Donington woman Pat Bunyan will celebrate 80th birthday with tandem skydive
When it comes to retirement, most of us are content with a quieter pace of life – but not daredevil Pat Bunyan who is marking her 80th birthday with a tandem skydive.
The great-grandmother likes to challenge herself and since retiring from midwifery and nursing, she’s become a gym regular and learnt to row.
Pat, of Donington, admits she hasn’t always been sporty – she was 70 when she started working out in 2011 – and credits walking her dog, Manchester terrier Ruby, 5km a day as the key to her fitness.
“I went to the gym to lose weight. I was a dress size 20 and ended up a 14,’ recalls Pat, who trains twice a week with Joe Sharman, at Spalding’s Hero’s Gym, “I was scared the first time, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.
“I went three times a week in Boston at first - I got the bug for exercise and started training with Joe in 2015. My aim is to keep mobile, so I can keep doing all the things I want to. It’s lovely people think I’m inspirational, but I just do what I can.”
After losing weight, Pat started swimming again and learnt to row. She’s the oldest active member of Boston Rowing Club and enjoys getting out on the River Witham every week. During lockdown she rowed 5km every day, for 30 consecutive days, on a machine at her home.
“Looking back, learning to row at 70 is quite an achievement - it’s quite technical, and I only did it to prove to my son that I could!” says Pat, who has three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “I love being out on the water, but I couldn’t do it without the help and support of the other rowers. My family are all very supportive too, although they think I’m a bit mad!”
Pat is due to make her skydive on July 3, at Langar, near Grantham, after the idea came about because she’s never done one before.
“When I was 70 I did a Ferrari driving experience at Thruxton, so for 80 I had to go for something bigger! Now people keep asking what I’m doing for my 90th!
“I’ve never been the sort to go on rollercoasters, to me it’s all about the challenge, people seem to lose the ability to challenge themselves in later life.
“I took up archery but had to give that up because I hurt my shoulder,” adds Pat, who is a keen gardener and also loves to read. When people retire, they seem to think you must live in a bungalow. I still live in a house and go up and down the stairs.
“I’m not on any medication, I eat sensibly and rarely drink. Mixing with younger people helps me stay young and I’m sure walking the dog daily has kept me healthy enough to do all the other things. I’m really looking forward to my skydive!”
Recalling their first meeting, Pat’s trainer Joe adds: “After an initial chat I questioned what I’d let myself in for. How wrong my expectations were – Pat’s been an absolute delight to work with and has progressed exceptionally.”