Celebrating 25 and 50 at 70+

Attempt on the 63 Lakeland Peak Record 1973 A. Heaton and A. Evans coming into the Lairthwaite Road check point Keswick

It has been a great privilege to record for Rohantime the story of the First Rohan Franchise with Al Joy and Ben Evans.
This is the final part of the interview and covers Al and Joys outdoor life. I did managed to get some tips from them on how they have sustained their love of the outdoors over so many years. In all four installments of Rohan a family affair Al and Joy have mentioned people that it’s been a pleasure to call friends and partners in their various adventures. I have also included a short resume of some the people mentioned. It reads a bit like a who’s who of the outdoor world but then again with Al’s dedication to mountain sports over so many years it is not surprising.

Al and Joy: Your love of the outdoors is well known tell us how it started.

From an early age I would go out rambling with my parents and brother. We had no car or special equipment but each Sunday we would take a bus into the hills behind Rochdale and Oldham. We would be dressed in our ordinary clothes with sandwiches and flask in a shopping bag. I enjoyed these trips so much that by the time I was twelve I was escaping to the hills, either by myself or a few mates from school and so started my walking and mountaineering. At about the same time I joined Middleton Harriers and started cross country running which was to lead to fell running. Not many years later starting with walk and runs such as the 50mile Four Inns in the Peak. In 1955, on my 15th birthday, I started work and to save money I got a bike and started to cycle there and back. This took two to three hours a day, so I soon built up fair amount of endurance plus a love of cycling that’s lasted to this day. Therefore without knowing it by mixing walking,running and cycling I was taking part what we now call cross training which is the method I’ve used ever since. Shortly after all this I met Joy and one by one she picked up all these activities and also has continued with them to this day.

Q. Al and Joy: How do you maintain your fitness at seventy plus.

The answer to this question is not a lot different to the one about business success.

You need PASSION. If you do not enjoy what you are doing you have no chance.

Past EXPERIENCE is very useful. You learn to listen to your body and therefore have a good idea how hard you can push yourself.

AIMS. We plan ahead and pick out major projects for the year. These could be races or tours that you fancy. Once these are listed you can focus on arriving at these dates fit and motivated.

CONSISTENCY. Being steady is much better than blasting away and finding that after a few weeks your running into injuries or lack of motivation. Everybody is different, some manage on a small amount of training but I enjoy the activities so much that I find myself hardly missing a day and averaging between 12 to 18 hours a week. This is what is called over training but it’s fun and a habit so I don’t see me changing any time soon.

Pete Bland and Al. finishing 3rd or 4th in the Saunders 2 day mountain marathon over 30years ago

Al and Joy: Did work stop you both from doing outdoor stuff?

As I’ve said the above training ideas are ones I’ve followed throughout my life and even when I was very busy in business I still found time to cycle to work then at lunch it was out with the Kendal lads such as Pete Bland and Mike Walford for a run over the Scar. We all felt that it was so important not only for fitness and health but also great at helping to cope with the stress and pressure of our working lives.

Al and Joy: Could you share with us some high spots of your outdoor experiences

When you have spent as much time doing adventure sports as we have you find it’s not just the good race results that matter but often it’s a simple small happening like a sun set or a great view that makes the day. In fact even though we have over 50 years experience in the outdoor world we are not in any way stars. We have been lucky to operate with many people we would call stars. It would take too long to list them all but Rob Collister mountain guide and one time Rohan tester, Sarah Rowell and Andy Peace both world class mountain runners and Hugh Symonds the first person to make the continuous traverse of all 303 three thousand foot mountains of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, are just a few of the interesting people that it’s been a pleasure to call friends and partners in various adventures.

 Three Peaks Cycle Cross winning over 40's 1971

The high spots in events have been many but at my age, when time is very important, I tend to look forward to the next challenge except perhaps for a quick look back at what was the last time I got it right. For me that was at the end of September when I completed for about the 10th time, the Yorkshire Three Peaks Cyclo Cross Race and won the over 70s (don’t laugh it’s a very competitive category and I won a hundred quid!) Mind you I was not as fast as about 35 years ago when I finished forth overall but still a great day out.

Three Peaks Cycle Cross winning over 70's 2010

Al and Joy: You have observed the development of our outdoor playgrounds, are they fast becoming saturated?

It’s true that many parts of our National Parks and other wild areas are getting very heavy use and therefore in those areas we have a very serious problem. When you have this amount of people you have not only erosion but it takes away the wilderness experience. On the other hand when you see the problems with obeseness and lack of basic fitness in all first world countries it’s hard to suggest that less people should be out there. What we need to do is to encourage people to upgrade their skills so that they can cope with venturing out away from the honey pot areas into more isolated ones. For Joy and myself this is not a new problem we moved to the Lakes in 1961 and were told by people that we had arrived too late because the place was overran but then again Wordsworth was saying much the same well over 150 years ago. For many years we have lived not far from Chamonix at the foot of Mt Blanc and this area suffers exactly the same problems and yet we walk most days and even at the very busy times we can be totally alone.

Joy top Pigne d'Arolla 3796m looking east towards the Matterhorn

Q. Al and Joy: Relationships 25/50yrs! Does it get any easier?

As you say this year is going to be a bit of a milestone. Rohan in the Lakes celebrates it’s 25th year and we celebrate 50 years of marriage and in answer to your question “YES” it does get easier. In your 70’s it might be harder to get out of bed but once you are up and about life’s a bit of a dream. During your working life the days might have been very exciting but looking back they were also very intense times with a fair amount of stress where as now once we have staggered out of bed and wander 100 metres to our local bar then sit and watch the sun rise over Mt. Blanc whilst drinking coffee and eating a croissant or two, the biggest problem of the day is thinking about what little adventure you might get up to later.


“I think that basically what I’ve been trying to say throughout is that we feel that life is happiest if you try for a balance between your family life,your business life and what we call our personal interests. You never get it just right but it’s worth a good try”. Al and Joy Evans.

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