Ironman Higgins shows no sign of slowing down at the age of 70

Corofin's John Joe Higgins, who at 70 years of age, is still tearing it up on the triathlon scene both at home and abroad.
Corofin's John Joe Higgins, who at 70 years of age, is still tearing it up on the triathlon scene both at home and abroad.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

TRI Lakes triathlete John Joe Higgins – who just last month won his age category in the half-ironman event at Dun Laoghaire 70.3, completing the combined 1.9km swim, 90.1km cycle and 21.1km run in just over seven hours – may have turned 70 earlier this year but he is showing no signs of slowing down.

In fact, the Corofin man is already gearing up for a full Ironman in Cork next year – his first as a septuagenarian – before he tackles the half-Ironman again at the World Championships in Nice, France next September. Already he is in training, having recently begun a gym programme under Michael Comer in Velocity Fitness in Tuam.

An evening spent in the company of Higgins at his beautiful home is, to say the least, enjoyable. While it is his feats on the triathlon circuit over the past 10 years that is supposed to be the driving force behind the interview, Higgins lead the conversation on a merry dance over the ensuing hours.

He chats about his family – his wife Mary, who makes one hell of a cup of tea, his five children and nine grandchildren – his passion for bee-keeping, his love of local history and a number of other sporting endeavours he has pursued over the years, including handball, Gaelic football and badminton.

The latter, no more than triathlon, he also enjoyed much success at, with one of his proudest achievements being part of the Corofin team that won the club’s sole county badminton championship in the 1970s. “I spent half my life playing badminton when I was younger,” he notes.

“To be honest, I don’t really like talking at all about triathlon. Everyone wants to talk about it but my life is totally different. My life has nothing at all to do with it, really. My life is about other things altogether.”

Yet, Higgins, a postman who served North Galway for 47 years before retiring, recognises there is something fascinating about a man turned 70 taking on one of the toughest endurance sports – a sport he only took up a decade ago – and, once he warms up to the subject, he is in his element.

His triathlon story arc began 10 years ago, by which time he had already run a number of marathons, including the Dublin City Marathon on several occasions and the New York City marathon, which he undertook for Croí.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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