It's fair to say that over the past few years my life has changed quite dramatically!
Growing up as part of a military family was an amazing experience. Traveling the world as a happy child, with my eyes open to new things, new cultures and new experiences, I had an overwhelming sense of adventure and empowerment that I now know was a true gift.
At the age of 10 I went away to boarding school, it was a decision my parents didn't take lightly and in a way were forced to make. I was thrust into an environment which to be perfectly honest wasn't very good for me. Labeled different because I didn't have the same things that other kids had including technology, the right haircut, clothes and even that my parents earn less money than other kids did. I was made to feel unworthy and not good enough everyday.
Three years into my boarding school experience I figured out I was a little bit different to most kids. I figured out I was gay and this scared me. Not only was I made out to be different because I didn't value materialistic things but now I was being told that being gay was a choice, a disease, a problem that could be cured. As a 13 year old, this is something that is unconceivable to understand and with my continued confusion over what was right to feel and what was wrong to feel I decided the best thing to do was hide it.
My years at boarding school were the worst years of my life, constantly waking up every morning and wondering what terrible things would happen to me today meant that I reclused into myself and was to scared to talk to or even tell anyone about what I was going through. I began to contextualize things in a completely unrealistic way and this manifested itself in me trying to take my life at the age of 18.
After suffering a nervous breakdown, my parents found out that I was being bullied and I was taken out of school and homeschooled for the last remaining months of my A levels. I left college with two A levels and decided that I was going to go to university. I attended Teesside University in Middlesborough, studying a BSC (Hons) in Psychology for no other reason than to try and figure out why the things that had happened to me at school had actually happened. I didn't do very well at university and quickly fell behind, getting into drugs and alcohol I came out with a 2:2 degree and moved home to where my parents now live in Lincoln.
After being at home for a few months, I was working in a bar in the city and I met a girl. I feel in love which I know sounds strange but she was the first women to actually show me some form of attention in a positive way. I thought I would grab hold of it with both hands as this was an opportunity for me to live a 'normal' life. Having secured a good job with a large retail company I began moving round the UK as part of their graduate course ending up in Bristol.
I decided to leave the company and move to a 'proper' job, a job where I could where a suit. I began working for a large FTSE 100 company and slowly rose through the ranks. I had everything I could ever wish for, a nice car, owned my own home, had two cats, a pension, a mortgage, a great wage with bonus, everything that we are taught a successful life should have, but I wasn't happy. I even got married to add to the list.
At 29 I was sat at work and out of the blue I couldn't see, I started to lose feeling in my hand and lose my hearing in my left ear. I was taken to hospital in Bristol where I was diagnosed with having had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), an incomplete stroke. As you can imagine this was a complete shock to me, I was 29 after all. I remember looking in the mirror and realizing that I was 16.5 stone, a 30 a day smoker and a greater than average drinker, I was working 60-70 hours a week at work through choice and was covering up who I truly was everyday. No wonder I had had a stoke.
Sufficed to say things had to change.
My wife and I decided to part company and I moved out of the family home. I was lost, alone, didn't know who I was, what I wanted to do with my life and had to start reconditioning myself from the way I had been thinking for the past 29-30 years. A friend of mine introduced me to running and to be honest the rest is history.
On the 1st September 2015 I began one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I undertook an attempt that saw me run 401 marathons in 401 days all around the UK, visiting 309 different locations on the UK mainland. The challenge aimed to raise both awareness of the issues of bullying in our society along with £250,000 for two amazing charities dedicated to tackling bullying. The two charities were ‘Stonewall’ and ‘Kidscape’. These charities work tirelessly to support award winning initiatives which really get to the heart of bullying in our UK schools and society in all its forms.
We raised in excess of £330,000 through generous donations from the UK and International community. This has gone to help support both these charities carry on the amazing work they do.
We gained International, National and Local Press along the way and inspired many people to do things they never thought they could do.
The objectives of The 401 Challenge were simple:
- Raise £250,0000 to support ‘Stonewall’ and ‘Kidscape’
- Raise awareness of bullying in the UK
- Complete and achieve 401 marathons in 401 days
- Involve as many people as possible and inspire people to push their limits
Having completed The 401 Challenge I am completely different to how I was 4 years ago, I'm more confident, have a drive to make a change and live everyday doing something I genuinely love to do. I have an amazing partner in Kyle who has supported me all the way, along with incredible parents and friends that value me and care for me because of who I really am.
I have a new aim in life and that is to make sure no person goes through what I went through. Every person understands that no matter what they enjoy or want to do in life, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else then they should believe whole heartedly in it and forget the doubters, we all know who they are - anything is possible as long as your believe.
I spend my days now touring the country giving talks to school, colleges, universities, charities and corporates along with a few government organizations. Along side this I manage a charitable foundation called 'The 401 Foundation' which is supported by an events business putting on sporting events throughout the UK. The foundation is aimed at providing grants to individuals or grass root projects that build confidence and self esteem along with tackling mental health issues and self development problems.
I now have a goal, a vision, a dream and nothing is going to stop me.
Thanks for reading