40 YEARS STRONG
GIL AND ARLENE AYOUB
GILBERT AYOUB SCREWED up the courage to ask Arlene Turner out on a date at Arlene’s 15th birthday party. The timing and the approach was thought out in advance, the plan discussed with his best friend Bob. To his delight, Arlene accepted.
They both grew up in the Montreal neighbourhood of St. Leonard, but they had little else in common: Gil was quiet, athletic and intense, Arlene, his polar opposite: vivacious, outgoing and – oh – she had no interest in sports. Nada.
“There were a few other boyfriends,” Arlene insists, but Gil’s persistence won out, and on Oct. 2, 1976 – two days before Arlene’s 20th birthday – they married.
Fast forward forty years, and the unlikely pair is still together – grandparents now, four times over. Next month, they’re going to Hawaii to celebrate 40 years of marriage and their respective 60th birthdays. And on Oct. 8, they’ll be at Kailua Pier for the Ironman World Championship The Ayoubs have 22 Ironman races between them. “I did Kona when I turned 50,” Gil said. “The goal this year was to do Kona when I turned 60 – and for us to qualify together.”
“This was never on my horizon,” says Arlene, recalling her first Ironman in Penticton in 2005 – two years after she learned how to swim.
“I was standing on the beach, crying,” she says. “Then Sister Madonna [Buder, the ‘Iron Nun’ and world’s oldest Ironman finisher, at 85] prances by and says, ‘Isn’t this a blessed day?’”
That was the boost Arlene needed to overcome her fear, but she laughs at the photo of her getting out of Okanagan Lake an hour and 35 minutes later. “The picture coming out of the swim is me, looking backwards, to see if there is anybody behind me,” she says. “I was sure I was last!” Back in the early 1970s in St. Leonard, “exercise just wasn’t part of the recipe,” Arlene says. “Girls didn’t even have gym.” In the Turner household, the boys were even fed differently. “My brothers played hockey, so they got steak.” Gil, on the other hand, was sports-obsessed, adventurous and ready to try his hand at anything. In his 20s, he raced Olympic-class Tornado catamarans and windsurfed in summer, played squash and worked as a ski and snowboard instructor in winter. He persuaded Arlene to take up martial arts, both of them earning black belts in aikido. Then there was polo. “He got into it through a family member who had horses,” Arlene says. “I have a memory of me holding our son Christopher in my arms – he was probably four months old – and a two-year-old at my leg, and my husband was taking off to go play polo on a Saturday morning. There’s me, just standing by the window, crying.” “Those were the years I had to persist through.” “Arlene wasn’t a horse person at all,” Gil concedes. Eventually, polo was replaced by mountain-bike racing. And Arlene, in her 40s, discovered running. “I started to get away from everybody,” Arlene says. “It was simple. Put on a pair of running shoes, and go.”