AS a prolific marathon runner, Andy Wilmot is used to taking things in his stride.

So after clocking up his 800th 26.2-miler - an astonishing, eye-watering achievement for most mere mortals - his reaction was typically relaxed. "It's just another number," said the 76-year-old.

While humble about his exploits, Andy's record is nothing short of incredible.

He is placed 72nd in the world for most marathons run and firmly in the top ten in the UK.

A quick check on a calculator tells you 800 multiplied by 26.2 is 20,960 miles - pretty much a return trip from London to Sydney.

It's not far short of the circumference of the earth - approximately 24,901 miles - and, without question, a monumental achievement.

"I'm proud, of course, but it's just another number really," said Andy, who lives in Sudbury Road, Halstead.

"Someone once told me I'd never reach 800 marathons and I remember thinking 'I will, even if it kills me'.

"Now there's talk of me trying to reach 900.

"I'm always up for a challenge but it's hard to say why they appeal so much.

"I guess I like the mental and physical test.

"I enjoy endurance running and while shorter runs are still fun, they're over too soon.

"When I do a marathon, I relish those last few miles. I think 'this is what I'm here for'.

"It's tough, of course, but that's the challenge and it's probably more mental than physical.

"Every part of your body, especially your legs, will be screaming to stop."

Andy's catalogue of marathons started in style, at the 1988 London event.

This year's showpiece in the capital, originally due to take place in April but postponed because of the coronavirus, was due to be his 30th and 800th overall.

In the three-and-a-bit decades since that first marathon, he has run in various locations, including Scotland and Wales.

He has completed 24 of the 25 marathons staged in Halstead by his club, Halstead Road Runners, and clocked more than 100 at the Suffolk Running Centre, in Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds.

That was the scene of his special milestone on Sunday, crossing the line in a four hours and 53 minutes.

To make the feat even more impressive, he completed number 799 the day before, in 5h 2m.

"I'm not too worried about my times now," said retired Andy, who has two children, Andrew and Karen.

"It's more about going the distance, finding a comfortable pace and plodding around.

"I like running at Barrow and I've already got two more lined up there in September.

"We were able to abide to social-distancing regulations at the weekend, with groups of five going off every 20 minutes.

"It meant we were pretty much running on our own most of the way.

"As a general rule, I try and run five times a week.

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"People say I'm crazy and perhaps I am, but I think all marathon runners have the same mentality.

"We all like the challenge and I see the same faces at every event I go to.

"Not that it always goes well.

"I've had some bad runs and some where I've felt awful afterwards. The heat affects me more than it used to.

"On other occasions, I've been so cold afterwards that I haven't been able to turn the ignition to start my car.

"But you have to keep going and if you're not strong, you'll end up dropping out.

"Sometimes it's very difficult but you just have to carry on."

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