After long stints as a long-distance runner, then a long-distance race walker, 81-year-old Queenstowner Bruce Patton has successfully transitioned into a third sport — indoor rowing.
At the sport’s recent nationals in Christchurch, he set a new 2000-metre lightweight New Zealand record in the 80-to-84 age-group category of 8 minutes 13.2 seconds.
That beat the previous record by 12 seconds — and, to add to the thrill, Olympic rowing legend Eric Murray was on hand at the prizegiving.
In this comp, and others, Patton’s often in a field of his own, so his challenge is setting records and personal bests.
Taking up running aged about 14, his running career lasted 35 years, during which he ran about 25 marathons and won three Southland marathon titles.
Seeking a sport that was easier on his joints, he then embraced race walking for 25 years.
He was fastest half marathon walker for the first two years of the current Queenstown Marathon and also walked the Motatapu marathon three times — ‘‘I just failed to break six hours’’.
Patton had already done some indoor rowing in Invercargill before moving to Arrowtown in 1989, however his first event was in Scotland in 2002, while living there.
He came third in the Scottish national champs behind the English and European champions.
He then got seriously into the sport about three years ago, as it was even easier on his joints.
It’s very good for the whole body, arms, legs and back, he says, ‘‘but there’s no jarring impact like running or even walking’’.
At the 2021 Masters Game in Dunedin he won all five events in his grade.
Then, this February, at the Masters Games in Whanganui, he established an age-group record for 10,000m.
And in a competition within the comp, for the person who came closest to a world record, he was second — his time was just 5.9% off a world record.