Dr Thornback has already recovered from cancer, returning to health after chemotherapy and surgery in the early 1990s. Now the Abu Dhabi Triathlon is helping him break new personal barriers.
Athletes young and old come together for triathlon
ABU DHABI // Most people in their 60s are content with a brisk walk to keep in shape.
Dr Peter Thornback will swim 1.5km before cycling 100km and finishing off with a 10km run. Before his triathlon on March 12, the grandfather will celebrate his 69th birthday this Saturday.
Dr Thornback has already recovered from cancer, returning to health after chemotherapy and surgery in the early 1990s. Now the Abu Dhabi Triathlon is helping him break new personal barriers. After his illness, he decided it was time to get fit and started going to the gym - but soon tired of it.
"It became boring," says the British expatriate, who works as a consultant paediatrician at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
"I then started running just every two or three weeks.
"When I came over to live in Abu Dhabi eight years ago I met a few people who inspired me to run a little bit more and get some real distance going."
Three years ago, he started swimming. "Before that I could only have swam to save my life."
He got to 500 metres, then 800, and then a couple of kilometres," he says.
"A year ago my wife bought me a bike, so I took the next natural step and entered the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. I'm not here to win anything - I just want to get around in one piece."
Next to Dr Thornback on the starting line will be Paul Muller, an Abu Dhabi schoolboy 53 years his junior.
Paul, 15, has plenty to prove. Although he comes from a family of seasoned triathletes, this is his first event. He expects his strongest section of the race to be in the water, although he prefers the cycling.
"A few of my friends go cycling for fun, but they think I'm a little bit different because I go out at 4.30am to train on the bike," says the British School, Al Khubairat pupil. "I will be really nervous when I wake up on the morning of the race. Hopefully I will be prepared to get it done.
"I'm not looking for a time or a place. I'm just in it to finish."