A long-running passion for athletics

Casado with the Brandenburg Gate in the background during the Big 25 in Berlín in 2011.
Casado with the Brandenburg Gate in the background during the Big 25 in Berlín in 2011. / SUR
  • José Luis Casado took part in the first Malaga Half Marathon in 1991 and will do so again this Sunday

His tanned skin, sharply contrasting with his white hair, reveals countless hours of training under the sun along the Malaga seafront. He is simply dressed, in purple trainers, grey athletics shorts and a white tee-shirt without any of the modern extras which have become fashionable among 'runners' - the English word is becoming used more frequently among younger generations, something he rejects.

José Luis Casado runs around 50 kilometres a week, split into three sessions, plus another two hours to treat his injuries: his knees are "destroyed" and he suffers lower back pain. But his passion for running is stronger than the pain and at 69 years of age, he is battling age as well as the stopwatch.

In 1991 he was one of the 224 athletes across the finishing line in the first edition of the Malaga Half Marathon with a time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Twenty-six years later and he will be competing in the race again this coming Sunday. It will be his fifteenth time participating in what is now one of the province's most popular races, plus another five editions of the Centro Cultural Renfe Half Marathon, the current incarnation's predecessor which existed from 1983 to 1989.

Nerves and excitement

"After so many years, I still get nervous at the start line. It's like a scene from a John Ford movie, when they're waking up before the battle," he says. "I remember being very excited ahead of the first half marathon. They didn't stop the traffic in those days and the pace car was a small moped. The athletes wore the same clothes as they did for training but despite all this, the level was really high."

With the likes of Juani Sarria, Rafa Morales and Pedro Delgado taking part, "pioneers of Malaga athletics", their "enthusiasm and determination were an example for everything,including me, some 15 years older," he adds.

The race, according to Casado, was very difficult and was decided at the so-called 'cuesta de amoniaco' after 15 kilometres.

Casado, a telecommunications engineer by trade, calculates that he has run close to 80,000 kilometres in his life - "twice around the globe", he jokes, despite "starting late" when it came to athletics. The only sport in which he would take part was football with his company, Citesa. An injury to his adductor muscles meant that he started to put on weight and that led him to start running. He was 32.

He started taking part in fun runs in 1979, starting with the El Corte Inglés run. "I finished the nine kilometres, though I had to stop a number of times. But the atmosphere captivated me and had me hooked for the rest of my life," he confesses. He stayed around for the prizegiving: "Rubén Camacho had won. Someone close by said that he had run from Carranque to Campanillas [around 15 kilometres] and I thought it was just typical 'malagueño' exaggeration. But just a year later and I was doing those distances myself at least once a week."

In a run which took place in La Palma two years later, Casado picked up the trophy in the over 30s category. Gamarra club then signed him up and from then on he started competing in marathons all around Spain, the first in Madrid in 1983 where he finished in under three hours. In 1985 in Seville, he recorded his best time overthat distance: 2 hours and 51 minutes.

In his first ten years as a runner, José Luis Casado took part in six marathons, but his work commitments stopped him from doing any more. "For 15 years I trained on my own, then in 2007 a group of friends convinced me to do another marathon and since then I have done seven more."

At 64 years of age, he decided he would hang up his running shoes after the Malaga marathon but stomach cramps stopped him from doing so. "It irritated me, but my son, who lives in Washington, convinced me to run with him in the Marine Corps marathon," he explains. It is one of Casado's favourite memories from his running career, one that has taken him around the world. In 2008 he ran along the Great Wall of China, in 2011 he crossed the Brandenburg Gate as part of the Big 25 in Berlin, he finished the Outback Marathon in the Australian desert in 2012 and he has also competed in Laos and Montenegro.

"I don't know any long-distance runner that has been a layabout. It requires discipline and sacrifice; it builds character. These values have helped me throughout my life," he concludes.