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Darlington man’s health scare prompts him to lose four stone – now he runs marathons at 62 with his dog

A man from County Durham who had a health scare and lost four stone is now running marathons with his dog Watson at the age of 62.

In 2015, an engineer, Ruiping Sun, then aged 55, faced several health problems which saw him take matters into his own hands and embark on a healthier lifestyle. He to take up running and soon lost 60 pounds in weight decided and hasn’t looked back since.

Now 62, Ruiping, from Darlington, is still running and now has a companion in the shape of his partner in crime, six-year-old German Shepherd, Watson, accompanying him everywhere he goes. He said: “I believe anybody can run, it’s just a case of learning how. And it’s my mission – to help others.

Read more: County Durham dog owner devastated as beloved pet dies after being ‘set on fire’

“I truly believe anybody, of any age, can run. It’s just a case of knowing how to. Since I retired, I’ve been trying to encourage my friends and family members to take up running and see how it could change their life I don’t expect 40 miles a week like me, just a light jog or a run around the park can make all the difference to your mindset and go a long way in keeping your body moving.

“My mentality changed when I read the book ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougull. All of a sudden, I started to look at running differently – I reassessed my form as sometimes the smallest of changes, such as foot placement or the type of shoe, can make the biggest difference. I almost immediately felt a change in not only how far I could run, but it also had a positive effect on my wellbeing and emotions.”

Ruiping’s runs are made even better by his pooch Watson who he runs, hikes, and camps with. He said: “I’ve had Watson since he was very young, we adopted him after his previous owners gave him to an animal shelter. He’s such a clever dog, we’re very lucky. We meet up yearly with his shelter brothers and sisters, which is great.

Ruiping Sun with his dog Watson

“We first started running together almost immediately, we love to go on adventures and seize every opportunity. We run, we hike, we wild camp – he shares the tent with me and my wife! My fondest memories are of Watson and I hiking with friends – Watson always makes sure he is the leader of the pack He’ll roam off but always come back to check if we’re okay – he’ll kiss my hand, which is his sign of affection, and run off again. “

Originally from America, since taking up running, Ruiping has now completed marathons in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and further afield in Berlin and Beijing – all of which Watson helped him train for.

He said: “Unfortunately, they don’t accept dogs in many official marathons, but Watson gets the training in with me, we normally run six miles a day together or more in marathon season. The park opposite Swinden Court, where we now live , is a great starting point for us, as we get to know the area more and more.”

Thinking ahead, Ruiping recently enrolled for the London Marathon – having missed out on the ballot twice before. He said: “I will keep trying, of course, it’s a goal of mine to run it, as I feel like I’ve conquered everywhere else. They may stay in Japan in the next couple of years, but I’ll come back for it I promise!”

Moving to the UK to follow his wife for work, Ruiping spent months looking for the right place to live and enjoy his retirement before stumbling across Swinden Court – a McCarthy Stone Retirement Living development in Darlington.

He said: “We looked at a lot of different places, locations and building types – apartments, single houses and so on. We found out about Swinden Court on the off chance and soon realized it ticked all of our boxes – it’s neat and new , we feel very safe and secure, everything is taken care of, and finally, it’s dog friendly! I never realized how difficult it would be to get Watson here from San Francisco and then find somewhere where we could rent that accepts pets.”

Those interested in finding out more about the Swinden Court Retirement Living development, are invited to call 0800 201 4811 or visit

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