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One step at a time for Mike

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Mike Rickards celebrated his 70th birthday by running 13.3 miles up a mountain. He's not entirely pleased with his efforts; it took him just over six hours to reach the summit.

“The lack of oxygen was my main problem,” he said of his attempt at Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. “I wanted to run three miles an hour. I did the first hour smack on target; I did six miles in two hours.”

And then it all went haywire.

The annual Colorado race starts at the base of 14,115ft Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Runners must climb more than 7,815ft to reach it.

“It was just never-ending,” said Mr Rickards, who typically runs a half-marathon in two hours. “I got to the bottom of the final stretch to the summit.

“There were 32 zigzags going up the side of the hill. I had an hour to spare when I got to the foot of the zigzags.”

He reached Pikes Peak only 27 minutes before cut-off time.

His plan is to beat his six hours and seven minutes when he tackles the race again, for his 80th birthday.

“I think people are surprised that I am 77 and still running. I don't run to keep fit or to lose weight. I just love running and competing.”

Cross-country and track held his interest as a schoolboy in Leeds where his mother, Eva, cared for him and his brothers, Barry and David.

Their father, Robert, worked in a manufacturing plant building large marine and locomotive engines.

The three boys would often go for long walks in the English countryside so Barry could fish. “I didn't really like fishing,” Mr Rickards said. “I went along for the walking. Then when we got to the site we'd camp overnight.”

At 21, he joined the police force but after three years, got tired of the frigid winters.

“The winter of 1962 was horrendous,” he said. “I was on traffic duty and we didn't get out of the police garage for six weeks.

“I thought, ‘There has to be more to life than this'. I was reading a police magazine and saw an advert for the Bermuda Police in there advertising for constables.”

He arrived on the island on September 13, 1963 and was thrilled by the heat.

A few years later, asked to be a groomsmen in a friend's wedding, he met his wife Rosalie, who was in the bridal party.

They celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary on September 6 and have two children, Peter and Susan.

In those early years Mr Rickards played football with the police team, training three times a week. In his 40s he injured a ligament and was in a cast for several months.

He decided it was time for another sport and fell back on his old love of running.

There wasn't a huge race scene when he arrived in Bermuda but that was changing by the late 1970s.

“There was an annual police mini marathon from police headquarters in Prospect to Flatts and back,” he said. “That was a 10K and I'd run that every year. Gradually, I got into the local running scene. There was good camaraderie among runners.”

Although he found the annual Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby “too damn hot” he ran it more than 20 times.

“I haven't done it in about five years, but this year I want to do it for the final time [even though] I think that distance is getting to be a bit much for me,” said Mr Rickards, who is eager to tackle the St George's to Hamilton course for the first time. “I had a knee replacement two years ago and I have to be careful.”

His favourite place to run is over the dunes on Warwick's South Shore beaches. He likes the lack of traffic and the peaceful atmosphere.

“Even if you are not running hard, if you keep going it is a good workout but easy on the joints,” he said.

However it's his work as a policeman, not running, that he's most proud of.

“I was the first officer to go to Government House when Governor Richard Sharples was shot,” he said of the March 1973 assassination. “I was just parading the night watch in Hamilton when the call came through. We jumped in the truck and went up there — myself and my crew.”

The police choir, which included many senior officers, was performing at Sonesta Beach Hotel in Southampton. As a result, they didn't arrive until 40 minutes after Mr Rickards and his crew began securing the scene.

Sir Richard's aide-de-camp, Hugh Sayers, and his dog were already dead. The governor was then still breathing but died a short time later, at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

“It was pitch black,” Mr Rickards said. “We didn't know if the gunman was still in the bushes or what. It was a tough night, but I'm proud of the job my guys did.

“We were so busy with what happened it didn't really catch up with us until afterward. Then it hit you.”

He retired in 1988 and joined the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences as a “general gopher”, staying there for 20 years.

“In the springtime we'd get a lot of groups from overseas,” he said. “I would drive them around to whatever sights they wanted to visit.

“Since I'd left school I'd never had a break. That was working 50 years, nonstop. It was time to call it a day.”

Today he loves gardening, and hiking national parks in the United States and Canada with his wife. Mr Rickards has no plans to retire from running. “I just want to keep going for as long as I can,” he said.

For more information on Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon visit pikespeakmarathon.org

Lifestyle profiles the island's senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

One step at a time: retired policeman and veteran member of Bermuda's running community Mike Rickards taking part in Bermuda Marathon Weekend in January (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Mike Rickards running the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby in 1983 (Photograph supplied)
Mike Rickards running a race between the police and other services such as the fire brigade and the Bermuda Regiment (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 26, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated March 26, 2019 at 12:33 am)

One step at a time for Mike

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