SEVENTY-ONE years old, 150 miles, five pairs of trainers and just one little blister – Ray Matthews is a running inspiration.
The Maltby grandfather completed an almost unthinkable challenge at the weekend, running the 50-mile Round Rotherham race THREE times.
A retired structural engineer, Ray has previously written a book on his extreme running exploits, but he told the Guardian this was his toughest task yet.
Setting off from Manvers College at 5pm on Friday, he crossed the finish line at 10.01am on Sunday morning, just a minute after his predicted time.
And he was delighted to come through it unscathed: “It was just amazing, it all went according to plan.”
“I have no aches or pains, no injuries, just a blister on my little toe.”
Of the three sets of 50 miles, Ray pinpointed the middle race – when he joined the official Round Rotherham event – as the hardest.
“About 70 miles into my run, 20 miles into the race proper, I felt like I had been shot, my right hamstring seized up and I had to walk for a while.”
“I got really down, that was a low point for me because I had people giving up sleep to come and meet me through the night and I didn’t want to miss the times I had arranged with them.”
“But I realised I just had to go for it, and it was as if someone touched me and the pain just cleared.”
“Having been down and lost two hours, I was able to pull all the time back and just about made every meeting time.”
“The help I got from all those people running with me and meeting me was fantastic, I couldn’t have carried all that food and drink and I felt so supported.”
Friday’s first six miles were a real highlight for the Maltby man, when he was joined by his beloved granddaughter Holly.
The 17-year-old accompanied him on a previous ultra running challenge, and he admits her presence is a boost.
“It’s a great feeling running with her, she’s such a lovely girl and a great athlete herself,” he said.
“It really set me up for this, it was like I was floating along.”
The support of his family clearly means a lot to someone who dedicates himself to extreme running, particularly his wife Maureen.
Ray added: “These things couldn’t happen if it wasn’t for her. She thinks I’m a lunatic but she supports me and looks after me.”
“The whole family support me, my daughter Karen and grandkids, they were all tweeting through the night trying to get people to support me.”
The 150-mile slog wasn’t just about a personal achievement however, Ray is hoping to raise awareness and finance for two good causes.
He set up a donation page for the Blind Veterans UK charity, and wants to donate a specially adapted trike to the Newman School in Whiston.
“There are so many disabled children there and they really want one of these trikes but they’re about £800, so I want to get one and present it to them.”
Anyone who wants to help Ray secure the trike can contact him on 07720 636007.