Larry Rich

Never too late! Despite his lifelong commitment to fitness, Larry Rich only seriously took up running when he was well into his 80s.

By Lauren Marcus, United With Israel

At the age of 95, Larry Rich does not fit the profile of the typical marathon runner.

But the UK-born Israeli, who spent four years fighting in Malaysia during World War II with the British Army, is ready to take on the Jerusalem Marathon this Friday.

Suzi Zettel, Rich’s daughter, told United With Israel that her father, who has “always been a very active man,” is an inspiration to their entire family. She will accompany Rich in the marathon, alongside several of his grandchildren, all of whom live in Israel.

So how has Rich managed to stay in such good shape while nearing a century on the planet?

Some of it is good genes, Zettel said, but she credits much of it to his strict discipline. A careful eater, Rich does not snack between meals, makes sure to eat reasonable portions, and remains committed to being physically active each day.

Larry Rich run Shalva charity

Larry Rich (2-L) running for Shalva charity for people with disabilities. (Courtesy)

“He never had a desk job,” Zettel said. “He was always in a warehouse, reaching, schlepping,” adding that she remembers her father “running,” rather than walking, up the stairs.

While most people in their hometown of Leeds spent their Sundays relaxing, Zettel recalls that no matter rain or shine, her father would take her and her siblings for a hike.

Despite his lifelong commitment to fitness, Rich only seriously took up running when he was well into his 80s. After his wife passed away, he started going on morning runs that became progressively longer and more adventurous, Zettel said.

Eventually, he decided to join his daughter, an avid runner who has competed in marathons and half-marathons, in some of her events.

Zettel said her father did far more than tag along — he actively participated in charity runs for the disability NGO Shalva, and finished a 5K run around three years ago.

The cancellation of the Jerusalem Marathon in March 2020 due to the coronavirus was a serious blow, as he’d been looking forward to the event for months.

“He could not believe it…for the last year and half, he’s been asking ‘When is it happening?’” Zettel said, though she noted that her father hadn’t paid much mind to the setback. Rather, he continued training during the lockdowns, walking the hilly terrain around his home.

Rich’s home aide Judy, who will join the family in the Jerusalem Marathon, said she was looking forward to the challenge.

“It will be my first time [participating in a marathon], and it will be very memorable because I’m joining this 95-year-old man,” she said, smiling. “It will be very exciting.”

Describing their fitness routine, Judy said she and Rich go for a 1.5-kilometer walk each day. On Mondays and Thursdays, they step things up with some calisthenics.

The card game Cribbage, which they play regularly, helps keep both their minds sharp, Judy noted.

Indeed, beyond being a willing workout partner, Rich’s hard-won life experience makes him a rich source of wisdom for Judy.

“At the age of 95, he is a really good advisor,” she said. “He’s really my best friend.”

And what about Rich’s time goal for the marathon?

“The goal is to enjoy it,” Zettel said, laughing.

“We just want to savor the moment. I’m very happy to make sure my father has fun and we have fun being with him.”