Marathon man's last run for charity that's close to heart
- Credit: Terry Ife
Keen Sidmouth runner John Keast is getting ready for his final marathon next week as he prepares to hang up his running shoes.
John, who lives with his wife on Connaught Road, has been an enthusiastic runner for 40 years and helped set up Sidmouth Running Club. He will be lacing up his running shoes one last time on Saturday, June 12, as he prepares to run 26.2 miles around East Hill, finishing the last leg on Sidmouth seafront.
The 60-year-old runner, who celebrated his birthday in May, decided it was time to step away from running after a long-standing heart condition made it increasingly difficult for him to run.
John said: “I do have mixed emotions about this stage of my ‘running career’. I will miss the banter of the group running – but getting slower is also a feature of ageing!
"However, I also feel fortunate in several ways – to have been diagnosed and have a further 13 years of decent running has been a massive bonus. I knew this time would come and I have exciting plans for cycling and walking in the future, and the occasional very slow run.
“I have also been hugely fortunate to have remained fit and almost completely injury free for my 40 years of running. There are so many positives to reflect on – such as having made such good friends and discovered some amazing places through running. I am a proud dad, now getting vicarious enjoyment out of seeing my two daughters loving their running, cycling and being outdoors.”
Having grown up in Sidmouth, John joined the Royal Navy in 1978 and trained as a nurse, which is where he met his wife, also a nurse. He moved back to Sidmouth in 1988 and worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital before retiring five years ago - but carried on working part-time and helped out during the Covid pandemic.
It was while in the Royal Navy that John took up running, having suffered injuries playing rugby and seeking a different sport to enjoy.
“I played rugby on a Wednesday afternoon, but kept getting injured so I took up running. I seemed to do OK without much training and ended up running for the Royal Navy team.
“It was when I moved back to Sidmouth that I really started enjoying the footpaths and trails of East Devon and in the early 90s off-road racing really took off. I first ran the Grizzly in 1990 and have run it over 20 times since, managing to finish third one year (when it was a much smaller event). I am the only person to have run all 20 of the 4 Trigs Challenge, finishing first on two occasions – an event that raises money for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to support local screening.”
In 2003, John was part of a small group of runners who helped establish Sidmouth Running Club and was the first chairman in February 2003. The club has continued to grow ever since.
John will be running in aid of CRY, a charity which he says is “close to my heart”. He first became aware of the charity's work following the death of a fit young Sidmouth man, Jonathan Hayman, who had an undiagnosed heart condition.
“I had already been diagnosed with my heart condition and because of their focus with younger people it resonated with me as their screening work is very important in diagnosing treatable cardiac conditions in the young,” added John.
For his last run, John is hoping to be sponsored £100 a mile, raising £2,620 in total, and says he is keen for people to join him for a few yards or even the whole distance.
Debbie Ellis, the proprietor of 14 Miles East café, is donating two £50 vouchers, redeemable at the café for the person who guesses the finishing time of John’s marathon.
John, who has to date run four marathons with his best time of 2hrs 38mins recorded at the London Marathon in 1990, said: “I am grateful for people sponsoring me at and who will attempt to guess the time it will take me to complete. Please state the guess in hours, minutes and seconds (not days!)."
To support John's last run go to: at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JohnKeast1
You can message John with your guess for his marathon time via Facebook or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org