I haven’t always been able to say that. Three years ago I weighed 354lbs (over 25 stone). If you had suggested any exercise, I’d have run a mile (sadly, not literally).
But then, a friend changed my life. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. My family and friends had used many more over the years, imploring me to lose weight. I had made a few lame and short lived attempts in the past and like many dieters I gained more than I lost.
I never felt ready. I never felt able. I never felt that my weight prevented me from doing anything I wanted to do. I argued that I didn’t smoke and that I didn’t drink. I was fat, but I was relatively healthy (possibly more healthy than an unfit person of normal weight). The truth was that I was in denial.
But then, a friend took and shared that photograph. It was the photograph that stopped me in my tracks and the photograph that set me on a new course of action. It is a photograph that I keep on me at all times. To remind me of how I was, what I was and how far my journey has taken me.
I wanted to get more active and to feel healthier. I wanted to feel happy and I wanted to regain my confidence, libido and energy that obesity had stolen from me. I wanted to feel like a man again.
But then, I was over 350lbs. What could I do? So, I started by walking and as the pounds fell off I began searching for other ways to get active. Before my weight loss, running a bath was a problem. Once I got in, there wasn’t much room for the water. The idea of running to lose weight was absurd and the thought of running for pleasure was beyond me.
I did, however decide to try running in September 2011 when my friends asked me to grow a moustache for Movember. Being facially folically challenged and 100lbs lighter, I instead committed to running the Mo Running 5K and set about starting a Couch to 5K programme. Alternating walking and running between lamp posts. Within weeks, I was running more than I was walking. More importantly I was surprisingly enjoying every bit of it and looking forward to my next run and to my first competitive race at Mo Running. I wasn’t the fastest but I did overtake a few runners and even managed a sprint (well, ok maybe a dash) across the finishing line recording a personal best of under 27 minutes which might not seem great but it made me puff my chest with pride and not just exhaustion.
In December I was again competing in another “facial hair” inspired race, the annual “Santa Dash”. Along with several thousand other Santas we raced through the city streets and although my Santa suit and beard was not the most ergonomic or comfortable of outfits I was still able to leap over stray dogs, side swerve errant mothers with push chairs and tackle a relatively large incline (all my previous runs had been on the flat). I was far removed from fitting the role of the jolly fat man, but I knew I had further to go, before I’d be happy.
But then, the taunts and jeers of white van men and boy racers stopped me in my tracks. I felt humiliated, I felt hopeless and I felt hatred. Mostly I hated myself. I was so close to giving up and accepting that I couldn’t change. Despite being a shadow of my former self, I was still obese and it weighed heavily on my mind.
I couldn’t go on. Once again, I was a failure.
But then, my anger and frustration led to grit and determination. I wouldn’t stop. I wouldn’t give in to the taunts and my own self doubt. I could and I would run. I started with 5Ks and then progressed to 10Ks before entering my first Great Scottish Half Marathon then more and longer races. I have completed Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast and my first Marathon in Copenhagen. I now run to work, I run at weekends and I scour the country looking to add new bibs and new medals to my collection. I have continued to lose weight and I am now almost half the size I was.
I am also now looking forward to launching Great Run Local Glasgow, in partnership with Great Run and with the support of friends and the team at Run 4 It. Designed to provide a short and timed weekly run for new runners, it’s a chance for me to give something back. I am not a philosopher or even a particularly great runner, but I am passionate about running and all forms of physical activity and I will do what I can do support and inspire others.
I am now a runner. Will you join me?