13th June 2024

James’ London Marathon Story

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James Ferguson was one of the oldest participants in this year’s London Marathon and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon!

“You’re never too old to run a marathon – that’s my slogan! Support from my family and friends gave me the determination to get to the end, especially when I had to walk the last 4 miles as my knees gave out.

“Everyone has been telling me that this year will be the last time I run such a distance, and considering my knee ligament issues I can understand why they would think that – but me and my sports physiotherapist are working on how to overcome my injuries, so maybe we’ll prove them wrong.  

“In 6 months, if my legs have improved, I’ll take on a half marathon to see how I get on. However, I have already put my name forward for the 2025 London Marathon ballot, so I have high hopes!  I have also just been accepted for the 2025 Ride London 100-mile bike ride.

“When you’re older, you need something to aim for to keep your mind and body motivated. As someone with Asperger’s, taking on new things can be its own challenge, but without them, I’d just feel bored and lazy!

“I ran my first marathon at 45 in 1999, back when the London Marathon was organised by Flora, the well-known margarine.”

I decided to take on the 2024 London Marathon after watching the 2023 event on TV. I wanted to push myself and this was the perfect opportunity! My wife Colleen was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015, and I wanted to represent and fundraise for a charity that supports those affected by the disease. Apart from slight fatigue, my wife had no obvious symptoms. 

“She saw her GP and after a CT scan, doctors discovered a golf ball-sized tumour at the base of her left lung. She was a non-smoker, so the diagnosis came as a shock to both of us. It was strange that our German shepherd kept alerting her to something before seeing a GP, but she didn’t know what until after her diagnosis! It was peculiar, our dog kept staring at my wife’s mouth and looking up at her.

“Thankfully, her cancer was caught at stage 1 and after treatment and surgery, she was given the all-clear. Colleen and our dog Inca were even invited to the ITV show Good Morning Britain to share their story! 

“Learning that Roy Castle was also a non-smoker helped solidify my decision to run for Colleen and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (especially as I used to play trumpet like Roy). So, I emailed them with the story of my wife and said I wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday too. Lo and behold about a week later I was offered the place!

“It was so lovely having my wife cheer me on and the support from all my family. We have two children together, our daughter, 35, is a primary school teacher and our son, 30, is a mathematician working as an IT programmer living in Canada. 

“Me and my wife met in 1971 on a blind date. We went to see the cult film Vanishing Point and the rest is history! I worked in Landscape Management for many years since 1978 and have lectured at colleges too. In the mid 90’s I decided to change my career and trained in health & safety. I finally retired in 2021. 

“Like many, I love to repair things, so general DIY and gardening are firm hobbies of mine. I also love mechanics and have owned motorbikes since the age of 16. Since retiring, I’ve also picked up the pleasure of reading. 

“Living with Aspergers does require effort every day to deal with life and this sometimes takes up more time and energy than you would like, so sometimes I do not seem to find the time to do more of the fun things in life.

“I am not complaining as I am very lucky with what I have achieved and what I have in life.  

The 2024 London Marathon was 6 months of extra but enjoyable work. Unfortunately, the joy of any success is short-lived with me and I am now looking for the next thing to dedicate myself to!

“My tips for anyone looking to take on the London Marathon next year are to use Vaseline in your socks to stop blisters – weird but it works!  Always warm up before you run and follow the training advice on the official London Marathon website!  Also, put plasters over your nipples, the chafe can be a nightmare. Ensure your running shoes are also half a size bigger than your normal shoes as your feet can swell running such long distances. Stretch at the end of the race to help stop aches and pains the following day, and most importantly, keep your hydration levels up, especially if you’re older. 

“For anyone with Asperger’s looking to take part next year, I know how difficult it can be to be near crowds of people. Make sure you have a support system around you if you can – my wife has always been that for me and has pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed it. 

“It also helps to research the site before you go so you know where the facilities are when you need them. That can help with stress and anxiety, especially knowing where stewards are stationed. I was impressed at how well the London Marathon was organised.  It was a relief to see stewards along the route and clear signs to help you along the way – this was a major plus to me.”