In 1981 I ran the very first London Marathon. I was 39 years old and a PE teacher in North London - because I wasn’t good enough to be a professional footballer!
My interest in running came about through my job and I never used to send my students for a run - I took them for a run. I ran two more London Marathons, but by the mid-eighties my health started to deteriorate (due to Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis) and in 1988 I was told that I would need a liver transplant in about ten years time, and it was exactly that.
Eventually I remember coming back from a four mile run and recording in my training diary: “I have just run a personal worst, will I ever be able to run again?"
Over time I became enormously anaemic, my skin turned yellow and I stopped driving because I was concerned I would fall asleep at the wheel. I became weak, had no energy, and certainly couldn’t run or lift weights. I was in the depths of despair.
In February 1998 I got the 'phone call' and then my transplant, and immediately set about regaining my fitness.
I asked for an exercise bike in my ward, and after four days I got one on the basis that I promised to be sensible. When I got home I started walking but remembered that if you walk 50 metres out then you have to walk 50 metres back home again!
I was sensible and I built up my fitness steadily. After about six months I could jog a couple of miles, and in 2003 I heard about the British and World Transplant Games, which I have been competing in ever since. I’ve represented my hospital (Addenbrookes) at ten and Team GB at six World Transplant Games, winning gold in France, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Sweden and Argentina where I won four gold medals and set new world records in my age group (70+) for 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m.
I am hoping to get selected for the 2017 World Transplant Games in Malaga and am expecting a selection letter in the next few days.
A few years ago, a former pupil emailed me and asked if I’d heard of parkrun. He was going to Hampstead Heath parkrun, so we went along to the inaugural, and I then began running at Harrow parkrun when it launched as it’s closer to home. I take part in parkrun regularly (I’m a proud owner of a red 50 shirt) as it is an important part of my training, but mostly because I enjoy the camaraderie and the social aspect. You just never know who you are going to meet at 9am on a Saturday morning in your local park.
I don’t worry about my transplant, I just go out there and run, lift weights and do yoga classes. Life is all about making sensible decisions, just like it was when I got the exercise bike in my ward all those years ago. Decisions such as always using the upstairs toilet because you get more exercise, being sensible with alcohol, and resisting the temptation to sign up to the London Marathon!
Photo courtesy of Mike Lepps