Derek James

Derek James

Age: 73
Location: East London
Marathon: London
Target: Sub-4

When and why did you start running, and what races have you run so far?
When I was 35, a prefect at the school I taught in suggested that we organise a 10-mile run for the staff and pupils. I agreed reluctantly as I had never enjoyed running, but I did quite well and beat a lot of people that I thought were faster than me. Running then became my main sport. I took part in lots of races and, in 1985, ran the London Marathon in 3:05. I ran it three more times then decided to have one last attempt in 2013, a week after my 70th birthday. I enjoyed it so much that, as I crossed the finish line, I decided to do it again. The same thing has happened every year since then.

What do you enjoy most about running?
I have always been a poor sprinter, but have good stamina and endurance and quite a high pain threshold. I enjoy the feeling of physical tiredness at the end of a run. I enjoy almost anything in the fresh air, and have a good tolerance of cold, heat, wind, rain and snow. Virtually all the runners I know are really nice people, whose company I enjoy.

What marathon are you running, why did you choose it, and what time are you hoping for?
I am running the London Marathon for which I have a ‘Good For Age’ place. This is for the ninth time and the fifth since I turned 70. London is the only marathon I have run. I wish I had done others when I was younger and faster. I love the course and the crowds and its prestige. Richard House Children’s Hospice is such a good cause and I like being one of the 25 or so people who run for it. I hope to finish in under four hours – even a second under would be great.

Why did you want to be part of the Big Marathon Challenge?
I feel that under four hours is not unrealistic – in spite of getting slower with age – if I have the extra help and incentive the challenge provides. My fastest time since turning 70 is 4:03. The following year, I almost made four hours, but got cramp in both calves at mile 21, and only managed 4:16. I have enjoyed reading about previous participants in the Challenge, envying them and in a way willing them on to achieve their aims as if I knew them.

Tell us one interesting fact about you.
I think I have had an active and interesting retirement for 13 years. I regularly go running, kayaking, sailing, walking and scrambling in the mountains. I do some voluntary work and I paint. I have also skied across the Greenland ice cap, climbed to 7,000 metres up Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, backpacked the John Muir Trail in California and been horse trekking in Mongolia.

Recent posts