A 74-year-old Ledbury man has completed his 300th marathon — making him one of the oldest runners to join the World Mega-Marathon list.

Phillip Howells — who was the town’s Mayor in 2019 — reached the milestone with the 50km Round Reading Ultra Marathon, which also secured a UK 100 Marathon Club (100MC) ‘Triple Crown’ award.

A place on the World Mega-Marathon list has only ever been achieved by fewer than 1,000 runners. It is yet to be confirmed if Mr Howells — aged 74 years and 102 days — is the oldest ever to do so.

In the meantime, it is known that he is only the sixth 100MC runner to achieve a Triple Crown by completing 100 each of road, trail and ultramarathons. 

Overall, he has covered a distance of 9,192 miles in official competitions — approximately the distance from Tokyo, Japan, to Cape Town in South Africa.

Mr Howells began his running career more than 40 years ago, when he set his sights of running two marathons while still in his thirties. 

With this goal comfortably achieved, he didn’t return to running until he was 54, when he ran the London Marathon in aid of the Miscarriage Association charity. 

From then on he was hooked, and in 2010 the Tewkesbury Running Club member began the careful logistical planning necessary to reach his 300-run milestone. 
He said: “Reviewing my figures at the time — by now at the age of 63 — I realised I had averaged over 33 miles per race, having done lots of ultras. It occurred to me that I probably still had maybe 15 years of endurance running in me. 

“Unbidden, my mind popped up with the loopy notion of targeting 333 marathons at an average of 33 miles for a round and pleasingly symmetric 10,000 miles of marathon race running.

“By chance at this stage, my totals of road, trail and ultra-marathons were quite close, so I also set the ambition of getting to 300 with exactly 100 each of those three marathon categories.

“Clearly, these were unlikely and ambitious targets at that age, but I felt ‘why not?’ and that with a fair wind, not unachievable.” 

However, the wind did not always blow fair for Mr Howells, with a cardiologist diagnosing heart problems and advising against further marathons, and then a major back operation. 

Undeterred by these medical setbacks, his running quest has continued alongside his responsibilities as Deputy Mayor of Ledbury Town Council and as a councillor on Herefordshire Council.
He said: “As a final message of motivational advice to all of those like me now down towards the end of the field, or even the last to finish in races: don’t let anyone ever tell you that slow is not meaningful!”