The octogenarian couple from Ireland finished their last marathon together holding hands

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated June 23, 2016 12:30 PM
Credit: Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon/Darragh Kane

brightcove.createExperiences(); In 1986, Kay and Joe O’Regan crossed the finish line of the London Marathon, their first one together, hand in hand. Thirty years later on June 6, 2016 – at 80 years old – they did it again for the last half-mile of the Cork City Marathon, which they planned to be their final one together.

And not only did they finish together, but they won with the fastest times – 5:25:29 – for their age groups.

Although they finished to fanfare from spectators at the finish line, Joe said he is surprised by all the attention.

“We aren’t special or extraordinary,” he told Runner’s World, “As far as we are concerned, running is just something we do.”

Still, they had plenty of supporters cheering them on.

“We had lots of friends on the course, and when I felt like I was slacking they provided a bit of a lift,” Joe said.

And having his wife by his side helped too – Kay said Joe picked up the pace once they started holding hands.

“He seemed to get a second wind there,” she said. “We raced up to the finish, really. We were able to sprint.”

The couple started running later than most, at age 50, but they quickly made up for the lost time – Cork City was Kay’s 113th marathon and Joe’s 29th. Kay has also been on the winner’s podium. She’s won the Irish national marathon championships in multiple age groups, and her finish time at Cork City now makes her the fastest 80-year-old woman in the U.K.

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While Joe and Kay said Cork City will be their last marathon together, he learned before the race that they were 250 days shy of the Guinness World Record for the oldest couple to finish a marathon. After he found out, he said, “Never say never.”

“The thing is, I may look like I am 80 but I don’t feel like it,” Joe said.

“Running is part of our lives,” Kay said. “And it hopefully will be for a few more years. In Ireland there is a saying: Those who pray together, stay together. Well we say, those who run together, stay together.”