WARRINGTON Athletics Club's Nick Jones sadly lost his battle with cancer aged 45 on Tuesday.

With the permission of his family and Athletics Weekly, here is the feature they published on how running kept him going through the toughest of times after he was given a terminal diagnosis...

FORMER Great Britain international runner Nick Jones was told by doctors he has incurable cancer and spent most of last year undergoing chemotherapy as his weight plummeted to just eight stone.

Yet despite his health problems the Grappenhall man, who was born in Northwich and ran for Warrington Athletics Club, battled back to fitness this winter to break 20 minutes for 5km at Widnes parkrun.

His supportive friends have set up a 5k in his honour to take place in Warrington next month.

Days before his hospital treatment, Jones explained: “I went in for an operation last April and cancer was found in my bowel.

"I had sepsis and my kidney burst. They didn’t think I’d get out of hospital and I was given three months to live.

“But my fitness from running gave me the strength to have the chemotherapy, which helped me survive.

“You know what runners are like – they’re hard! When you’re training twice a day and running 100 miles a week back in the day, it helps you build up a bit of strength.”

In total, Jones went through six intensive cycles of chemotherapy.

Last summer he felt so weak after emerging from hospital that he could barely manage to jog for one minute, but with support from his family and coach Phil Hicken he slowly built back to running about 25 miles per week and clocked 20mins 20secs at the Widnes parkrun on New Year’s Day followed by 19mins 47secs later that month.

At his best, the Warrington AC runner clocked 63:12 for 13.1 miles and ran for Britain at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships three times from 1999-2001.

He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – a debilitating bowel disease – when he was aged 35, but he continued to run well as he moved into the masters age groups.

Warrington Guardian:

Nick in action for England

“The only way I could get through a race was by taking Imodium tablets, otherwise I’d have to stop mid-run to go to the toilet,” he said.

But last year, his health plummeted as he underwent ileostomy surgery, sepsis and battled an incurable neuroendocrine carcinoma.

“I lost about two stone in hospital and had no strength," he said.

"When I got out of hospital in the beginning of August last year I went into my garage on to the treadmill and I couldn’t even jog for a minute. I was almost in tears.

“But at least I was at home and starting to build up strength. Then I went to the local track and tried to do one lap but managed to run four laps in 9:58.

“It’s one of the best runs I’ve ever done. I was so pleased to do it after being as ill as I was.

“A fortnight later I did 25:55 at a local 5km and that’s been the starting point and I thought ‘I’d love to break 20 minutes’ and that’s been my goal since.”

Running is a family affair, training with his children. His son Jordan is a talented steeplechaser while daughter Jasmine and wife Caroline are also good runners.

Warrington Guardian:

Nick Jones with wife Caroline, son Jordan and daughter Jasmine

“When I ran 19:47 recently it was the cherry on the cake,” he said.

“Just before my operation I was a close second aged 44 at the British Masters 10km in Blyth.”

Indeed, friends organised a fundraising 5k at Victoria Park in Warrington on April 19 to raise money for St Rocco’s Hospice.

It has already attracted entries from clubs that Jones has been associated with such as Vale Royal, Tipton, Spectrum Striders, Salford and Warrington.

“I’d have gone mad if I didn’t have the running,” added Jones. “It’s been a real release.”

Report by Jason Henderson, Athletics Weekly

Nick’s friends are inviting people to 'run, walk, dance, skip or cartweel' the 5k on April 19, or just go along to watch, in order to support the runners and raise money for the worthy cause.

The event will be held on the Warrington Parkrun course and organised by Run Cheshire. Refreshments will be available.

Entries are now open. It’s £5 to enter, and the whole £5 will go to St Rocco’s Hospice