• Helen Phillips

Meet our marathoners #9 Graham


Not everyone can run a marathon. You have to be a special kind of determined and crazy to train and then complete 26.2 miles on the day.

In my Meet Our Marathoners series we meet ordinary people who have battled through and achieved extraordinary.

Today we meet Graham, who trained and ran VLM18, after he found running gave him focus, helped him fight obesity and overcome mental health issues. Please read on to hear his story.

Tell me about your running and weight-loss journey?

I started running around June 2017 as part of my weight-loss journey.

I used to run a little between 2000-07. Then I ran for a job, which required me to be fit. At the time I wasn’t running regularly and only did what I had to to get by.

In 2007 I had an operation on my left knee, an arthroscope, resulting in the removal of a chunk of bone that had broken off, and having all sorts of much and gristle scraped out. After my surgery the surgeon said no more running, so that was that!

At the time I was about 16 stone 7 lbs and he thought that running had taken it's toll on my knees, causing the need for the operation.

Between 2007 and 2017 just ran on a treadmill at the gym as part of a general cardio routine. I was running up to 3k, but my heart wasn’t really in it and through that period my weight was more up than down.

In early 2017 I started waking up in the night with a dead arm and getting up in a morning with swollen fingers that wouldn't work. I went to my doctor and he diagnosed me with carpel tunnel syndrome due to obesity.

By now my weight had ballooned to 21 stone 8lbs and I was on the waiting lost for bariatric surgery.

It was at that point a relative decided she was going to join Slimming World. She invited me along. I was one of those "You don't need to pay someone to tell you how to lose weight" kind of people but I went.

The first week I lost 9.5lbs and a stone in my first two weeks. I found myself motivated by simple things like certificates and being slimmer of the week.

I then discovered Slimming World's Body Magic programme - more certificates to be had for taking exercise from Bronze though to Platinum, and that's when the real running started!

I started running in the woods as I’m fortunate to live at the top of Ironbridge Gorge. We have woods right outside so it’s easy hit the local trails.

At first I’d have to walk 3 or 4 times during a 10 minute run. But soon I nailed it and could run for a full a 10 minutes, then 15 … then I discovered Telford Parkrun.

Before my first Parkrun, 3k had been the furthest I had ran. But I ran my first Parkrun in 32:15 and I soon wanted more!

My Parkrun/5k PB is now 22:32. But within 18 months of getting off the sofa I found 5k wasn't enough.

Tell me about why you decided to run a marathon?

I ran my first 10k RAF Cosford's Spitfire 10K October 2017 and then I was hooked.

That's when I got a place for VLM 2018 with Kidney Research UK in my dad's memory.

I set myself a goal of 4:30 and with the right prep I know I would have done it.

My first ever marathon I ended up running in 4:53 and that was with poor preparation too as we had spent all of March on holiday in Australia!

I now have a half marathon PB of 1:52 and a 10k of 47:52. Here's the best bit, I've lost almost 7 stone in just 18 months.

How has running helped with other areas of your life?

More importantly is what running has done for me. Running has helped me overcome depression and anxiety, two very real mental health conditions.

After spending 15 years doing a job I loved, set up for life and with a great pension, in the blink of an eye I lost the career that I used to keep fit for in dramatic style.

Within weeks of that happening I was diagnosed as being mentally ill and put on medication, the gym work all but stopped and the weight started piling on.

Running gave me a sense of worth.

Running made me see I could be good at something again, as I'd now slipped in to dead-end job after dead-end job. But I could lose weight and I could run.

Every Saturday morning at Slimming World when I got on those scales or received a Body Magic Certificate I was achieving again and people were praising me. That’s where my "I can run" mind-set comes from.

I'm not the fastest but for a 46 year old who let's face it was "Fat" and "Mental" who's only been running for 18 months I'm not half bad really!

Running gives me head-space.

Some people zone-out when they run and some think through their issues. I'm fortunate in that I can do both and with my mental health issues behind me I can focus on being myself version 2.0!

I can see why you love running, is there anything that you dread?

There's nothing at all I hate about running, nothing, I love it and I can't get enough.

I run in all weathers and love winter training, stretching myself in the cold air ready for the warmer weather.

My body prefers to run in an evening but races and Parkruns get me out of bed!

I prefer road to trail. Trail wins for the nature and scenery but if I'm going to go out and push myself I want the miles under my belt and road running is great for that.

I joined a 1000 mile challenge for 2018 then when I hit it, I moved my target to 1243 miles (2000k). Then I hit that, so I decided as it was 2018 I'd run 2018k (1254 miles) so I hit that and ended up running 2047k. My 2019 target is 2019k. Watch me!

Who would you love to present your VLM finishers medal?

If I had a choice of anyone to present me with a medal at the finish line it would be my dad.

My dad died when I was 14, he was just 35, having spent 9 years on a dialysis machine at home and having had two failed kidney transplants.

He's always there with me when I run, especially when I race. He was with me as I ran for Kidney Research UK at VLM 2018.

This year, VLM19, I’m running for Shelter. If I can make any difference to the life of a homeless person then I will do. What we don’t think about is that homelessness can affect anyone. Children are affected just like adults, being victims of debt or ruthless landlords. Regardless of circumstances, no one in Britain should be without a roof.

Is there a song that motivates you to run?

Some people have a song that motivates them to run, I have a saying. The Devil whispered in my ear "You're not strong enough to weather the storm" so I said the Devil "I AM THE STORM!" and that forms part of my VLM 2018 tattoo now on my leg.

Do you have a running superstition?

I don't run over grids and manhole covers.

I think your energy will be drawn out of you and drop down them. When you’re running you need every last drop of energy for your run! Now let's see how many of you avoid them after reading this!

So what next for your running?

I am honoured to be running VLM 2019. I always thought 2018 would be my one and only and I would never want to run a marathon again. But as soon as I started running that morning and right through to the finish-line I just knew I had to come back this year.

4 hours 30 and I have a lot of unfinished business. Watch me.

If you're already thinking about your marathon next year, you'll be pleased to hear Marathon Club Hub is now open.

Marathon Club Hub is my training & preparation programme for first and next time marathoners to provide you all the advice, information and support you need to get ready to run.

Click HERE to join Marathon Club Hub to get going with your training for next spring.