The London Marathon’s oldest “ever-present” competitor has said he cannot wait to get his hands on his 40th participants’ medal.
Ken Jones, 87, said it felt great to tie up his laces again, despite the most difficult weather conditions he has endured in four decades of competing in the race.
Mr Jones said: “The weather has never been as bad as this. It’s been terrible.”
The veteran runner, from Stabane, Co Tyrone, was among thousands of people taking part in the first virtual London Marathon in gale-force winds and rain.
He set out on his own 26.2 mile route around Strabane on Sunday with a special app tracking his progress due to the pandemic.
Mr Jones said he was disappointed Covid-19 had forced the cancellation of the physical event but it was nice to be able to do the race at home.
But he said the pandemic had made him concerned he would not get his 40th participants’ medal in the post in the coming weeks.
“I go out early morning when there’s no one around,” he told the PA news agency.
“I train in the morning, but with the pandemic I can’t go out to the shops because I don’t want to catch this virus because that would stop me dead.”
But he said he was glad he was able to compete virtually: “I want my 40th medal. I want that medal. That’s the main thing I want.”
He set out on the marathon in heavy rain and gales on Sunday afternoon with his daughter Heather, who is also a keen runner.
He is the oldest of 10 men who ran their 40th marathon in the 2020 event, known as Ever Presents.
Now in his late 80s, Mr Jones said he has found he has to train for longer to get the same results.
“It’s not that it has gotten much tougher, it’s that you’ve to train for longer times,” he said.
“In the earlier days we’d go out for a run for an hour or so but now I’ve to go out for two or three hours for a training session.
In the lead up to the marathon he said he would train for about six hours per week.
During training he has been zig-zagging through the relatively flat streets of Strabane – 10 miles most Sundays with a couple of 20-mile stretches more recently.
He said it was encouragement from his running club that gave him the drive to keep long distance running all his life.
His personal best was two hours 41 minutes, but times have crept up with the mounting years, and now he mainly walks.
One of his secrets is not to run fast down hills, which helps protect the knees.
Another is bending exercises to stretch his lower back and keep him free from injuries.
Mr Jones said younger runners are always looking for tips from him on how to train: “I tell them about the correct shoes to wear. Never to drink alcohol because that slows you down, about when to go out.
“You’ve got to out when you can enjoy it. Not when it is like it is today pouring with rain. Go out and enjoy it and run with your friends, as many friends as you can.”
Mr Jones is already looking ahead to next year’s race.
“I’m going to enter for next year’s marathon,” he said. “I’ll be 88 then. I might call it a day then. But I’ll see how I feel next year.”