For his 95th birthday, all Lou Billinkoff wanted to do was run.
“Just the pleasure of it – it gives me a thrill,” Billinkoff told CTV Winnipeg after his sprint at a Winnipeg indoor track this week.
Billinkoff started running six years ago, after he suffered a heart attack at age 89. His doctor suggested a cardiac rehab program, and Billinkoff started off by walking the track.
“I thought that I would try running and I enjoyed it and I continue to do so,” he said.
Billinkoff now runs three days a week and is hoping to shatter the Canadian 100-metre record in his age category. The current record for the 95-plus age category is one minute and 18 seconds. Billinkoff ran 50 meters is just over 14 seconds.
“It’s a pleasure to know that you can do that,” he said. “It’s a sense of achievement.”
He thinks his weight is a key factor in his increasing speed. “The fact that I’m light-weight, 140 pounds, helps a lot. Most of my life I weighed 160 and I could never have done it,” he said. “Being lightweight helps a lot, makes life a lot easier.”
The former Winnipeg Hydro employee credits his longevity to clean living — he doesn’t drink, smoke or eat fried food — and “pure luck.” His trainer, Sheldon Reynolds, described him as “amazing.”
“He’s a sponge,” Reynolds said.
Billinkoff will have a shot at breaking the 100-metre record on June 23, at the Manitoba Age Class Championships.
“I think that’s what’s unique about Lou, is it shows what’s possible,” Reynolds said. “People should get out and try it. Who knew that a heart attack would actually encourage him to run and train?”
Surprisingly, Billinkoff didn’t participate in any sports in his younger years. “I was very bad at them,” he said. “Nobody wanted me on their team.”
With a report from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon and CTV Winnipeg’s Shawn Churchill