Long distance runner, Derrick McIntyre, 77-years-old, is expected to be one of the oldest and most experienced athletes to take on the gruelling 26.2 mile course at this year’s Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon (TTIM) which runs off from St Mary’s Junction in Freeport to the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain on Sunday morning.
The veteran road runner is not interested in placing among the top finishers but insists his passion for the sport is his lone competitive driving force despite running his first marathon at age 47 (1984).
McIntyre, who grew up in Morvant but now resides in Mt Hope, believes completing a marathon can be as fulfilling as winning a medal. He revealed that it was the exploits of an elderly runner in 1983 which sparked his interest in the sport.
“The very first marathon run in Trinidad and Tobago was won by Moses Ranghell in 1983. I was in the market in San Juan on the Eastern Main Road and everyone started chattering about a marathon coming up along the road.
I stood up there and watched about 15 of the leading runners pass, with Ranghell in front.
“I asked someone where the runners were finishing and rushed to the Queen’s Park Savannah to see the finish. In those days cars weren’t so popular because a lot of people were poor, not like the poor some people claim today.
“So, I jumped on my bike and pedalled to the Savannah.
I watched Ranghell come in (finish) about 8 o’clock. Sir Ellis Clarke was the man (President) at the time and they had a big presentation and they presented Ranghell with a big trophy followed by lots of steelpan and eats and drinks and so on.
“So I decided to lime a little, talking about the race and things like that while other people finished the race. About two and a half hours after Ranghell finished, the President went home, the presentation ceremony was finished and almost everyone was gone. Around 11am though, someone said ‘look the last runner coming in’. They said ‘look ah old man coming in’, and everyone rushed to the road to see him come in trotting. He was the biggest hero for everyone who witnessed his finish on that day. I said to myself ‘look this man run from Freeport to here. If he could do that, I could give this thing a try.’” A couple days later, McIntyre built the courage to train and began running at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Despite fatigue and poor fitness, McIntyre remained motivated as the memory of the old man finishing the race was still fresh.
“I had to stop and start to walk and then run again. That is what really motivated me, that series of events. From then I just kept on training until the first marathon which I didn’t complete but it was so fulfilling. I have been running constantly every year, not all the races, but a lot. I’ve ran over 25 marathons, including two New York marathons. I also did hundreds of local races and from the time I started, I’ve never stopped.
“What is responsible for me running and continuing up to now is I am a health maniac. I do this because of how I feel. I am 77 and I feel I could run down any 16-year-old and beat him in a race. That is in the mind but the body obviously can’t do it because of the age,” he explained with a smile. The father of four and grandfather of five said his tough mentality growing up as a teen gave him the resolve to persist his dream as a runner.
After graduating from St Dominic’s RC, McIntyre earned a scholarship to attend the now defunct Burke’s High School (formerly on Abercromby Street) for four years.
During this time however, his family continued to struggle financially and he was forced to leave school at age 16 for a job as a janitor at Caribbean Packaging Industries.
“Because of poverty and my family of nine, even though I won the scholarship it was so hard, that my family couldn’t even support me. I had to leave school and go to work to support my family.
I began working at Caribbean Packaging Industries where I retired at age 61. I never worked anywhere else. I started off as a cleaner and finished as the production manager,” he added.
McIntyre turns a worthy 78 next month and according to him, he sees no end to his athletic prowess along the roads. He also expressed great pleasure with the current form of TT ’s athletic stars and sees a bright future ahead for TT competitively.
“We are doing very good so far. There are a lot of prospective runners and what is nice about it is that it’s a lot of young people.
Back then only one person was going to the Olympics. And to see now so many young people in almost all disciplines getting a chance to go to the Olympics, the future is in good hands for TT runners.
“I thank God that I am still exercising every day and being able to compete in races with all the young people, give or take I don’t beat them, but I am competing with them and finishing the race and feeling good,” he concluded.