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'Moment of madness' led to marathon

By Hector MacKenzie

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Russell Turner
Russell Turner

A RELUCTANT runner from Ross-shire hits the streets of the capital this weekend to take on a marathon challenge that has stunned his nearest and dearest.

With distant childhood memories of being bullied by gym teachers into taking part in cross-country running, Russell Turner thought he’d abandoned his plimsolls for good when he finally left school 41 years ago.

Yet this weekend, the 6ft 6in man of many talents expects to line up for the London Mar-athon with the aim of cross-ing the line before everyone else goes home and already with £500-plus pledges for two causes close to his heart.

A journalist who switched from a role as sub-editor to the author of a number of books and acclaimed amateur photographer, the Black Isle resident, who also finds time to play bass in award-winning covers band, City Limits, admits his debut participation in one of the world’s great marathons not far shy of his 60th birthday was an unlikely turn of events.

He said: "Leaving school was good news for many reasons, chief among them the knowledge that I could no longer be bullied by games masters into taking part in cross-country running.

"I was the lanky kid with chapped thighs and a stitch who straggled behind the stragglers, puffing through the streets and parks around school to be greeted by local residents with helpful cries such as, ‘Come on Tail-end Charlie, keep your feet up!’ On that happy day of release, I abandoned my plimsolls and games shirt without a second thought. My running days were over.

"After all, why on Earth would anyone run who’s not being pursued by a bear, a maniac with a chainsaw, or a swarm of angry hornets? I have a car and a motorbike to get around and walking is perfectly adequate for moderate distances. Why spoil it by running?"

His view of running changed little as the years went by, even when he met his future wife – an enthusiastic runner who completed the event in 2013.

But in what he describes as "a moment of madness" kept secret from his wife, nicknamed the Running Queen, he entered the ballot for the London Marathon.

He said: "In October, I learned I’d been successful – a matter for debate – and that the Running Queen, who’d also entered, had not."

Bravely, he let her discover it on his blog.

He said the inevitable cross-examination as to what he was thinking "was a good question". "I could blame my approaching 60th birthday, or the need for a challenge to get me out of a rut, or a desire to discover just how much effort the Running Queen puts into her chosen sport, or even a wish to make her proud of her sedentary husband. I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

"At 6ft 6in tall, my 15 stones were within the acceptable body mass index, my blood pressure was good, I’ve never smoked, don’t drink much, and I’ve inherited fine genes from a mother who’s still active in her late 70s."

He will be raising money for Cats Protection and Animals Asia.

Russell said: "So look out for me on the television. I’ll be the tall one in the yellow Cats Protection vest, probably with the stragglers, being overtaken by a duck.

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