Vicky Edwards meets – John Taylor-Stoakes

John Taylor-Stoakes
John Taylor-Stoakes

IT specialist John Taylor-Stoakes has always enjoyed testing his physical mettle.

Growing up in East Wittering, he played football and cricket from childhood for local teams, going on to play football at county level.

But without putting too fine a point on it, that was a while ago.

Now in his 50th year, John is facing a challenge that will push him to the limit: the Ultratrail Marathon event in Andorra.

Taking place in July, the starting pistol is fired at 6,000ft above sea level.

Altitude sickness is a given. Ascents and descents of 9,000ft are, quite literally, par for the course. Why would anyone submit to such a gruelling task?

For John the answer is simple: friendship.

“In 2011 a close friend of mine, Anthony Greenwood, passed away from oesophageal cancer.

“Nikki, his wife, is currently lady captain of Littlehampton Golf Club, where both Anthony and I played, and her charity of the year is St Barnabas House Hospice. Anthony really fought his cancer.

“He worked for as long as he could (for Henry Adams estate agents in Chichester) and the pain he battled through was terrible.

“St Barnabas gave supreme care and support to the 
whole family, so when Nikki asked me to help her fundraise for the hospice, of course I said yes”.

But with a history of unlucky sporting injuries, undertaking a physical challenge could be deemed as tempting fate.

At 28 John ruptured his knee ligament on the pitch, breaking his ankle playing football a year later. “I still had a pin in my leg when, five weeks before marrying Liz, I was persuaded to play for Wittering.

“I lasted seven minutes before I broke my nose! I had to hang up my football boots and take up golf instead,” he grins, “but I kept up the social side of football and the weight piled on.

“Then four years ago I hired a personal trainer and lost four stone in a year.”

Fitter and leaner, John took part in a fundraising 10k run at his son Jack’s school.

“One of the teaching assistants was a member of the Fittleworth Flyers running club and I started running with them,” he explains, admitting his old injuries make the first few miles painful and that it takes time to loosen up.

Running the Brighton Marathon earlier this year – only just recovering from whooping cough in the nick of time – John says he’s ready for Andorra, which he’ll run with other members of the Fittleworth Flyers.

“Once I cross that start line I will definitely finish,” he vows. “The memory of Anthony and other friends who were cared for by the hospice will be my motivation”.

And will he continue to tempt fate after Andorra? I’m thinking of running Hadrian’s Wall next,” he laughs.

Laugh he might, but there’s a serious glint in his eye…

John is paying for all entry and travel expenses himself, meaning that every penny pledged will go to St Barnabas House Hospice.

To support John visit: www.justgiving.com/John-Taylor-Stoakes-StB, or contact him on 07811257429.