SUPERFIT grandad Arthur Toomer is just about to complete his 100th marathon. Kate Thompson finds out more about why the 72-year-old just has to keep running..

WHEN 72-year-old Arthur Toomer first started running marathons he was advised by a doctor to give up or risk his health.

He had just collapsed and was taken to hospital to recover and the medical opinion was that he should stick to half-marathons in future.

But 20 years after he first started competing in the ultimate running race, Arthur is just about to complete his 100th marathon.

His passion for running has taken him all over the world and despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer in his mid-60s, he has never tired of the 26-mile challenge.

Mr Toomer, who ran his own sports shop in London Road prior to retirement, is endearingly modest about his achievement.

"I never set out to complete 100 marathons and now that I am so close to completing 100 I just hope I manage it OK and don't get injured or something," he said.

His best time has seen him complete the course in two hours and 54 minutes and when he first started, Arthur admitted he was intensely competitive.

"When I was competitive all I could think about was catching up with somebody ahead of me and I wanted to do it in a certain time.

"Now I just think to myself, I am lucky to be running at all at 72 and having been through a major operation.

"I'm not religious but I sometimes say to myself 'Thank you God for making me able to still run.'"

His 100th marathon takes place in Vannes in France and fellow members of the Lordshill Road Runners club will be joining him.

Arthur is hoping to raise money for prostate cancer treatment after being touched by the disease himself.

"I was due to have a cataract operation and I happened to mention when I visited the GP that I had to get up in the night a lot to go to the loo.

"They did some tests and I couldn't believe it when they came back to me and said I had prostate cancer.

"I had been feeling fine and I was running ok but a few months later I had an operation," he said.

Arthur got back to running again as soon as he could and continued to run in marathons across Europe and America.

"I love to travel and these days it's not too expensive to get to these places.

"I have run in some beautiful places. I did one in Austria recently and ran all the way along the banks of the Danube.

"And the Snowdonia marathon is beautiful too. Physically it is the most demanding because you are climbing for 20 miles and its all run on tracks.

"In any marathon the mental side of it is really important.

"When you complete the first six miles you realise you are only a quarter of the way through and that's tough.

"But when you get to 20 miles you start to think you can make it to the end," he said.

Over the years Arthur has had many amusing incidents happen to him.

"I was taking part in a marathon in Crawley and it was a very hot day.

"I got to the 20 mile stage and I can remember being disappointed because I wasn't going to make it in under three hours.

"And then my mind went more or less blank after that. I struggled on and I felt like I was sleep-walking.

"The next moment I found myself lying on the ground.

"When I came to I could see a pair of feet in front of me and someone was saying 'Don't help him - you'll get him disqualified.'

"It was so funny because there was no way I was going to win anyway - I staggered to my feet and got across the line.

"But I was so wobbly that I had to have someone either side of me in case I fell," he said.

Arthur runs every day and clearly enjoys the buzz he gets from exercising.

"I wish more people would get into running - I think it's such a pity when you see overweight children who struggle to run just a few hundred metres," he said.

Anyone wanting to sponsor Arthur when he takes part in his 100th marathon should contact Kim Harris on 023 8079 4031.