Judge goes on the run ...

He's about the go on the run, but this isn't a story of a judge falling on the wrong side of the law.For John Holt is to swap his wig and robe for shorts and running shoes as he tackles the 26 and a bit miles of the London Marathon to raise funds for his local church.

He's about the go on the run, but this isn't a story of a judge falling on the wrong side of the law.

For John Holt is to swap his wig and robe for shorts and running shoes as he tackles the 26 and a bit miles of the London Marathon to raise funds for his local church.

At the age of 59, Judge Holt will take part in his third marathon on Sunday as he tries to raise £5,000 towards the purchase and refurbishment of a new hall for the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in Southwold, north Suffolk.

Normally used to the austere surroundings of Ipswich Crown Court, the judge has found his passion for running a welcome change - and it's all down to a challenge from his son-in-law.

“He had run a marathon and we got talking about it. He said I couldn't run one, but I said I could,” explained Judge Holt, who ran his first London Marathon at the age of 55 and raised nearly £3,000 for the Macmillan cancer charity.

On Sunday he will be able to pit his wits against his son-in-law, who will also be pounding the streets of the capital, although there was no bragging about his chances of beating him.

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However, the judge will be looking to get close to his time of three hours 54 minutes, achieved last year, following weeks of intensive training.

“I've been on a 16-week training programme and I run more than 30 miles a week,” he said. “My job involves sitting down so I do it to help keep me fit. It certainly works because I have lost nearly a stone since Christmas.

“The first time I ran it, I got injured part way round and I was overtaken by Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men; I'm not going to let that happen again!”

The Sacred Heart, in Wymering Road, bought a former post office building next door for £380,000 to create a new church hall. The local diocese agreed to guarantee the loan and now parishioners are working hard to raise the money to put towards the purchase and refurbishment of the site.

With a combination of grants and other charity events, the church has already raised £240,000, even before Judge Holt dons his trainers.

“The church fund is undoubtedly a big motivation, although fellow parishioners are amazed and think I am mad,” added the judge, who has homes in Bures and Southwold in Suffolk. He is married with three children and two grandchildren.

To sponsor Judge Holt or to help the church fund, write to Father Roger Spencer, The Presbytery, The Common, Southwold IP18 6AH.

t A Norfolk mother won't be leaving any scandal behind when she runs away with the vicar from her village.

For Rebekah McNicol will be whisking East Harling vicar, the Rev Nigel Kinsella, down to London for a perfectly innocent reason - to do the marathon.

It will be a first-time experience for both athletes who are on course to raise about £3,000 for Church of England charity The Children's Society.

Mrs McNicol, 40, a personnel manager with Norwich-based property specialists The Edwin Watson Partnership, said she started running casually with Nigel and another friend and the idea of the marathon “mushroomed from there”.

The mother of two, who confessed husband David was a more regular churchgoer than her, said: “We do all our long runs together and have built up to 22 miles in preparation for London.

“Most people do their long runs on a Sunday but Nigel is obviously more than a little busy on that day so we get out on a Monday when I am off work. We do all our running off road and it is a great way to see the countryside.”

Conversation during the long training miles rarely stretched to spiritual matters - and it often trailed off completely when aches and pains took over.

She said: “People in the congregation at St Peter's and St Paul's have been very generous, as have colleagues at work, and we have both reached our targets of £1,400 that we needed to raise in return for our charity place.”

A number of events had helped to raise sponsorship, including a talk on the history of the village by local historian Harold Lock, which added about £400.

Mrs McNicol, a member of Thetford Athletic Club, took up running about two years ago and now gets out at least four times a week between 5.30am and 6.15am.

She said: “Nigel and I are planning to stick together during the marathon, unless one of us has a bad one, and we are targeting four and a half hours.”

Both families will be accompanying the pair to London for the race on April 22 and cheering them round the course from Greenwich to Buckingham Palace.

The pair, who have already completed the Bury 20 mile race together, have a triathlon in their sights as their next event.

t Father-of-three Paul Harvey, an ambulance paramedic at King's Lynn, will be running the marathon for national deaf-blind charity Sense. Some of his training has been done on a running machine at home so he can watch the children at the same time. To sponsor him log on to www.justgiving.com/pauldavid

t Brenda Kinch, 62, who joined North Norfolk Beach Runners when she and her husband moved to Lower Gresham last year is raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Sponsor her at www.justgiving.com/brendakinch