KEITH Passingham is celebrating after competing in his 50th marathon.

Passingham, who founded Flyers Southend, reached the milestone at the Stour Valley Marathon.

And the 67-year-old was pleased to be presented with a cake baked in the style of cartoon character Papa Smurf - his nickname - by the 12 other members of the club who also took on the challenging course.

Passingham said: “I was delighted to reach the milestone.

“It was especially pleasing given it was such a testing run.

“I loved the cake and they are a great bunch to run with.”

Passingham was involved in his first marathon in 1986.

And he has gone onto be a regular face at 26.2 mile events.

But the Stour Valley Marathon proved to be even more testing as the contest consisted of 27.5 miles off road.

The course also boasted a total incline of more than 1,400 feet and was run in temperatures approaching 26 degrees.

It proved to be a stiff challenge for all of the competitors.

Passingham was joined by Rachel Thornton, Jacqui Sutton, Julie Coombs, Nicki Benham, Anne Purdham, Tom Cuffley, Mark Benham, Johnny Lau, Terry Coker, James Wood, Paul Mansfield and Ian Smith at the Stour Valley Marathon.

Due to his extensive athletics career and founding Flyers Southend, Passingham has been of great help to other runners.

And some of his team-mates were keen to praise Passingham.

One fellow Flyers Southend member said: “I feel privileged to have been part of Keith’s 2016 Brighton Marathon crew.

“If anyone can help you believe you can run a marathon and help you do it, it’s Keith.

“He is the kindest, most encouraging, inspiring, running man I have ever met.”

Another representative said: ‘‘It was a great honour to run with the legend that is Keith Passingham on his 50th marathon.

“Anyone who has ever run with Keith knows that you’ll always have the most fun and the best memories. He is a great inspiration to all.”

And Passingham has also been praised for his generosity.

“Keith, the originator of the Passingham Plan, has helped countless Flyers to progress and run half marathons, marathons and even ultras,” said a member.

“Keith’s generosity of advice and encouragement is legendary amongst the group.

“When confidence dips, Keith is always there to tell you ‘you’ll be fine’ - and he is right!”