Last November, 78-year-old Edwina “Eddie” Brocklesby went in for hip replacement surgery, a painful procedure that often sidelines people for weeks, if not months, typically followed by a lengthy course of physical therapy and rehab.
But not for Brocklesby. Twenty-four hours post-op, she was dressed and walking down the hospital hallway, her honey-colored curls fluffed and a smile across her face as she steadily moved forward—even going downstairs barely relying on crutches. Three weeks later, Brocklesby shared a video (a TikTok, no less) of her walking alongside the River Thames, only pausing to break into a hip-wiggling dance before bending into a squat. A couple weeks after that, the grandmother of four was kitted up and back on her bike trainer, settling in for a Zwift ride.
The sight of Brocklesby so put together, so upright, and so agile so soon after major surgery was a surprise to few of the nearly 1,000 people who follow her on social media. “We secretly expect nothing less from you,” one fan wrote. “Blimey—no stopping you,” said another. After all, Brocklesby has proven over and over that she’s no ordinary septuagenarian. Known as “Irongran,” Brocklesby is the oldest British woman to finish an Ironman, a title she claimed in 2017 at the age of 74 with a 15:52:06 finish in Cozumel. She’s finished six Ironmans all together, plus several other races, even winning a trio of duathlon World Championship titles for her age group.
As evidenced by her exuberance and easy laugh (not to mention her signature hairstyle and sparkly nails), Brocklesby lives life with the volume on high. But her journey in endurance sports started with a whisper. As a busy mother of three and social worker running an adoption agency, she spent her first five decades of life doing anything but swimming, biking, or running. “I had done no sport really,” she said. “I played a tiny bit of squash and netball in school, but nothing after that.”
Around 1993, Brocklesby found herself on the sidelines of a half-marathon near her home in Nottingham, England. “I’d love to have a go at a half-marathon,” she later said to her husband. His response was incredulous, saying he didn’t think she could cover three miles, yet alone 13.1. Brocklesby set out to prove him wrong.
And that she did, finishing a half marathon just 12 weeks later.
As it would turn out, long-distance running became a way to navigate one of the hardest times in her life. When her husband passed away a few years later at the age of 54, after a brief battle with an aggressive form of cancer, Brocklesby turned to long runs to sort through her thoughts and temper her emotional pain. Ultimately, she took up cycling and, after rupturing her ACL while skiing, she scaled back on running and learned to swim instead. Naturally, triathlon came next. First, the Olympic-distance London Triathlon in 2001. Ironman came next, earning her that cheeky nickname. In 2019, she published a memoir, Irongran, sharing her story and offering a template for active living at any age.
Through her accomplishments, Brocklesby has become a de facto advocate for older athletes—and a literal poster child for healthy aging. She’s crafted partnerships with brands like Liv Cycling and Lumen (a dating app for the over-50 set) with larger-than-life posters featuring her likeness splashed in London Underground stations. She was named as one of the U.K.’s most inspirational fitness influencers and even shook the hand of the queen upon being recognized for her volunteer contributions to the community.
Brocklesby has big plans for the future—new hip and all. In 2023, she’s shooting to celebrate her 80th birthday with another go at the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast cycling event she’s completed twice before as part of a relay. (Her squad’s name? The Golden Girls.) And she’ll continue to oversee Silverfit, the nonprofit she launched in 2013 to encourage fitness and socializing among older people, which has expanded to over 2,000 members across 17 venues through the greater London area.
“Being active has given me an incredible way to see the world,” she said. “If I can start to run at 50 and become the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman, everyone should realize it’s never too late.”
Eddie’s Life Hacks
Her secrets to staying young at heart.
- Fuel Right: “For 30 years, I’ve started my day with lemon juice in hot water, cod liver oil and vitamins, and always an egg and some peanut butter for breakfast.”
- Step It Up: “I measure my steps every day because I’m in competition with my kids, who are now in their 40s and 50s. It’s a very serious competition.”
- Healthy Perspective: “I don’t see [exercise] as work. It’s not a chore and there’s always a feel-good factor. I’m the lucky one to be able to do this.”
From March/April 2022