I had general problems with coordination for another year or two after that, but once things settled down, I not only got back to normal became very good at sport.
My back ground in fitness started when I was very young too, as i was one of those kids that spend the majority go my time playing, running, skipping outside as I just loved the sense of freedom it bought you and of course I could never really sit still.
At school I was always playing some kind of sport trying new things. In junior school, I was ready to take a swimming badge and I swam the whole width underwater because I kept sinking. When I got to the other side the examiner said, “Now try that again but this time try and stay ON TOP of the water”
I used to try so many different events at school including badminton, tennis, football, rugby and swimming. I picked up a martial art called “Spirit combat” which I really enjoyed as this sacred art form embedded a sense of mind, body and spirit at a young age. I progressed to a high standard and was soon helping to run the classes even though I was only 13 years old,
I also attended many summer camps where I would also be asked to help coach the kids. One of the sports I coached was hockey as I really excelled at this sport and was on the bench for Teddington 1st team at only 18yrs old. I stopped playing due to wanting to try other things and Triathlon was my next calling. This was where I got introduced to the endurance side of sport. I competed in many triathlons and running events with a 5km PB of 17:15. I also excelled here winning many under-18 events.
I worked from a young age and want to put aside money. I got a job Upstate New York for 3 summers teaching kids sports and counselling them during summer camps, looking after some even after the camp had finished as an au pair. These work commitments meant I had to put my sports on hold for the time being.
So fast forward from 1997 to 2004 when I was working as an assistant general manager / bar manager in a high-end members club in London’s West End. I had no sport in my life at all and lots of fun times.
It was here that I got diagnosed with stage IV testicular cancer and given only 3 days to live.
I had started to feel a pain in my lower back which I thought nothing of at first. I just thought it was because my job at the time involved a lot of heavy lifting so I started taking Nurofen Plus. The pain went away for about 2 weeks but then came back. This time it was much worse and it wasn’t just in the lower back it was in the upper back too so I went to my local walk-in centre to see if they could help. I waited for 6 hours before I was seen then they asked me what my symptoms were. They carried out a chest x-ray and took a sample of my blood, told me not to worry and gave me some painkillers.
As I left the centre I thought to myself that this can’t be right so I rang my mum (a retired GP) who was in Australia with my Dad visiting my sister who was living there at the time. She immediately jumped on a plane and said she would arrange for me to see my personal GP.
We spent the following week seeing two doctors. After seeing the first doctor, we asked for a second opinion which led to being booked to see a specialist in three months’ time. Upon hearing this my mum insisted that I was seen straight away as she had a feeling that I had cancer although she didn’t tell me so as not to scare me. Within 48 hour I was in West Middlesex Hospital where I saw a specialist that my mum had contacted herself. There I had a chest x-ray and blood samples taken Both results came back very abnormal and the specialist wanted to admit me to the hospital the same day. I spent the weekend under observation with codeine as my painkiller which did absolutely nothing to help with the pain.
On Monday 15th November 2004, I was told I had stage 4 testicular cancer, and my parents were told that I would die. Sadly, for me there was no way I could have known about the cancer earlier as there was no lump to feel in my testicle. The primary growth there was so tiny that even when scans showed it up the doctors themselves still could not feel it. I was also told that I was too ill to freeze any sperm and that the test results would take between 3-4 days
They didn’t think that I would make it that long and recommended that I start the chemotherapy treatment straight away so that day I was transferred to Charing Cross Hospital London and put on a 3-and-a-half-week course of chemotherapy.
I was feeling so bad that I had to be Valium for three days because I was feeling so low, depressed and anxious. Not being able to talk properly and eat for this amount of time was unbearable. After this cycle I was moved out of isolation and given a few days to recover from the treatment and more importantly I was able to eat! I can tell you that I first bit of food that entered my mouth tasted like the best thing ever!
I had a few months to recover from the treatment but was still feeling sick for a lot of this time.
The doctors later said they hoped that I would have a 50/50 chance of survival. I was put on a new course of chemotherapy for 5 months of seven 3-day courses of intravenous chemotherapy. As well as being admitted to hospital for this, I also had two emergency admissions for complications with infections. By the end of this I had been able to stop taking morphine for the pain but the bad news was that all my hair had gone including my eyebrows and eyelashes so not a pretty sight…but less hair gel so every cloud etc. After that stage my veins had become so inactive a Hickman line had to be inserted.
