John, aged 59, had a career in the military and the Met Police before retiring in 2013.
He was then able to pursue one of his favourite activities which is sailing, but he broke his metatarsal, which took some time to heal.
John was an accomplished long distance runner, completing over 100 marathons and half marathons and had been running for almost 30 years.
So once his metatarsal had healed he started to try and run again, but he was struggling and getting breathless after just ten minutes or so. He went to his doctor and was quickly diagnosed with coronary heart disease – essentially a blockage in his heart.
He had a stent put in to solve the problem and within a week he was starting to run again, although It had affected his confidence.
“I had just lost my confidence doing something that I’d always done, which is why I did the Great East Run (GER) Outreach programme in 2017. Within four weeks the programme had given me some of my confidence back and I was able to run for 30 minutes or so.”
“It gave me the mental confidence I needed to run again as well as the physical.”
After completing the programme in 2017, John was offered a funded opportunity by the GER programme to do the Leadership in Running Fitness Coach (LiRF) course and support the outreach programme participants in 2018.
He said “I really wanted to give something back to this programme, as it had helped me so much, and because I’m a distance runner I have a lot of patience with some of the slower runners, and I enjoy marshalling those runners at the end of the pack.”
“The GER programme is so great and I really believe in it. The structure is so effective and the success rate is almost 100%. The first few weeks when you see the participants start their journey, the half marathon seems a long way off, but as coaches, we are super confident that they will do it! It’s great that we can pass on our experience and skills.”
“Having completed the programme in 2017, I was also able to take my DVLA fitness test to be a part time bus driver and this has given me a real opportunity to work again, and currently I work for Ipswich Buses. It’s also opened up a few other opportunities for other things so it’s all been so positive.”
“In 2019, I was invited to join the programme as one of the official coaches, so I went for it, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year as well.”
John believes that the best thing about running is that everything you think about whilst you’re running is almost in slow motion. The thought process and the mental wellbeing you feel is like self therapy.
“Running and the GER outreach programme has been such an important part of my life. If I hadn’t been a runner, the chances are I wouldn’t have found out about my heart disease until it was too late and that could have been fatal.”
“I’ve been able to work again as a result of it, and importantly, I’ve been able to help other people realise what they can achieve, and running is now part of their DNA too.”
Great East Run Outreach Programme
Delivered by Suffolk County Council and supported by, Active Suffolk, Allied Health Professionals, COES, and the University of Suffolk the programme supports inactive residents, who want to make a positive change to their physical activity levels, using a mass participation challenge as their motivation.
The programme, provides 16 weeks of supported coaching, encouragement, fast-track physiotherapy support, gait analysis, exclusive discounts on running equipment, nutrition advice and entry to the Great East Run ½ marathon.
The programme is open to people over the age of 18 who are classified as inactive, doing less than 1 x 30 mins of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
More information on the programme and how to apply for a place can be found on the Active Suffolk website.
Many of the programme’s previous participants are continuing to exercise on a regular basis and have made a positive change to their health and physical activity levels.