Going by the nickname “Iron Gran”, at 76 Edwina is the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman. And the unstoppable sportswoman is now inspiring others to achieve their potential throughout their lives.
In 2013 Edwina launched SilverFit, a charity that promotes lifelong fitness, after leaving her job as chief executive of an adoption agency.
It started with running events in London’s parks but has since grown organically to 2,000 members at 17 venues across nine boroughs.
SilverFit offers a range of activities to the over-45s including Nordic walking, tai chi, Bollywood dancing, Pilates and cheerleading.
And to make sure no-one is excluded due to cost, membership costs £12 per year and sessions no more than £3. In the past year alone, 22,500 people took part.
Edwina says, “I came to sport late, but then realised its many benefits in terms of health and alleviating social isolation. Our core message is that it’s never too late to start exercise.”
Before her 50th birthday, Edwina had never done much exercise, and juggling her busy job with being a mum-of-three meant sport was always low down on her list of priorities.
But this all changed when she turned 50, and was spurred on by her husband Phil to enter her first half marathon.
Two years later, tragedy struck when Phil was diagnosed with cancer and died shortly afterwards. Edwina was grief-stricken but running became a form of therapy, and she pushed herself to run her first London Marathon.
She says, “I trained as a counsellor but I found running better for dealing with grief. For one, you always feel better after you’ve been for a run as the endorphins kick in. But what is more important is the social element.”
By then, Edwina had well and truly got the running bug but after a knee injury she opted for something a little gentler on her joints and started swimming and cycling as well.
She has now completed six Ironman triathlons, which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon distance – 26.2 miles. And at the helm of SilverFit, many participants say their increased fitness means they attend GP surgeries less often or are on reduced medication.
Len Bass, 76, has been coming along for two years. He wanted to get fit after surviving stomach cancer that left him barely able to walk. Within weeks of joining he had begun to see a difference. “I was bent over when I started, but by the end of the first month I could run up the hill. Thanks to SilverFit, today I am really fit, I am off all medication and have even reversed my type 2 diabetes.”
Marjorie Barnes, 62, from Dulwich added: “I had terrible back problems and was walking with a stick when a friend recommended SilverFit. I joined the Nordic walking class and within a year I’d alleviated my back problems and even entered a half marathon.
“Then I had back surgery, recovered and entered my second half marathon and cut 30 minutes off my first time. I’ve got my freedom back and it’s all down to the wonderful Eddie. She’s amazing and so inspirational.”