TRAIN driver Mike Hatton is proving life begins at 40 after qualifying for the elite race at the London Marathon.
The South Cheshire Harrier only took up competitive running two years ago after a change of career prompted him to hang up his football boots. He is now on track to be one of the country's best veteran runners.
After an outstanding season littered with personal bests, Mike, of Beckensall Drive, Crewe, rounded it off with a phenomenal performance in the British Masters Champion-ships.
The Masters was held as part of the popular Cardiff Marathon. He was seventh overall out of more than 2,000 competitors in the marathon, and second in the Masters Over 40s category.
His stunning personal best of 2:40.07 easily met the 2:45.00 qualifying standard for the London Marathon, where he will rub shoulders with the greatest in the world next April. Teammate Dave McGrath also put in a fine run, finishing in 3:10.00.
Central Trains driver Mike, 44, said: 'I am more than pleased with the time in Cardiff, it was fantastic. I was only trying to beat 2:45.00, so that is more than I hoped for.
'I love my football, but when I started working as a train driver I decided I needed to be doing more sport in the evenings and weekends, rather than just Sunday football at the weekends, as I would be sat down driving a train all day.
'So I joined a gym and started running on the treadmill. I was later introduced to the Harriers and my times have just got better and better. I am the kind of person who, when I do something, I do it until I drop.
'I have wondered what could have been if I had taken running seriously 20-odd years ago, but I am enjoying myself now. I can't wait to push those Kenyans out of the way at the London Marathon start line now!'
Mike, who is always cheered on by wife Jeanette and kids Bethany, 12, and Misha, nine, has taken 23 minutes off his marathon time since his debut at Wolverhampton two years ago.
He sticks to a strict training regime, which can see him pounding the streets six or seven days a week, and can do up to 90 miles every seven days. He refuses to set a new target time for a marathon, but now aims to clock 1:15.00 or less for a half-marathon.
The Manchester City FC season-ticket holder carefully watches what he eats and has almost banned beer from his diet. But he has never felt better: 'It is not just about the running, the whole thing just concentrates your mind.
'I feel brilliant and have lost a lot of weight. I eat the right foods and don't drink much alcohol, and genuinely can't remember the last time I was ill.
'The healthy lifestyle coupled with the fantastic atmosphere and support I receive at the Harriers makes it perfect for me. I certainly haven't set an age limit for running, I'll keep going for as long as I enjoy it.'