A pensioner who has run 157 marathons and 23 ultra-marathons says the secret to his running success is hard work and a healthy diet, with a side of hot chocolate and wine gums.
Bill Mitchell, 73, only began running in his early 60s and says that he’s now the fittest he’s ever been. The former merchant navy officer from Turnditch, Derbyshire, has run the infamous Marathon des Sables – a six-day, 250km endurance test where temperatures often exceed 50C – an astonishing three times.
“A lot of people resign themselves to old age. I always say to people ‘you’re never too old to do anything’. The bottom line is anyone can do it as long as they’ve got the desire,” he said.
Mitchell said he found his second ultra-marathon much easier than his first, and puts the success down to an unconventional diet plan. “I had hot chocolate every day. It was delicious. I also carried a small bag of wine gums with me,” he said.
Besides these treats however, Mitchell does follow a strict diet to ensure he’s healthy and fit. “I don’t eat meat, drink but I do eat oily fish. I have a very healthy diet and I don’t touch cream or butter or anything with a lot of fat in. I like my food to be quite dry to the extent that people don’t like it. If you’re doing things like this you need to have a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Despite only having run for 10 years, Mitchell has completed an astounding 157 marathons across the world as well as a total of 227 races.
Mitchell said: “The first one in 2016 was a real challenge because they had the highest temperatures they’d ever had. I found the second race easier.”
Bill only began running in April 2008 but had always led an active lifestyle. He says that his hobby has now led him and his wife Linda, 68, across the globe.
“She’s quite pleased for me. She often looks out for races for me,” Bill said. “It’s brought a lot into our life because we’ve gone and stayed all over the place we’d just not see if we stayed in Derby.”
The grandad said his passion has given him a host of health benefits.
“I’m a lot fitter than most people my age,” Bill explained. “My heart rate is 53 beats per minute and my cholesterol is very low. My doctor says I have the lowest cholesterol in my local area.
“I can run all over the place and be quite comfortable for long periods of time. When you get fit you don’t notice you’re getting fit, it’s quite a gradual thing.”
At an age when most are settling into retirement and a slower pace, Mitchell still works as a marquee company director and said that his ambitions have only increased – last year he ran 18 marathons.
He said: “I want to try and do tougher races. I’m looking at a high altitude marathon in Chile across the Atacama as well as one in the arctic circle. I’ve always liked doing things with an edge to them.”
He added: “I don’t like to boast. I wanted to rest in the Sahara at a check point. About 3am I got up and set off again. I was running up a sand dune and a runner came past and said ‘by God Bill you’re tough’.
“I’m determined. Once I’ve made my mind up it’s going to happen.”