One of the most fascinating human interest stories from last month’s Cayman Marathon must be Robert ‘Cowboy’ Bishton who if not for discovering running to lose weight would have remained an unhealthy sloth and edging past middle age a coach potato.
He ran the 26.2 mile event in 4 hours 32 minutes and 30 seconds which is not bad considering the heat and the fact that he is 60. Yet only a few years ago that wouldn’t have been possible for Bishton who discovered running at 54 and has been hurtling around the globe ever since.
“I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and decided that I was going to walk five miles a day, an impossible distance I thought,” he says. “I discovered it could be done in one and a half hours and when I started a log book then the competitive spirit kicked in to either walk it in less time or walk farther in the same time.
“Walking morphed into walk-jogs and then short spurts of running and in eight months I had lost 60lbs. I often used a treadmill and maintained the loss on one and since I had fantasised about running a marathon during the weight loss, I decided to run one.
“My first was the Baltimore Marathon in October 2004 and I finished in 3:55. I did not run a 5K or 10K or half-marathon before doing the marathon. At my third marathon the next year, I met a member of the 50 State Club.
“Their goal is to run marathons in all 50 states. I thought that was a worthy goal and adopted the motto, ‘50 by 60’. At my eighth marathon I met a member of the Marathon Maniacs Club. This club has 3,500 members and is comprised of runners who run frequently and the club has a 1 to 10 star system to reflect the level of your maniacal running.
“I thought this was great and I realised I could do more than eight marathons a year. I joined and reached the 8-star level by running in 23 states. The following year I went for 10 stars by running in 30 states (other criteria are: running 52 races in a year or in 20 countries). Since 2007, I have averaged over 30 marathons a year and in 2009 I ran 37.”
A couple years ago Bishton adopted a goal of running on all seven continents and started travelling overseas. This year he ran in South America (Ecuador), Africa (Egypt), Europe (Switzerland and the Czech Republic) and Australia. “With my run in Cayman I now have run in 14 countries.
His familiar cowboy hat has a practical purpose as well as a fun aspect. “I have had several serious melanoma operations and decided to wear the hat. It was so well received and commented on by spectators that I kept wearing it.
“I am approached by runners at every event all over the USA who remember seeing me before and was given the name Cowboy as a result. My red bandanna was part of a runner’s packet from an event in Kansas that turned out to be the coldest race I ever ran – 19 degrees at the start with a wind chill down to 5 degrees. I have worn the bandanna ever since.”
He lives in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida but doesn’t run there because of the heat. “I train on a treadmill in a gym.”
His experience here was another glowing testimonial to Kelly Holding who organised the Cayman Marathon. Race directors Rhonda Kelly and Laurie Ann Holding did a marvellous job as did event coordinator Bev Sinclair.
“Meeting the wonderful, friendly, and helpful people associated with the marathon was the highlight. They put on a very nice event. I hope to cycle through the other Caribbean islands before I come back to Cayman.”
He has another full itinerary planned for this year. “I’ll be in Marrakesh, Morocco, at the end of the month and hope to run a marathon on a game preserve in South Africa in June. Later this year I hope to check off Asia from my continents list, leaving only Antarctica and in 2014 with a run in Seoul, Korea. Other than those I hope to run 30 or more marathons and complete my third circuit of the 50 states.”
So there are no plans for this cowboy to quietly ride into the sunset.