72-year-old runner takes on AJ Bell Great Bristol Run

Jake credits running with transforming his health
At the age of 72, Jake Loewendahl from Bodmin is preparing to take on the Half-Marathon at the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run on Sunday 14 May – his fifth half-marathon to date.

After having two-thirds of a lung removed at the age of 60, Jake struggled to keep fit. Then when a house move a few years later proved particularly stressful, he realised both his physical and mental health were suffering. But twelve years on, life is far more positive for Jake.

“I found it difficult to build up my physical fitness after the surgery and it wasn’t long before I was really struggling with my mental health too,” he explains.

“I decided to take action by starting therapy and, at the same time, I enlisted a personal trainer, Chris Dominey, who’s local to where I live near Bodmin and he got me running again.”

The combination of running and therapy helped Jake to turn things around and he’s been a keen runner ever since.

“I’d always enjoyed a bit of running in the past, but never on a big scale – and certainly not taking part in a large event like the Great Bristol Run.

“But with the support of my trainer, I started out with my local Park Run and built up from there.”

Jake ran his first half-marathon in 2017 and, today, running has become an important part of his life.

“It’s been hugely therapeutic both mentally and physically. I’d say it’s almost been a life-saver.”

A family endeavour

Jake’s enthusiasm for running eventually became so infectious that his wife Olivia decided to join him.

“Olivia was never interested in running before, but she saw the positive effect it was having on me and decided to give it a go herself.”

Used to the hilly terrain of Cornwall, Jake and Olivia find the flat, urban nature of the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run course a refreshing change – with the added benefit of the opportunity to visit their daughter who lives in the city.

And, for Olivia, the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run has a particularly personal resonance.

“Olivia went to school in Bristol and taking part in the Half-Marathon will be a chance to put some ghosts to bed,” explains Jake.

“When running at school as a teenager, Olivia saw herself as ‘the overweight girl at the back’. She remembers running across Clifton Downs while her PE teacher drove alongside in a car shouting at her to keep going. So to have done the 10k at last year’s event and then cross the finish line in the Half-Marathon this year will be a major achievement for her.”

The inclusivity of running

Their shared love of running has become an important part of life for Jake and Olivia.

“Through our participation in our local Park Run we’ve become part of a real community and have found running to be such an inclusive activity to get involved in,” says Jake.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are as you’re treated as an equal simply because you’re running. That’s one of the really positive things for me.

“And events like the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run are fantastic because you meet lots of people from all walks of life, including different age groups.”

When asked for advice for other people around his age who are considering getting into running – or picking it up again after some years off – Jake says it’s all about overcoming inhibitions and just getting moving.

“I was lucky to be able to use a personal trainer, but for those who can’t there are all kinds of training options and classes online and lots of ways to do it.

“For me, keeping physically fit is my main motivation for running so that I can live life as I want to live it. For instance, I play the violin semi-professionally and it can actually be quite physically intensive. So being active really helps with that too.”

Jake and Olivia also take part in their daughter-in-law, Jess Dale’s, online Pilates and yoga classes three times per week, which they credit with helping to keep their joints flexible.
To help avoid injury, Jake varies his pace and stride at various points throughout a race, including brief periods of walking in between running. His goal for the Half-Marathon is to complete it in around two hours and 15 minutes.

“Olivia and I pretend we’re uncompetitive, but deep down we really are! Especially when it comes to beating our own times. It makes running more interesting.

“But having an event like this to aim for means you have to be disciplined. It gets you out for a run even when it’s cold and miserable. There are days when we wouldn’t have bothered to go outside at all, but the training forces us to do it and you always feel better afterwards.

“And on the day itself, the Great Bristol Run is so well organised so you feel really secure taking part. It’s easy to talk to people and the atmosphere is so positive.”


The AJ Bell Great Bristol Run takes place on Sunday 14 May. Each year, thousands of runners push their perseverance and passion to the limit and take on the super-scenic 10k and half marathon routes.

Starting and finishing in the heart of the city, runners can expect inspiring sights, iconic landmarks and incredible local support all along the route. But it’s not just the inspiring scenery that attracts runners from far and wide: the start line DJ, rocking on-course music zones and post-race celebrations create an unbeatable atmosphere.

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