I liked to think of myself as a phlegmatic, stiff-upper-lip Englishman, but that went out of the window when I was told that I’d been accepted on the Men’s Running “Big Marathon Challenge”. Although I am 73 I felt like a seven-year-old who’d just seen the Christmas present he’d asked for. Since then I haven’t wanted to think about anything except running the 2017 London Marathon. At least once a day I have a moment of pure euphoria.


Until I was 35 I didn’t enjoy running and did it only as part of fitness training for other sports. Then I was reluctantly persuaded, by a prefect at the school where I taught, to organise and run a 10-mile race. My initial response was “I could never run ten miles”, but I did it and enjoyed it. I’ve been running ever since. I still do other sports, and for seven or eight months a year, they tend to take precedence. But from December to April running has absolute priority.


2017 will be my ninth London Marathon and my fifth consecutive one. My best time, many years ago, was 3 hours 5 minutes (twice), and my best time since turning 70 was 4 hours 3 minutes 35 seconds. My ambition is to get under four hours, even by a second. If I don’t manage it, it will not be for want of trying, as I’m determined to give it my best shot. And I am an optimist. So much so that there is already a little voice inside my brain saying “after April 23rd there may be a Senior Citizens’ Ultra you could think about”.

Derek James.JPG

I shall be running as usual for Richard House Children’s Hospice, where I’m the volunteer gardener. It does support work for hundreds of children and their families. They have to raise about two million pounds a year, but every little helps.