Oldest runner Ken, 85, aiming to keep ever present record in tact
85-year-old Ken Jones is not only the oldest runner in the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon, he is also one of just 11 remaining Ever Presents who have run every edition of the race since the first one in 1981.
That means Jones, from Strabane in Northern Ireland, is now gearing up for his 39th consecutive London Marathon and though last year’s race was his toughest yet, there was never any doubt in his mind he would be back on the Start Line for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 28 April.
“Nope, never any doubt,” said Jones. “I’m in much better shape than last year. I’ve been swimming three times a week instead of doing as much running and that has helped.
“Besides I’ve got my eyes focused on next year, the 40th birthday of the London Marathon. That’s a big one for me and for all the Ever Presents as it will be our 40th straight marathon.”
Jones was living in Chingford, in Greater London, for the first 22 of his 38 marathons. He was a lot swifter around the 26.2 miles back then, too.
“My best time in London was 2 hours 55 minutes which was in 1985. Last year I finished in 7:50 so there is a bit of a difference. In the old days my training was about an hour a day, most days, now I have to do a lot more because it takes me longer to cover the distances. I’m doing two hours of walking and jogging a day when I can.
“But I still find it fun. I might not have the speed I once had but I still love it and I still love marathon day. I walk and jog my way round, chat to different people. It’s a fantastic day and I enjoy it as much as I ever did.”
Jones moved to Northern Ireland with his wife Nora, who he describes as a ‘running widow’, in 2003 and since then he has become the go-to man for the community’s runners.
“The local runners are always coming up to me and asking for advice and tips,” he said. “A lot of runners from Northern Ireland come over each year to run the London Marathon. We all come over on the same plane from Belfast each year and I always get asked for tips and advice on the flight.
“We’ve also got a couple of women in the village who are also running the London Marathon this year for the first time and they are always asking me questions.”
So what are the tips? “I say, always take the training gentle, you don’t want to over-do it and injure yourself and, also, compression socks. They are my secret! I’ve got thrombosis in my calves and they have been brilliant for me. I don’t go anywhere without them now. I just wish they had been around a bit sooner!”
The oldest female runner in this year’s race is Eileen Noble, from Bexleyheath, who will be 84 on Race Day.
Noble was also the oldest female runner last year and finished what was the hottest London Marathon in record in 6:47. She is hoping she will be a bit faster this time round.
“Last year was very hard going,” she said. “It got to the point where I just wanted to make sure I got to the Finish.
“My big ambition is to complete this year’s race and then next year’s too because that would be my 20th London Marathon – so I’m already thinking one step ahead.”
Noble runs four times a week and says staying fit keeps her young.
“It really does,” she said. “It keeps me fit and healthy but it also helps me make friends with people a lot younger than me who I go out running with. Other elderly people may just socialise with one another but I’m able to run with all different age groups and that does make you feel younger.”
Noble is running for MACS, a charity supporting children born without eyes or with underdeveloped eyes. Noble is having problems with her own eyesight has she is getting older and said she is particularly keen to support children who are growing up with such major sight problems. To sponsor her, click here.
The youngest runner this year is Joshua Hill, from Chatham, Kent. Hill will celebrate his 18th birthday just four days before Race Day which means any big celebration will have to take place once he has crossed the line.
“I don’t think I quite realised it would be four days before my birthday when I signed up,” said Hill. “So I don’t think I will be doing much celebrating on the day itself, I’ll wait until after the race.”
“My friends and family have been really supportive. I think they underestimated how far a marathon is but I have a lot of support and a lot of people will be coming up to watch me on the day.
Hill is running for The Maypole Project – a charity which provides emotional wellbeing to families of children with complex medical needs.
He said: “I didn’t really run at all before signing up. It was only in April last year that I decided to start going to the gym and getting fit. I didn’t really do any sport at all before then, not even at school.
“I found it really difficult at first but I’m feeling a lot more confident now. I completed my first half marathon, The Vitality Big Half, in March and have been getting in the miles since so it is going well.
“The fundraising is going well, too. I’ve raised £600 so far.”
To sponsor Hill, click here.
The youngest female runner is Katie Ridley, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, who will be 18 and 34 days on Race Day.
Ridley, who is doing A-Levels at Rossett School in Harrogate, said: “I have always wanted to do the London Marathon, it’s been on my bucket list from when I was very young.
“My mum applies to run every year and hasn’t been successful in the ballot but I applied first time and got in. I never thought I would and I feel a bit bad for my mum, but it has been really good for me.
“If I’ve had a tough day at school, I go out for a run and it clears my head. My friends and teachers do think I’m a bit mad to want to run a marathon on top of all the studying I have on at the moment but I do really think the running helps my studies.
“I’m travelling back home at 8pm on the night of the marathon so I won’t get in until about midnight and I’ve got college the next morning so I think that might be a bit of a struggle though.”
Ridley is running for St Michael’s Hospice, a North Yorkshire hospice, and the mental health charity Mind. To sponsor her, click here.