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Real Life

Garth and Judy Barfoot share their secret to a long and healthy marriage

The fitness-focused couple keep each other on their toes!

By Steve Landells
A full and active life has been at the heart of the 53-year marriage between real estate king Garth Barfoot and his wife Judy.
From their early days tramping together, to completing the Rotorua Marathon and later successfully taking on the challenge of the Coast to Coast, activity has sustained the 87-year-old grandparents throughout their rich and full lives.
Now living at Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village in Beach Haven on the North Shore, the pair are still just as active.
Garth – who for six decades worked for Barfoot and Thompson, the real estate agency co-founded by his father – is in training for the 2024 Rotorua Marathon in May, followed by the New York City Marathon in November. Meanwhile, Judy regularly walks and swims.
Sticking together has been the best decision say the devoted pair.
Given their shared passions, it was perhaps inevitable the pair first met as members of the Alpine Sports Club, although back then, tramping was not Judy's preferred pursuit.
"Garth was more of a tramper than me," says Judy. "I only joined the tramping club because my best friend belonged to the club. I couldn't see the point in walking."
Garth, who has just completed his daily walk when the Weekly visits, adds, "Judy could ski better than me and I could tramp better than her. She didn't want to know me on the ski field!"
Meeting one another in their mid-twenties, the pair married two years later on Judy's parents' farm in Edgecumbe in the Bay of Plenty in 1970.
The combination has certainly worked well over the past half-century. Sharing three children and four grandchildren, while Garth dedicated his time to his burgeoning career in real estate, Judy, a qualified doctor, put on hold any plans to pursue a full-time job to focus on her life as a mother.
Never short of hobbies, the pair didn't start running in earnest until their early fifties, when they entered the 1990 Rotorua Marathon.
"At that point, Garth hadn't really done any running before, but I had done a bit," Judy explains. "It was nice to both finish together."
The pair married in 1970.
Completing "a lap of the lake" triggered a host of shared endurance challenges as the pair took up triathlons and multi-sport events.
Internationally, Garth competed in the Kona Ironman World Championship and, at 77, he snared the ITU long-distance world title for his age group.
"I liked multi-sport best," says Judy. "I liked the kayaking more than the running. Garth was more of a runner. I much preferred an adventure."
After leaving their beloved four-bedroom family home for life at the retirement home, neither has shown any signs of slowing down.
While Garth continues to rack up some serious kilometres – 10km daily walks, plus three Pilates sessions a week – Judy has been forced to scale down her activity because of injury and now enjoys short walks and swimming.
"I walk the same 10km route and I know all the other regulars I meet on the footpath," says Garth. "I never mind stopping to talk to them. In one sense, these interludes have replaced the cocktail parties of my working life. Halfway around the route, I stop at the same coffee shop and sip a large flat white in a blue mug with a slice of toasted gingerbread. One of the advantages of being retired is I never again have to rush my morning tea!"
Garth and Judy with their kids (from left) Kiri, Henry and Cushla.
Last November, he missed out on his target of becoming the oldest person to finish the New York Marathon – stopping the race at about 30km because of the excessive cold.
This year, he plans to return with his eldest daughter, Kiri, who will run alongside him during the history-making attempt.
In the shorter-term, he hopes to complete his 19th Rotorua Marathon at the 60th anniversary edition of the iconic race.
So will Judy be offering her support when Garth tries to complete a lap of the lake next May?
"Oh, I don't support any runners," she says. "Watching old guys run is not my idea of fun! I'd much rather watch people play tennis or golf."
Yet while Judy may not be physically present as Garth continues to tick off his running goals, she admits a healthy, physical lifestyle is imperative for a long and happy life.
"It's important to continue to be active, otherwise you can't join in many of the activities here at the retirement village," she says with a laugh.

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