In 1995 I had been running consistently for a few years, with a 10k PB of under 39 minutes and I was a finisher in the London marathon in under 3½ hours that same year, as well as completing many other races from 5k to half marathons, and even a couple of triathlons. Fast forward nearly 20 years and I was no longer fast, or fit – just fat (ashamedly I’d let myself get to 17 stone plus). In 2012 I was watching the London Olympics and having at that time recently lost my father due to illness exacerbated by lifestyle-related issues, I decided I really had to change my own lifestyle or risk the same occurring to me. My then partner (& now wife) supported me, and together we joined a commercial slimming club as an added incentive. So, out went the excessive snacking, stodgy meals and huge portions, and in came healthier eating, much more fruit and veg, and less (but not none!) alcohol.

Without realising it, I began my own version of couch to 5k at that time – run a bit, walk a bit, run some more, until after a few months of solitary training I was able to run for 15-20 minutes at a time. I rediscovered the love of running I’d had in my mid-thirties and gradually the weight dropped off as my fitness returned and the weight losses kicked in. As I slowly got fitter I began to run longer and longer distances, mainly off road to protect my joints, and always with my wife’s encouragement, especially on the cold, wet and dark nights when I didn’t particularly fancy going out running. After a couple of years training, always on my own, I was fit enough to be able to run an off-road marathon (albeit very slowly) over the Black Mountains.

However, about a year after this achievement my fitness gains and weight losses took a major hit due to work pressures severely limiting my training, and a lot of my early fitness gains were lost. Through a chance discussion with Rob Evans I discovered Ystrad Runners and I joined the club in August 2017. The camaraderie was apparent from day one, and the pleasure of running with like-minded souls gave my training an added boost, helped by the banter and encouragement from everyone, not to mention the friendly competition as well. Thanks to the coaches at the club (past & present) I’ve learnt to mix up my training – no more simply churning out the miles at the same old pace over the same old routes, but running faster or slower, longer or shorter, adding hills and speed reps, exploring new routes and even getting lost occasionally!

If I have one message for everyone it is this: don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, whether it’s to complete the local parkrun, or run an off-road marathon, or anything in between. I completed my second off road marathon earlier this year (over 90 mins faster than the previous one) and have now set my sights on an Ultra in 2019. Running can always provide something for everyone to aim for irrespective of age or ability – but don’t forget to have fun doing it!