime soon. “As long as my joints don’t cry out in pain, I will keep running!”
(Reporting by Noemie Olive and Lucien Libert, additional reporting and writing by Juliette Jabkhiro, editing by Ingrid Melander and John Stonestreet)