A 99 at the finish line keeps 62-year-old Oggie on the road to 500 marathons

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Portstewart marathon runner Eugene 'Oggie' Winters, who aims to complete his 475th marathon in Belfast this Sunday. His goal is reach 500 marathons by the end of the year. Oggie, who completed 300 marathons in 270 weeks in 2017 for Action Mental Health, celebrates his 62nd birthday today

Eugene 'Oggie' Winters with some of his marathon medals – he ran 300 marathons for Action Mental Health in 2017
Gail Bell

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I usually get up at 6am as a carer comes around 6.30 to see to my partner, Brian, who will be 95 this July. I will say a prayer and look at emails to see what's going on – I check Facebook too, as I engage in a lot of banter on Facebook and wind people up, particuarly all the runners.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Breakfast is two slices of brown toast with coffee and two Weetabix with honey.

Lunch? On a typical day, some sort of salad with a slice of wheaten bread or maybe soup with wheaten bread. If away from home, I'd take a ham or cheese sandwich with me, along with flask of hot water for my coffee.

Evening meal? Boiled potatoes and fresh vegetables with chicken, roast beef or steak and a large glass of milk. I never eat anything out of a fish and chip shop or carry-out pizzas, or anything like that.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, it is important because of all the running I do. I don't take fizzy drinks or white bread or anything that can cause your stomach to bloat. I don't eat cake or biscuits too much either – but that's not to say I don't have a sweet tooth. I treat myself to a 99 ice-cream cone – with chocolate flake – after each 26.2 mile run.

4 Best meal ever?

A meal ever in the comfort of my own home in Portstewart, looking out over the sea. That's the setting and the meal itself would consist of steak with vegetable, potatoes (maybe garlic fries) and mushrooms, followed by Pavlova which is my favourite desert. I've been all over the world, but nothing beats sitting down at my own table in my own home for my favourite meal.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Pavlova and ice-cream.

6 Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

Seven years ago I dropped from15 stone and six pounds to 13 stone while training for my first marathon. I went off white bread and sweet stuff and I felt good about it, while training for my first marathon. I also moved from a 36-37-inch waist, back to a 34-inch waist – which I used to have when I was younger.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No, I get what I need from my food.

8 How do you relax?

I go for a walk on Portstewart Strand. It's not really like me to walk – normally, I'm running – but I go for an easy walk to relax. I also relax by gardening, which is my hobby, and I get great satisfaction out of it.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

Total teetotal – I haven't had a drink in 35 years. It got me into too much trouble when I was younger, so I decided to stay on the straight and narrow. I've no desire to have a drink now. I used to smoke too and I don't do that any more, either.

10 Stairs or lift?

Definitely, the stairs.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

My gardening gives me a workout and I do about 20 miles running during the week, even in winter. Marathon running keeps me fit.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Take up marathon running.

13 On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I'm a nine and I'm happy with that.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, never tried anything like that.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I was useless at school PE and I could not get on with the PE master, so I felt there wasn't enough encouragement to make myself better on the sports field. I didn't discover my running ability until later in life – just eight years ago.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

I had a perforated ulcer in 2011 at the age of 54. I was rushed to hospital while training for the Omagh half-marathon, so I didn't get to complete it. That day changed my whole attitude to health and I decided to prove that when you're down, you can always come back up again. It took me about four months to recover and after that I decided to take up running in a serious way and I have been running ever since. My first marathon was in 2012 in Belfast and this year's Belfast marathon will be by 475th in seven years.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Set yourself a challenge no matter how small it is in life. Every challenge is something to look forward to.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

I would have to say my partner, Brian, who climbed Slieve Donard, from bottom to top, when he 89 years of age.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I normally get to bed about 10pm, except at the weekend, and I usually get about six hours' sleep. I would like more, of course, as my body gets tired from running and gardening, but that is the way it is.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

Yes, I think I do – since I took up running. I feel on top of the world. I'm aiming to complete 500 marathons in 500 weeks by the end of this year.

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