Dave Heal, aged 51, will be running his 100th Half Marathon this Sunday. But it was a chance encounter with the town’s own Olympic hero, Dame Kelly Holmes, that inspired him to celebrate this milestone at the Tonbridge event.
He said: “Tonbridge is my favourite course and holds very special and inspirational memories for me and my wife Wendy.
“When I ran my 72nd Half Marathon here in September 2012, we were all presented with medals by our queen of the track, Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes, which was a fantastic honour.
“But earlier, Wendy was sitting in a nearby bus shelter because it was raining and had decided to wait there until I had finished my race because it was near the finish line.
“Dame Kelly saw her at the bus stop and jumped over the barriers to have a chat with her.
“She asked Wendy why she was sitting in the rain in the shelter as the runners would not be back for hours.
“Wendy explained that she had a mild cerebral palsy walking disability, and that by the time she walked up the hill to the canteen for a cuppa it would be time to go back to the finish line again.
“Dame Kelly said to her: ‘If I help you up the hill will you come for a coffee with me?’
“Wendy was chuffed to bits and replied ‘Yes please, that would be very nice of you Dame Kelly’. So they both walked arm in arm up the hill to the canteen for a coffee. What a lovely gesture from Dame Kelly.
“During the walk, Wendy told her that I was aiming to run 100 half marathons in 15 years, and so she suggested that it would be good if I was to run my 100th at Tonbridge.
“As Tonbridge now has special memories for both of us, we have looked forward to this weekend for the past four years.”
Dave has been a member of Garden City Runners in Welwyn Garden City since 2001. He joined to train for the 2002 London Marathon to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.
Having caught the running bug, he went on to compete in more international marathons in Edinburgh, New York, Chicago and Florence, Disney World Orlando, Las Vegas, Berlin, Boston and Sydney, as well as walking three 26.2-mile Playtex Moonwalks through the night in London.
But it was in Florence that he set his current personal best marathon time of 3 hrs 45mins 30secs.
By running in events around the world, Dave has raised more than £20,000
for various organisations, including Cancer Research and Children With Terminal Illnesses & Disabilities.
Course Director Mick Barlow said: “We are honoured that Dave has chosen to run his landmark 100th race at Tonbridge Half Marathon, and know everyone along the route and all involved in the event will be cheering him on.”