“I ran 75 marathons in 75 days aged 75 – here are my top tips for older runners”

The amazing story of Ray Matthews, who didn’t start running until he was in his late fifties, but still achieved a unique record.

For Ray Matthews, retiring from work didn’t mean putting his feet up. Instead, it meant setting himself a new goal, to channel all that time and energy he suddenly found himself with.  

As a successful businessman and family man, he had worked 365 years a day, so the change that retirement brought was stark. He explains: “I retired and found I had the time to have a go. I watched the London Marathon on TV and thought, ‘I want to do that.’ And it all started from there.” 

For many thinking about retirement, opting to do a marathon at such an age might seem a bit extreme. “Society dictates what people can and cannot do,” says Ray. “People keep saying to me, ‘What? At your age?’, because that’s what is expected. But I say: ‘You have the time now [if you’re retired]. Use it and push yourself, whatever your goal.’ 

Ray Matthews ran 75 marathons in 75 days, aged 75Credit: Ray Matthews
Ray Matthews started running in his fifties and is still going 30 years later

Ray’s story

Change of direction

Like so many of us, Ray, now 82, had a sporting background in his youth, and he trained as a boxer. But then, like so many of us, that took a back seat when he had to earn a living.  

“My coach back then was brilliant, though, and taught me so many things like the value of how to keep going when it gets really hard,” he recalls. 

It’s that mindset that got him off the couch and onto the road, where he discovered that he loved running. “I remember loving a local 10k [six miles, 376 yards] I ran in, then I did the Great North Run and loved that. I enjoyed the satisfaction of it all.” 

Of course, loving running and the fitness and health associated with it is only part of the story behind Ray’s journey. Chatting to him about all the places he has run, it’s quickly clear that this is a driven man who is as much about giving back to the community as he is about simply running for fun.  

The best gift ever

His success – he modestly describes the 75 marathons in 75 days as “a birthday present to me and something to satisfy my own whims” – has generated thousands of pounds in donations, and hours of airtime on the BBC and ITV. All of which he has put to good use. He’s an ambassador for Age UK and has created community hubs in places likes Morrisons and Tesco, where people can meet for a chat to combat loneliness. 

Remember, “old people go shopping, too,” laughs Ray, happy to report they’ve been a huge success in his hometown of Rotherham, South Yorkshire. 

Not even the Covid lockdown slowed him, and he created a virtual 10k running event open to all. Older Rotherham residents took part and even his aunt, who is in her nineties, logged how many times she went up and down stairs. “It all counts,” says Ray, keen to emphasise that it’s all about discovering what you can tackle. 

“I’m lucky,” he admits. “My body seems to be able to take a lot, so I challenge it accordingly. But if 10k is your maximum and a really tough challenge, then brilliant. We all need challenges.” 

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There is no finish line

Fitness opens doors

Ray’s running has taken him all over the world, from Hawaii to the Sahara. Also, it’s also helped him raise huge amounts of money for local causes. “I wanted to raise £75k for Newman School [which caters for children with special educational needs and disabilities]. It’s an amazing place and the children are educated by some amazing people.” 

He met with the head teacher and discovered they needed wheelchair friendly swings, a new rubberised playground for children learning to walk again, and some other kit. So, he started to raise the money through his running – £38,000 in total. 

That was short of his hoped-for sum, but Ray, as you’ll know by now, doesn’t give in easily. After a few phone calls, a chance meeting, and hard work, he got two local construction companies in on the act to donate time and resources. And before you know it, the school also had a specially created forest trail in the woods next door. 

Perhaps Ray owes it all to where he lives. “I have an advantage over you,” he jokes, as we chat about our running and where we live (in the flat Fens for me). “I live on a massive hill and always on a Thursday I’ll run up and down it for a tough session. That sets me up perfectly and makes everything else seem easy!” 

You can do it too

Ray’s top tips for runners

Get a team around you

Professional athletes always seem to have a huge back-up crew associated with their success and for Ray that means his wife Maureen. He does, however, admit he visits a physio regularly to make sure any niggles don’t get any worse. Create your own squad and use them to help you,” he says.  

Eat well

“I just eat good wholesome food,” says Ray. “It helps [that] my wife is a cook, and it helps I can eat a five-course meal on the move,” he laughs.  

 “Once, 115 miles into a 150-milelong run I had two lamb chops at 4am.” So, there you are: a well-balanced diet works wonders! 

Dress for success

I wear New Balance 860s – perfect cushioned shoes,” says Ray. “It’s always worth investing in a proper pair of shoes suitable for what you have in mind. I run a lot, so I have a lot of pairs,” he laughs. 

Ray Matthews and a lot of shoes behind himCredit: Ray Matthews
Running 75 marathons in 75 days requires shoes – a lot of them

Set yourself a challenge

Work out what’s tough for you personally – be that 10k or 100k – and prepare properly and give it a go. Simple, yet fun. 

Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Updated:

Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors. But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide.