Age is no barrier for ‘Joe Crazy Legs’
Joseph Camilleri (known within the running community as Joe Crazy Legs) was born in Malta but has lived much of his life in Canada. The retired photographer has now put roots down on the west coast in Victoria, British Columbia and lives there with his wife Dorothy.
Running for Joe began at school in Malta where he ran for fun and then became more serious during his college years where he was part of an athletics club. When he emigrated to England in 1969, and then onto Canada in 1972 his career made it impossible to stay focused on running so he hit pause on pounding the pavements for four decades.
Forty years later, Joe’s return to the sport was inspired by a statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox that caught his eye while out walking one day. He started with some shorter distance races in 2010 but felt he needed a bigger challenge and this is where the marathon entered his life, at the age of 67.
He completed his first 26.2-mile endeavour at the 2017 Vancouver Marathon in 3:30:45 topping his age category and giving him a place in the 2018 Boston Marathon.
“Boston 2018 has to be one of my most memorable races which I finished in 4:30 despite the storm; and after crossing the finish line I ended up in the medical tent for over an hour suffering from hypothermia. What an experience.”
Joe is in a happy place with his life and running, but it wasn’t always an easy road. Like so many, he has experienced mental health challenges along the way.
“My mental health issues started surfacing around the time I closed my photography business in 2004. However, they did not manifest themselves fully until 2005 when I moved back to Malta. I started suffering from depression which culminated in a mental breakdown with suicidal thoughts. I was on heavy medication and on suicide watch.
“My loving wife Dorothy nursed me back from that dark place but it was not until I moved back to Canada in 2007 that I really started healing. I am happy to say that since I re-discovered running I have never looked back and running has provided me with the best form of positive healing.”
Once back in Canada, Joe not only worked on his mental health, but also changed his diet as part of his health regime. He became vegetarian in 2013 and then just before his first marathon he switched to a fully vegan diet.
“I truly believe that this has helped me recover much faster and stay injury free for the last four years.”
The global pandemic didn’t stop Joe from continuing his marathon achievements. Joe registered for the AbbottWMM Global Marathon and trained as he would any other marathon.
His efforts on May 2 earned him a new personal best of 3:23:02 and he finished in contention for one of 100 invites to the 2022 AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships.
“To get a personal best at the Global Marathon was really gratifying. I had some friends helping with the hydration stations and cheering me on, so I really got into the racing atmosphere. To achieve a place in the World Championships would be something amazing and would really prove that age is no barrier.”
Joe hopes to inspire others to get into running whatever their age, but a sensible approach is needed.
“For those who start running, especially later in life like I did, I recommend that they look at the bigger picture and build-up slowly to avoid injuries. Rest and recovery days should be taken seriously. Initially I was guilty of going too hard on my recovery days which often led to injury.
He continues to set himself challenges including ultra-marathons and earning his Six Star medal over the next few years, but credits his wife and her support as being a continuing driving force.
“I am totally committed and passionate about my running. I like to say ‘If you want to stay young, do what the young ones do’.
“Running has given me an outlet to keep striving to do my best in something that I love. Dorothy has helped me achieve so much already and she is my biggest supporter come rain, hail or shine.”
* Always consult a physician and get a full health evaluation prior to marathon training. Even if athletes appear healthy, or to have a disorder under control, underlying medical conditions could exist.
Some useful links for anyone suffering with their mental health, or if you know someone who is:
World Health Organization: who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_1
International Association for the Suicide Prevention: iasp.info/wspd
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Crisis Text line: (US) www.crisistextline.org/ (UK) giveusashout.org
Mental Health Foundation (UK): mentalhealth.org.uk
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