The running man

Western Telegraph: Chris celebrates breaking four-hour barrier at the Abingdon marathon. Chris celebrates breaking four-hour barrier at the Abingdon marathon.

The Western Telegraph has always tried to promote the idea that there is a sport for most people and within reason it doesn’t matter when you take it up.

This week we feature Chris Birch, who was a useful cricketer in his younger days and still enjoys his weekly game of darts – but has now rediscovered his interest in running.

“I started running again in 2004 at age of 45. It’s helpful to be involved in a support network to keep you going so I have the TROT running club, a group of runners at work called the ‘Changing Village People’ and my family,” he says.

“As well as my own running I have been delighted that my better half also felt she could give it a try after starting out with the ‘Race for Life’ three years ago, then the Swansea 10k – and Mrs B literally hasn’t stopped running since.

“I might just get round to table tennis again at some time, but I did dig out my bat from all those years ago and it was pretty wrecked!

“The idea, which sounded okay months ago, was to celebrate 25 years of marathon running (albeit with a rather large gap in the middle) by going back to the scene of my first marathon at Abingdon near Oxford, where I used to teach. The target was to run under four hours, having taken four hours 15minutes at the London Marathon in April.

“Then the plan was to build up to Abingdon Marathon so I decided to do the Dale Half Marathon on 30th September, followed by the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 14th with younger son Andrew, and seven days later the Abingdon Marathon with elder son Matthew. Dale went fine in 1 hour 48 minutes, and a strong and steady run at Cardiff in one hour 42 minutes, 10 minutes behind Andrew, but keeping some in reserve for Abingdon a week later.

“The plan at Abingdon was to run 20 miles at around 8:55 minutes per mile which would leave me 1 hour for the last 6.2 miles to run under four hours.

“The race went exactly to plan, within seconds, with a finishing time of 3:58:40, back under four hours again and my best time for some considerable years and only 13 minutes slower than 25 years ago.

“Matthew had the flu and was unable to run with me but he’s already qualified for London next year so he will have the chance then.

“But I did meet up with the colleague who I ran with 25 years ago on the day and he cheered me on to the finish line.

“So turning 54 soon and with my best time for many years, what are the next steps? Duathlons next year, faster half marathons and 10ks, and in the longer term, London Marathon when I’m 60, because it’s never too late!”

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