John's just amazing with his running performances

John Gardener can regularly be seen running around the roads in Broad Haven as he trains for his latest marathon adventure which has previously seen him compete at famous venues like London, Sydney, Hamburg and Edinburgh.
John Gardener His is a remarkable story because, apart from a short spell when he was 17-19, plus a five-year stint in his 40s, John has only been running again since 2010, when he was 69!
Since then he has also participated in any number of half marathons and as a member of the Welsh Masters group he has raced at every distance on the track from 100 metres to 5,000 metres, with gold medals from all seven distances!
Early taste of running – before other sports took over
John's initial taste of running came as an apprentice in a company which held an inter-departmental relay race over three and a half miles for each relay.
"I was the fastest runner in our four-man team and our Apprentice Team did well coming Fourth"!
But then other sports like table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis took over, as well as chess, which John played so well that he represented Hampshire, Berkshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire; depending on where work took him.

Took up a challenge from a relative

And that is the way things stayed until John was 41 and his brother-in-law Peter challenged him to run in the Nottingham Half Marathon. So again John started to train hard and he was delighted to complete the course in 1 hour 40 minutes.
And Peter? He didn't manage to take part because he damaged his knee in training!
During his five years of athletic activity then John achieved a personal best for the half marathon of 1 hour 18 minutes and 23 seconds in Berkshire and extended his experiences to full marathons.
"I enjoyed the step up in distance and was delighted to complete the Birmingham Marathon in two hours 59 minutes - but then I had to have a hernia operation from which I seemed to take ages to recover and I lost my motivation to run so my running shoes were put in the cupboard," admitted John.

John Gardener outdoorsRekindled spark in Pembrokeshire

And that is the way things stayed until he came to Pembrokeshire because his wife Stefanja wanted to return to her roots in this area.
"But I was still here for some time before I was bitten by the running bug after chatting to a neighbour who enjoyed triathlons and regularly used the roads of Broad Haven and we chatted about the joys of running.
"By then I was 69 and decided it would be a challenge to complete a marathon for my 70th birthday and plumped on the famous one in Hamburg, Germany, because my younger brother lived only 20 miles away and it took place six days before my big birthday!
"I had trained hard for the race and in the build-up I completed distances of near 20 miles in the quiet roads around my home - and although I ran conservatively for much of the 26+ mile distance I came fourth in my age category in 3 hours 49 minutes, which was amazing.

New challenges faced

Boosted by this success John continued to enjoy running and within five months he had completed another marathon in Chester.
"I pushed myself harder this time and after 20 miles I had only taken 2 hours and 40 minutes but then I hit the proverbial 'Wall' and it took me another hour and ten minutes to struggle through the final six miles 385 yards - so it took me six seconds longer than my previous marathon in Hamburg!"
Since then John has continued to run: twice in the London Marathon where in 2013 he won the 70-74 age group in a smashing time of 3 hours 30 minutes and 26 seconds, and a year later when his time was slightly slower in 3 hours 42 minutes.

Lighter moments enjoyed

There have also been some lighter moments, like the time he completed the 2015 Sydney Marathon on a visit to his sister in law in Australia, who again lived fairly close nearby.
"I was running up a fairly steep incline and found myself overtaken by a younger chap who was fast-walking the course.”
"Fortunately on the decline that followed I overtook him and I'm glad to say that I didn't see him again," said John with a typical chuckle!
There was more laughter when he and his sister flew across Australia and he was asked if he wanted help to shift his luggage – and the offer was promptly turned down by the lady, who told the feller that he was talking to someone who had completed the Marathon just a few days earlier!

Track success

John Gardener indoorsIt is fair to say that although John loves his road running he has also done really well on the track after joining the Pembrokeshire Harriers and being made very welcome indeed by Laurence Worth, who coaches long distances with senior members of the club.
When he began on the track he was placed in the 70-74 years category and took part in events from 100 metres (or 60 metres indoors) to 5,000 metres and one of the undoubted highlights was winning the 1,500 metres gold medal at the British Masters Track Championships in Derby.
There are seven track races for the old-timers that include 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 800 metres, 1,500 metres, 3,000metres and 5,000 metres - and on one occasion John entered the lot in Cardiff and won them all in his Age Group!
"I have to admit that there weren't many in my age group," said John, "and it wasn't as hard as it sounds because if you add up the total distance, with rest periods in between, it was only  11 kilometres over a total of  five hours so all I had to guard against was getting over-stiff."
Nonetheless, it was a very creditable feat and resulted in him being chosen as 'Athlete of the Year' by his colleagues young and old at The Harriers!

Medals galore at Welsh Masters

At the moment the Welsh Masters events are held at Cardiff, Brecon, Newport and Swansea - and John rarely misses any of them and says it is surprising how many runners are now in his age category, where he is one of the youngest in the 75-79 year olds.
"This year I took part in four races at Brecon for the Master’s Championships and I picked up four golds, which was very nice indeed, and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to Chester for my final marathon of this season."
John completed the Marathon at Chester in 3hrs 38 min 17 seconds,  winning the Gold Medal in British Marathon Championships for those who are 75+, and as a matter of interest he is also British Champion for the one mile, ten mile and half marathon

And finally . . .

 Ask John Gardener about continuing and he would say,
"I've managed to compete somewhere special in every significant year of my later life and it is still a long way to my 80th but who knows - that might be the time to complete my hat-trick of London Marathons."
It is said with a typical twinkle in his eyes but after chatting to this remarkable 76 year old we wouldn't bet against him achieving that aim - and it was a privilege to talk to someone who is still living his sporting life to the full!