ALMOST 30 years ago Dougie Tobutt was told to stop running or he would need hip replacements within two years. He was just 38.

Fortunately as it transpired, not only did he not stop running the marathons he enjoyed but he extended his horizons and started taking part in marathons all over the world. And he didn’t need hip replacements.

Now, 50 marathons later at the age of 68, the Bolton man whose life has been shaped by sport and fitness is a champion of looking after yourself and going for your goals in life.

“I really do believe we should take care of ourselves properly, and work at it,” he explained.

Dougie was born into a family with undeniable sporting roots. His grandfather, Len, had been a professional cricketer for Middlesex and was the pro at local clubs like Deane, Tonge and Astley Bridge after moving North.

In 1923, he opened a sports shop on Higher Bridge Street on the fringes of the town centre, where the family also lived.

Dougie’s earliest memories are of “kicking a ball about in the street”. He went to a local primary school and then on to Brownlow Secondary School. “But by 11 I was a podgy kid,” added Doug. “I used to get fourpence for my bus fare to school each day so I started saving it and ran to school instead.”

The result was that by 13 he was a “lean machine”, enjoying football and cricket at school. When he left school at 15, though, while he wanted to be a PE teacher he had to start helping his father, Geoffrey, in the shop.

Saturday football was also out of the question and, by 19, he was unfit. Then he went back to football and, at 21, he discovered squash.

“I started playing at Bolton Health Studio and it seemed a natural game to me,” stated Dougie. He went on to play for other local clubs. “I never played county but I was always a proficient player, always a trier,” said Dougie.

He started running to keep fit for squash and got up to around eight miles. When the first Bolton Marathon was being planned in 1981, Dougie had no plans to take part.

“I was in the sauna on the Friday before the event and a friend asked me about it,” recalled Dougie. “I said I’d got decorating to do. But when I thought about it, I just decided against the decorating and turned up on the Sunday.”

He managed the first 19 of the 26 mile route but then injuries slowed him down and, although he finished, it took 4 hrs 5 mins – “and I definitely wanted to do under three hours.”

The experience, though, spurred him on.

He competed in other marathons and found he had an aptitude for the distance. “I think it was that business of just being a trier, just plodding on,” he said.

In 1985, he spotted a sign in a local travel agent’s window for the Moscow Marathon.

He arranged to travel, discovering he was the only local person going, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It was so different – we ran past people queuing to buy bread. I remember the weather was really hot,” said Dougie.

However, in 1988, experiencing pain in his hips, he consulted a specialist who told him “give up running or you’ll need new hips in two years time.”

Dougie, though, had other ideas. “I couldn’t give up. I didn’t want to,” he stated. So, he carried on, and coped - “Strangely enough, my hips are still very stiff but otherwise OK.”

He continued running marathons at home and abroad travelling to America, Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and Japan to take part.

He swapped squash for racquetball – a similar sport but using a shorter racquet and a bigger, hollow ball – and still plays each week.

The sports shop moved to Blackburn Road where it still thrives today. Dougie also became interested in sports therapy and wellbeing and established his own Good Health Centre at the shop and on Belmont Road.

He has been married to Eileen since 1972 and the couple have two children, Mandy and Scott, and are grandparents.

Interestingly, Dougie only needs four and a half hours sleep a night. Then he gets up, does some training and often writes some of the book he is putting together on wellbeing.

His own goal was to run 50 marathons, the last of which was in Greece. His best time remains at 3 hrs 5 mins.

So, will he run any more marathons now? “Probably,” is his verdict.

“I still go out running and I still like it although I’m not fast,” he said.

“But then it’s all about enjoyment, and that personal challenge.”