International Athletics

London Marathon's oldest runner still going strong

2017-04-19 16:02
Virgin London Marathon (File)

London - His times are getting slower. He says he sometimes gets "very lazy." He aches a lot after his training runs.

This particular marathon runner can be excused all of that.

A month before his 84th birthday, Kenneth Jones will be running — or "trotting," as he describes his style — the London Marathon for the 37th straight year on Sunday.

He'll be the one wearing tracksuit bottoms, a pair of old running shoes and a wide grin. He'll be the one getting interviewed by the BBC on Tower Bridge during the race. He'll be the one who still expects to be passing many runners in their 20s and 30s in the closing stages.

"At almost 84, to do 26 miles, it's not bad, is it?" Jones says.

Jones is the oldest runner in this year's race, at 83 years and 339 days. He is one of 12 so-called "Ever Presents" who have run every single London Marathon since the first in 1981.

So what is the secret to Jones' longevity and enthusiasm?

He puts it down to his love of the fresh air and nature, his longstanding passion for Tai Chi, and his wife's vegetable stews. In fact, Nora — who is aged 82 and has been married to Kenneth for 57 years — is his inspiration.

"Some days I get very lazy, so she encourages me," Jones said in a phone interview. "She says, 'You'll never finish if you don't get out there and train.' Some days it can be grim, cold, not very nice, but she gets me out."

Jones lives in Strabane, a town in Northern Ireland near the border to Ireland. He moved there 14 years ago, having previously lived all his life in London, where he worked as a civil servant and first got a passion for running.

That passion exists to this day. On a usual week, he goes out on the country lanes near his home for two runs, getting plenty of well-wishes along the way. But the exercise regime has been ramped up ahead of the London Marathon, with Jones doing a long or short walk or run every day.

He also goes swimming twice a week.

"I don't touch the sides or the bottom of the pool for an hour," he said. "Just keep going."

Jones, who was a torch-bearer at the London Olympics in 2012, has run more than 100 marathons since his first in 1966 and his personal best is 2 hours, 41 minutes. Last year, he ran 6:53 hours and is hoping to break the seven-hour mark on Sunday, with the plan to walk the first 2 miles, jog the next 20 miles and hang on at the end.

"Old age has been caught up with me," he said. "I'll be nervous that I won't finish. But the last 36 years, I have never dropped out. I don't go tearing around, tearing my muscles. I've managed to keep myself healthy and injury-free."

Jones' goal is to do 40 London Marathons before "packing up."

"I've got four more to do," he said. "That would be some achievement."

Read more on:    london marathon  |  athletics
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