The oldest runner in this year’s race has run more London Marathons than the youngest runner has seen birthdays – twice as many in fact!
Aged 83 years and 339 days, Kenneth Jones is the oldest runner in this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon. He is also one of just 12 Ever Presents who have run in every single London Marathon since the first one in 1981. For more information on Ken, click here.
At the other end of the age scale is the youngest runner Bronte Randle-Bissell who will stand on the Start Line on Sunday 23 April aged just 18 years and three days.
Bronte is just five days the junior of the youngest male in this year’s race who is Thomas Hodges while the oldest woman is Eleanor Draper aged 82.
Running the marathon promises to be an emotional experience for Bronte Randle-Bissell who is studying for A-Levels at Peter Symonds College in Winchester.
The teenager, who originally hails from Coventry, is running for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in memory of her best friend Leanne Goodlad who died two years ago aged 16 from cancer.
The pair met at the City of Coventry Swimming Club when they were both six years old and formed a bond immediately. “As swimmers we saw each other every night for six or seven nights a week and we became best friends through that.” said Bronte. “It was incredibly sad when Leanne died and I knew that I wanted to do something for her.”
Bronte joined Leanne and her mum Karen on a trip to Florida before the teenager’s tragic death which was made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation charity.
The teenage girls had a wonderful time in the USA visiting Disneyworld and Universal Studios and Bronte knew when Leanne passed away that it was Make-A-Wish Foundation that she wanted to fundraise for.
“The holiday was during a time when Leanne was feeling a bit better,” said Bronte. “And it was special. We did everything there was to do and I have amazing memories from the trip.” “As swimmers we talked about doing a swimathon together to raise money but when she died I thought about doing a challenge on my own and that’s when I thought of the London Marathon.” Bronte and Leanne were not only swim partners they were very talented competitors.
“We would train with each other, race each other and we were best friends.” said Bronte. “I carried on swimming until I was about 14 but Leanne had to give it up earlier when she started to become ill.”
Bronte was the fastest 50m and 100m breastroke swimmer in the country for one year and admits she could have chosen to chase a sporting dream in the pool.
In the end, the pressure of school and exams meant she decided not to continue swimming but all that training means the marathon training has not been as tough as it might have been for other runners.
“I was 14 when I stopped,” she said. “At that point I didn’t do any swimming at all for two months but I thought ‘this is not for me’. So I started up swimming again, not competitively, but I go swimming three or four times a week. Since I’ve been marathon training I’ve combined that with some runs.”
Bronte’s family, as well as Leanne’s mum, will be coming to London to watch her tackle the 26.2 miles and she admits she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received.
“The amount of support I have received has warmed my heart. I know how important it is to Leanne’s mum and she is coming down to watch. My family will be there, too.” she said. “My mum has done it before and she has warned me it will be a real rollercoaster of emotions, so that’s what I’m expecting.”
Eleanor Draper, 82, is the oldest female running this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon and as with the majority of the 200-odd marathons she has run before, her husband Dennis will be beside her every step of the way. The running-mad couple estimate they have run five marathons a year since their first one together in 1988. Not even battles with cancer for them both could knock them down for long with the duo from Welwyn Garden City’s attitude that fresh air is the best cure for all ills.
“I once vowed I would never run.” said Eleanor. “I did all kinds of sports when I was younger and then I went into nursing and got married. I occasionally would play netball and Dennis would play football and cricket but we never thought about running until someone said ‘why don’t you come out for a run?’ A year to the day I was running my first London Marathon in 1988.”
The Drapers are a common and heart-warming sight in Welwyn Garden City, running together, along with their border collie Skye.
“She is definitely the fastest of the three of us.” laughed Eleanor. “But running is brilliant. You are outside with all that scenery, with family and friends. It’s fantastic. We have both fought cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and Dennis had prostate cancer but we both carried on running. What is the point of dwelling on things?”
The Drapers will follow their usual marathon routine together, with the plan to run alongside one another for the full 26.2miles unless one feels particularly good – or bad. “We tend to play it by ear.” Eleanor said. “If one of us is keeping the other one back we will go ahead. It’s most likely to be Dennis who finishes first, but by no more than half an hour.” There is no plan to put the running trainers to back of the cupboard for either of them yet either.
Eleanor said: “I am as fit as I was 10 years ago. We swim four days a week, run most days and go out on our bikes too.”
The youngest male runner is Thomas Hodges, 18, from Derbyshire, who will be running alongside his dad Tim to raise money for The Fire Fighters Charity.
Tim has been a firefighter for the past 28 years and Thomas has known nothing else than his dad working for the emergency service. He said: “My dad has looked after me his whole life and this is my way to show my thanks. I’m quite proud that I’m going to be running alongside my dad raising money for The Fire Fighters Charity.” “The charity is very supportive of injured firefighters and their families and though my dad has not needed it, it provides an invaluable service to people who do.”
The father and son duo have been training together and ran the adidas Silverstone Half Marathon together on Sunday 12 March. “When my dad crossed the Finish Line he said ‘that’s only half way’ and smiled.” Thomas said. “But it’s going to be so exciting to run the London Marathon. I’ve always wanted to do something special alongside my father.”