A veteran former Sheffield Harriers walker and record holder for the Sheffield Star Walk has won a bronze medal after striding during a race in Spain.
Mick Barker, who was born and bred in Sheffield but now lives at Together Housing’s Lavender Court in Barnsley, won bronze in the European Masters 10km Road Walk Championships in Alicante, his international debut.
The 79-year-old rediscovered his love of track walking since his wife, who he cared for, passed away. And he fought off competition from former Olympic champions and world champions to take the title.
He said: “I did everything. She couldn’t communicate and was bed-bound for many years. It was very difficult. As her health started worsening, I had no choice but to give up my hobby. I loved track walking but I loved Marlene more. She needed me so I focused my full attention on looking after her.
“A few years after giving up the walking, I was still struggling to keep on top of her care so we moved to Lavender Court. It meant we could stay together in the comfort of our own home but she could receive specialist care as and when she needed it.”
Marlene died in 2015 aged 73 and within weeks, Mick was back out walking.
He said: “When I gave up walking, I could never have dreamed of winning medals at my age but after Marlene died, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of staying in and moaning about aches and pains, I wanted to be fit and healthy.
“So about four or five weeks after she died, I started going for little walks. It gave me an outlet for my grief, a reason to get up and get out. About 18 months ago, I started to dream about doing the times I was doing when I was younger. I pushed myself harder and harder and now I would say I am fitter than some people in their 20s.
“Marlene would be delighted that I have taken it up again. She knew how much I loved it.”
Mick, a former railway worker, began walking in his teens. His achievements include winning the 12-mile Sheffield Star Walk in 1964 with a time of 98 minutes and 15 seconds – a record that still stands today. Mick’s next step is the British Masters in Oxford.