John Lill – Marathon Man – Ultra running, preparation and competing

A Presentation by John Lill to the Middlesex Grand Officers’ And Provincial Grand Officers’ Club on Thursday 22nd October, 2015.

Marathon Man – Ultra running, preparation and competing

Brother President, Distinguished Brethren, Brethren all.

It’s a little daunting standing in front of so many people, it reminds me of the time I was Master of Elliot Lodge and I was to perform the Ceremony of Initiation for the first time.

I was shaking like a leaf, my throat had dried up, and up to that point I had not opened the Lodge.

So please bear with me, Ultra Marathon Runners do tend to spend so much time on their own.

A little info about myself, I will be 67 years old in November, I have run all my life, starting with track and field at school, fell running, and never stopped running since.

So why does a 66 year old man, run for mile upon mile every other day, winter and Summer, even when on holiday, wearing a light blue Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys T Shirt, black lycra compression shorts, and yellow knee length compression socks.

Brethren I wish I had a pound for every time someone has asked that particular question; I would be a rather wealthy man. I usually reply by saying:

I believe that the lives of all children and young people should be free from poverty, abuse and discrimination; I fervently believe that we have to help the most vulnerable children and young people, to help to transform their lives and fulfil their potential. I sincerely believe we have a duty to help those less fortunate in society; society has been very kind to me and I suppose it’s my way of giving a little back.

Fortunately I am in good health, running is a very important part of my life, fundraising being another.
JLill L2C
When I was younger, I used to run 6 days and more than 100 miles a week, but as I have got older I tend to run every other day and rest in between.

Unfortunately the body cannot take the daily pounding.

The mind’s willing but the body sometimes reminds me otherwise, I still run a minimum of 45 miles a week plus.

Over the years I have had many injuries to knees, legs and shoulders, but I always bounce back, my commitment to Children’s Charities is a strong now, as it was 30 years ago.

I started running marathons by accident, I had entered what I thought was the Sheffield half marathon, when in fact it turned out to be the full marathon; that was in the early 80’s.

I had never trained for a full marathon before, but I thoroughly enjoyed the event, finishing in 3 hours 35 minutes.

That marathon was the starting point, of my fundraising career.

Getting so much pleasure out of the event, and being a Yorkshire man, I thought why not try and raise a bob or two for children’s charity on the way.

Over many, many years I have always tried to focus on children’s charities; one of the first charities that I raised money for was “Dreams come True”, which is a charity which takes terminally ill children to places such as Disneyland and to meet celebrities.

I ran many marathons for this charity and others such as Make a Wish Foundation, McMillan Nurses and Balham Gateway Trust, because I care very passionately about children.

The Amount that I have raised to date not including the RMTGB is £75 K plus, according to my wife.


My training for events is quite specific; my races require that I had to run for long periods at a time, (time on your feet, endurance running) at a pace slower than I would normally run at.

Ultra-marathon running is about conserving energy and time on your feet.

I run with a running vest carrying 2 water bottles (1/2 litre each) spare set of clothes, waterproof Jacket and Trousers, small jar of Vaseline, which at times is invaluable, GU energy Gels, money in case I got stranded and my mobile phone.

I will purchase more water if I need it, so the money can be very useful.


What do I think about when I am running Ultra Marathons?

In the past prior to going in the chair at Elliot Lodge I would practise Masonic Ritual. I would open in the 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, 3rd Degree, Call off and Call on, Close in the 3rd, 2nd and then close the Lodge.

I have spent many marathons learning the Ceremony of Initiation, Passing and Raising, needless to say when it came to delivering them, I was word perfect.

The miles just fly by. If I am not practising some ritual, I listen to ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, or Gregorian chants on my iPod Shuffle, There is nothing more inspirational when running up a steep hill than listening the ABBAs Super trooper.

What do I eat when running Ultra marathons,

I do not eat any solid food whatsoever, I use a form of powdered food that I mix with water filled into my running bottles, which sustains me throughout the day.

Taking on board water at regular intervals is very important.

I have been caught out a couple of times.

Due to de-hydration on one occasion I collapsed at the finish line and was put on a saline drip.

I carry with me at the start of every race a minimum of 1.5 litres and will take a mouth full of water every mile.

I also top the water bottles up at the checkpoints round the event, so I never run out.

Hill training is also very important part of my training regime; living in Staines you can appreciate there are not many hills.

Hill running is one of finest exercises an Ultra Marathon Runner can have.

The steepest and longest hill near to where I live is Priest Hill, which connects Old Windsor to Engleford Green.

It is just over 1 mile long from bottom to top and I run this normally 5 times in one session, which equates to 1,500 ft of climbing.

On an average month I will run a minimum distance of 200 miles plus.

I change my running shoes every 400 miles, which equates to a new pair of running shoes every 5 to 6 weeks, even less when I am running Ultra Marathons,

To date I have run 125 full marathons.

10 Ultra Marathon ranging for 30 mile up to 100 Kilometres.

My fastest marathon was in 1988 when I ran 2 hours 41 minutes.

When I go on holiday, most people’s packing list starts with their swimwear, shorts, and suntan lotion.
My packing list usually starts with running vest x 2. running shorts x 2 running socks x 2 and 1 pair of running shoes, then the holiday clothes follow on, if I’ve got space.


JLill LonMaraIn May 2015, I had the great privilege and honour to represent the Province of Middlesex 2020 Festival, at the Virgin London Marathon 2015.

As you are all aware The 2020 Festival is supporting the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, The London Marathon was just after the launch of the Festival.

I ran the event in 4 hours 20 minutes and it was the first time that a Freemason had run the London Marathon for the Province of Middlesex.

Over the years the pre race nerves have not improved, especially when I ran the London Marathon, the sleepless night before the event, the fears about over sleeping in the morning, the setting of 2 alarm clocks, one battery in case of a power cut, then worrying about traffic jams, road accidents, making sure that I allow myself plenty of time.

During this year’s London Marathon, at the 20 mile marker, a loud voice boomed out “Well done Granddad” which certainly brought a smile to my face.

Everyone at some stage in their training, especially on long runs, will hit the wall and start thinking:

What am I doing here, why am I putting my body through all this discomfort and torture?

I just think that my pain is short term, a few miles further on and it will be ok.

Not so for the poor and unfortunate children in this world that are supported by the RMTGB.

That is what motivates me, all the time you are thinking at the end of the race I will have raised a sum of money that will be used to help some child change their whole life.

What better incentive is there?

How long will I be able to go on running Ultra Marathons, well that depends on the good Lord, hopefully into my mid seventies, I started supporting The 2020 Festival at the beginning, I would still like to keep the fundraising going until the Festival is completed.

As long as the RMTGB keep supporting the children, I will be out running to support the RMTGB.

My wife bless her, is of the opinion that I should be put in a place of security for my own well being and the keys thrown away – she definitely thinks I’m crackers!

Finally I would like to thank the Middlesex Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers Club for allowing me to give this talk to you all tonight and truly hope you will all get behind The 2020 Festival and the RMTGB.

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John’s next challenge is Coast to Coast – 190 miles across fell, dale & moor


In 2017 John will be participating in “end2end” 874 miles from John O’Groats to Lands End
See for more information on this incredible challenge

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If you want to know why John is doing this, click here to see a video showing John’s passion –

ALL donations to John’s incredible year will be allocated to your 2020 Festival honorific for you and your Lodge/Chapter.

Please take a look at this website and donate today.

John is running hundreds of miles for The 2020 Festival, all we ask of you is to make a donation and also hopefully achieve a personal honorific level.

“A man never stands so tall
as when he kneels to help a child”

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