96-Year-Old Canadian woman runs for world record at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

In 2022, 95-year-old Rejeanne Fairhead participated in her first road race after being encouraged by her friend Marie. She completed the Ottawa 5K presented by ASICS Runkeeper at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend walking in Keds, and set a new national record for women’s 95+ 5K at 58:52 minutes. This year, at 96, Fairhead aims for the world record with a new pair of running shoes, a training plan, and a supportive community to back her up.

The current world record for women’s 95+ is 55:48 minutes, set by American Betty Lindberg at the Atlanta Peachtree 5K in 2022. To beat this record, Fairhead is working with Ottawa-based physiotherapist Richelle Weeks, who advises her training. She started with 30 minutes of fast-walking two to three times weekly, gradually increasing to 35-40 minutes. She also does strength training three times a week with exercises including calf raises, glute bridges, and sit-to-stands, where she has slowly added weights.

Weeks’ recommendation for anyone starting running is to take it slow and increase speed gradually as they build up their ability. “Don’t worry about your pace. Take it nice, relaxed and easy. Fuel properly and get your sleep,” she advises.

“One of the beautiful things about running is you can be competitive with yourself. Focus on yourself, don’t think about what someone else is doing. You don’t know their story or how long they’ve been training. That’s what Reg is doing – she’s a year older and looking to improve her time by three minutes compared to last year. It’s about improving yourself and learning you’re never too old to do interesting and new things,” Weeks says. 

As part of her run, Fairhead is fundraising for Perley Health Foundation in Ottawa, where she’s volunteered for the last 27 years, and has been doing a lot of her winter training in preparation for Race Weekend. Perley Health is home to over 600 Seniors and Veterans living in independent apartments or receiving long-term care. 

“Each year I am amazed by the women and men who come together to raise money for Perley Health through the Desjardins Charity Challenge. However, it isn’t every year we have a Canadian record holder let alone someone competing for the World Record on the team! From team members to supporters we are all cheering Fairhead on as she raises much-needed funds for Perley Health and walks her way to world record history,” says Courtney Rock, the Director of Development at Perley Health.

Throughout the years, Fairhead has stayed active mentally and physically, with activities including bowling, gardening, volunteering, reading – and participating in a race. She also maintains a healthy home-cooked diet, mainly consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables and chicken.  As she says, it’s about “always having something to keep you busy.  

Ultimately, Fairhead wants to inspire others to stay active, especially as they age, and looks forward to participating in the run with her friends and family. “I’m going to go for the record, but if I don’t hit it, I will still enjoy the race and get others to do it. My priority is to support the Perley and encourage others to get out there and do something with their lives.”

Update: 96-year-old Ottawa woman sets new 5K World Record! 

On Saturday May 27, 2023, Ottawa’s Rejeanne Fairhead, 96, set a new 5K World Record for the 95-99 category at the Ottawa 5K by ASICS Runkeeper. Her time of 51:09:01 beat the previous record of 55:48, set by American Betty Lindberg in 2022.

To register for an event at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, visit runottawa.ca. With options from a full marathon to a 1K for kids, this is everybody’s race!