Published: 08:00, 21 October 2016
A 79-year-old has just found out he will be running the London Marathon for the third time.
The extraordinary Ray Johnson, of St John’s Road, is capable of planking – holding his unsupported body rigidly horizontal – for more than 10 minutes.
And last year, he outdid former professional footballer Chris Kamara with a five-minute, 40-second plank live on Good Morning Britain.
The inspirational pensioner now has a new challenge to focus on as he discovered he was one of the lucky few of the record 253,950 applicants to win a place in the 2017 London Marathon.
He said: “I am thrilled. It will be my third marathon and it takes place 12 days before I celebrate my 80th birthday.
“It’s funny. In the last marathon I did, I was running alongside an 18-year-old, but about a mile from the end he told me to run on as he couldn’t keep up.”
Ray hopes to complete the marathon in six hours.
He trains in the Abbey School gym four days a week, has regular sessions with Kesson Physiotherapy and takes part in a number of competitive runs.
At the recent Faversham 10k he had almost 100 people behind him when he crossed the finish line.
He boasts 29 medals and has five trophies for being the oldest runner in a race.
But he hasn’t always been a figure of health.
In his 20s he says he was “a bit of a mess” and drunk and smoked like a trooper, later going on to manage a tobacconist for 18 years.
He was in the army for three years in his youth, worked as a head receptionist for a top accountancy firm in London until he retired, and moved to Faversham in 1988 – and that’s when he decided to turn his life around.
Ray said: “I decided when I retired that I wanted to get fit, and by chance my postman, Graham Bedford, did a lot of running – he did his 10th London marathon this year.
“He told me to do the Faversham 10k, and since then I have taken part in 10 of them.
“Last year we both ran the marathon. He’s my inspiration.”
Ray now has a strict diet and fitness regime, eating lots of chicken, fish and salad, and using the cross-trainer, rowing machine and treadmill in the gym.
He added: “A lot of people ask me how I do it. I just say carry on exercising.
“I will never say I’m too old.
“Everyone is so supportive. I even get clapped when I’m coming in last but I have learnt that it really doesn’t matter how long it takes me.
“I have also learnt that just because you’re old, you don’t need to be lonely.
“You need to put yourself out there if you want to make friends, but it can happen.
“Starting to run and joining the running club was the best move I ever made.”
In 2017, Ray will be running to raise money for a breast cancer charity.
Previously, he has raised thousands for MS Research and Bowel Cancer UK.