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Strabane man Kenneth in his 37th London Marathon run

 

By Cate McCurry

While most pensioners spend their retirement pursuing therapeutic hobbies, a Co Tyrone-based great-grandfather is on course to complete his 37th marathon - just weeks ahead of his 84th birthday.

Avid runner Kenneth Jones has competed in the gruelling 26.3-mile London event since it began in 1981.

The Strabane man, who flew to England yesterday, said he was looking forward to pounding the capital's streets tomorrow.

He's one of the 12 'Ever Presents' - the select few who've never missed the race, and has been running for almost 60 years.

The father-of-one, who was born in London, moved to Strabane 14 years ago after he and his wife Nora (82) retired to her home town.

Every April the pensioner makes the pilgrimage back to take part in his favourite race.

The former civil servant credits his wife with keeping him up to the mark when it comes to persevering with his strenuous training schedule, which includes a three-hour walk every week.

"Some days I get very lazy, so she encourages me," he said.

"I go out for long walks around home and I do a little bit of jogging in-between. I do little walks a few times a week and one three-hour walk once a week.

"It's only a couple of miles but it keeps my legs in good condition and they are strong. I always walk on my own but there is lots to see and I bump into people I know, so I wave and talk to them."

The pensioner expects to complete the event in under seven hours but says he enjoys every minute.

"Most people like me are in nursing homes," he joked.

"It will be a challenge tomorrow, even worse than last year, but I have done all the training I need to."

Kenneth is a well-known face in Strabane and is often spotted running the roads, in the local swimming pool or visiting the Realm and Lifford Strabane Athletic Clubs, encouraging runners of all ages.

His aim is to complete 40 marathons before he will consider hanging up his old trainers for good.

"That would be a nice achievement. But I never know when I'll give up. I could be running 15 miles in tomorrow's race and collapse in a heap, I just don't know," he said.

"When you do the marathon there are causalities towards the end, but I am usually running past them."

However, the gruelling training regime and marathons are slowly catching up with Kenneth, as it takes him longer to recover from his exertions.

"When you get old you find it is the recovery that is the problem," he explained.

"You get home from a run and it takes you four days to feel better again. After last year's London Marathon, I had to take two months off."

The pensioner will be the oldest runner in this year's event.

Kenneth, who will celebrate the marathon with a Pepsi and a sandwich, says the secret behind his enthusiasm stems from a love of fresh air and nature.

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