Lowestoft hairdresser taking on 37th consecutive London Marathon
- Credit: Nick Butcher
He is one of only a handful of runners to have taken part in every London Marathon since its inception in 1981.
And after running 943 miles over the 36 years of the world-famous event, 74-year-old Lowestoft hairdresser Len Cousens will be taking on the gruelling challenge again this year on April 23.
Mr Cousens, from Hubbard's Loke, will start the 26.2-mile course in Greenwich Park close to the front with celebrities from the prestigious green zone.
He aims to complete the race in five hours and is raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital charity, a cause he has supported for the past 20 years.
In 2010 he was one of only 21 people in the world to attempt every single London Marathon.
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Mr Cousens, who did not do any sport until taking up running aged 36, said: 'I keep saying each year will be my last year but I keep giving it another bash.
'You have got to have a goal in life and this seems to be mine. You have got to have a challenge and the marathons keep me fit.'
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He only got into running after his wife, Maureen, 73, bought him a 'fancy tracksuit' for Christmas which prompted him to 'run around the block'.
'I liked the challenge and the fact you could push your body,' Mr Cousens added.
His first marathon was in Guildford, Surrey, in 1979, and was then tempted to take part in the first London Marathon in 1981 with a couple of running friends.
Mr Cousens, who moved to Lowestoft 20 years ago and works two days a week as a hairdresser in Beccles, was one of the 6,255 people who took part in the inaugural London Marathon.
He completed it in two hours, 57 minutes and 29 seconds.
'There is no way I could do it in that time now. I'm just happy to get round,' Mr Cousens said.
During the 35 years he has witnessed the numbers of runners increase significantly but he said the atmosphere on the day has always been good.
The 74-year-old added: 'It is manic. People are screaming at you all the way round.'
He has also witnessed a lot of changes throughout London, including the transformation of the Isle of Dogs in the city's east end into a 'posh area'.
Mr Cousens favourite part of the route is the last 20 yards.
He praised his wife's constant support especially as the marathon always happens around her birthday - April 23.
Laura Savory, head of community fundraising at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, said: 'We're really grateful to Len and all our supporters for taking part in this amazing challenge and we can't wait to be there on the day to cheer everyone on. With Len's help we can make a real difference for to the lives of seriously ill children from across the UK.'
In his heyday, Len Cousens, was running 70-100 miles a week for his London Marathon training.
His fastest time for the famous event was in 1983 when he ran the 26.2-mile course in two hours and 55 minutes.
He admits he was lucky getting a place on the marathon through the general ballot for the first 15 years.
Mr Cousens has got an automatic place on the city run every year since then.
His longest runs are now between 12 and 15 miles and he aims to hit the road four-five times a week.
Because of his age he likes to run that frequently all year round.
He said: 'I never stop running because I have got to keep ticking over. Running has helped me keep fit.
'Once you get to my age you have to cut your cloth accordingly in terms of what you are capable of. My training for this year's marathon is going reasonably well so I cannot grumble.'
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