In two years, Pepa Sánchez Quintana has broken the Spanish records for seniors over 400 and 800 metres. / antonio j. guerrero

Pepa Sánchez, the 71-year-old breaking records in athletics

She worked in the Ríos Quintana flamenco fashion business and took up sport after her husband died


She is the fastest sprinter in the 400 and 800 metres in the senior category in Spain and aspires to continue breaking records. Her name is Pepa Sánchez Quintana and she is one of eleven women who have been selected as the most influential in local history; their names are to be immortalised in the form of plaques dedicated to them in a new park in Antequera, the town in which Pepa was born in 1950.

She spent her working life in a well-known flamenco fashion business, Ríos Quintana, in Calle Nueva. She had never done any sport until, at the age of 56, she decided to join a gym and take up cycling. Two years ago her trainer, Malu Baena, suggested that she join La Peña Trail club where women get together to exercise and not to beat records.

The council phoned her earlier this week to tell her that she is one of the 11 women whose names will be on plaques in the new park.

“It makes me feel very proud, nobody believes that I'm 71 years old. When they told me about this I had just come from running a race at the weekend and won another prize,” she said.

She considers herself a woman like any other, and nobody special. “I don’tknow if I can match up to these other great women from Antequera, because they are very well-known. I’m very nervous because to see my name there on a plaque...goodness! I don’t know if I deserve this or not, but I am very happy about it,” she said.

She took up athletics when she was 69. “Malu, my personal trainer, started to test me and saw that I had the ability for athletics, so I started taking part in races,” she explained. When asked about her records, she says she starts running and the records just happen, one after the other.

“In the Spanish championship, which was held in Malaga this summer, I set the outdoor record for 800 metres with three minutes and 21 seconds. Then in Antequera this weekend I set another one for the 400 metres and broke my own record, at one minute and 28.08 seconds. And then there are the other four that I have over the same distances but those were indoors and in teams,” Pepa said.

To do all this, she looks after herself. “I believe in eating little and very healthily, with my stews and my salads. And my training means everything to me, it’s Malu who tells me what to do and I follow what she says. I also have friends in the club who are very lovely, who support me and are proud of me, too,” she said.

"Very competitive"

At the age of 71 she is still highly motivated to compete. “I like to do better all the time. I’m very competitive, I give myself a hard time because I get very nervous, I spend all day thinking about the next race. I make my own races, I prepare for days beforehand. I demand a great deal of myself and, in the end, I achieve it,” she said.

Despite all that she has achieved, she still thinks about what is yet to come. “Now I want to improve my speed over the 800 metres indoors, that is the only record in my category that I don’t have yet,” she explained.

Her achievements also help to put women in the place they deserve to be. “Over time things have been changing a great deal, and women are now equal in sport and in social life. It takes work, but little by little we are getting there,” she said.

All this has come after a lifetime of dedication to her work and her family. “I was always very dedicated to my children and my work. I worked so hard, so many hours, and with three children and a husband, there was no way I could have taken up sport then,” she said.

Today her children and grandchildren are even more proud of her. “I have a grandson called Alejandro and he is my number one fan. He always gets up on the podium with me. And my children are all very proud, too, and follow everything I do,” she said.