I had this Hickman line in for several weeks and I was feeling ill for a lot of the time and had a lot of nose bleeds. In April I moved to the Dacie Ward at Hammersmith Hospital for a 3-and-a-half week course of high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. This was an important part of my road to recovery but there were huge risks involved, so much so that I was in isolation and every visitor had to wear gloves & aprons and had to be checked by a nurse before seeing me. Before being admitted I was met by one of the main doctors who ran me through the procedure and let me know the risks that were involved. The funny thing was, if you could call it that, is that during the meeting her phone rang just at the moment she said “There is a high risk you won’t make it as the treatment is so intense”. After she finished with the call she said, “Right, where was I?”, I replied, “You mentioned something about me possibly dying,” and laughed.
Being in the Dacie ward was possibly the worst few weeks of my life because I couldn’t eat for the majority of the time due to the insides of my mouth and my tongue being completely covered in ulcers. This was one of the side effects of the intense chemotherapy cycle that I was on. The day of the operation happened to be on the 7/7/2015, the same day of the London bombings. I was told that the gentleman that did my procedure was helicoptered out from the hospital after my operation and taken to Central London to tend to those that were injured by the bombing.
A week or so after the operation I went back to see my professor in outpatients and he was able to tell me that all the glands showed dead cancer cells and that he was going to continue to watch the shadows in my lungs and liver as hopefully they were dead too.
My family, close friends and girlfriend at the time were incredible supportive during my entire treatment and this was invaluable for my mental health. My sister even moved back to London to live and work here permanently which is wonderful
MY TIME AFTER CANCER & BEYOND
Since leaving the Dacie ward in 2005 I had a number of weeks for my immune system to build up. My Professor was waiting for a particular surgeon to perform a very specialist operation on me and didn’t want anyone else to do this procedure. So, in July 2005 I was back in Charing Cross Hospital for a major operation to remove all the glands from the back of my abdomen and also one testis. I went back to see my professor in outpatients and he was able to tell me that all the glands showed dead cancer and that he was going to continue just to watch the shadows in my lungs and liver as hopefully they were dead too.
Since that time I have continued to have appointments with Professor Seckl and then further visits with one of his registrars This was all to follow up on how I was recovering from the operation and to continue with blood testing, X-Rays and ultrasounds. All this would be due to the effect the treatment had on my immune system These appointments were pretty frequent then they spread to every 3 months then every 6 months then every 12 months. It has now been more than 12 years since my initial diagnosis.
Before the illness, I was working in a members’ nightclub in London’s West End as an assistant general manager/bar manager and was sharing the responsibilities with someone else. While in treatment, I learnt that the nightclub had gone into administration. The owners and the general manager had been very generous to me during the time I was off work. I was a very, very hard worker and had been a big help to the company in their previous ventures but they didn’t have to do this for me. It made a big difference to me and my financial situation and for that I am eternally grateful.
I was now out of hospital and I felt like I wanted to get back to work because being off for that long is pretty boring. In November 2005, I went back to working in the club, around 1 year since my diagnosis, and I tried doing a few shifts there a week. It was apparent I was unable to stand and be on my feet for periods of time that were over 20-30 mins as a side effect of the chemotherapy. This was going to be tricky as most of my work was on my feet and not sat at a desk so I had to do a lot of office work to make up for it, something of which i was not a fan but i was back to work and in another world from the hospital room.
As time wore on, I was receiving information that the club had gone into full takeover and all this would be happening in a very short space of time.
I was gutted. I had a meeting with one of the owners who confirmed it and there was nothing I could do as most of this happened when I was in hospital. I just had to get on with it but I then found out that the new owners didn’t want to keep me on. I was unaware as to why this was but everyone has their reasons. I was a bit annoyed but then it’s not great for your soul to dwell on such things too long.
I had to find a new job. I had received some redundancy so there I was looking for a job for the first time since 1995. Most of the jobs I have had in the past I have been poached for, so there was no need for an interview as they already knew how I worked. I contacted a number of people I had worked with before I was sick but since being off and the club’s insolvency, many of my friends had moved away or moved out of the country. It was time to look to other areas of the hospitality industry. I did a lot of agency work doing private functions just to get some money together for rent and food etc. then got contacted by a nightclub in London called Heaven, a huge club between Charing Cross and Embankment that was massive with the gay community. They were looking for a consultant to help them design and open a brand-new private members’ club with a separate entrance from the main club itself. I was working really hard with designers and suppliers to make this a really amazing venue; something along the same lines as the old Studio 54 in New York, a place that you would go only if you knew where it was. The entrance would just be a door with a gold sign with the name on the club engraved on it and a buzzer for entry. This was going well and the owners were happy with how things were developing.
About 3 months into the planning I had a meeting with one of the senior managers who they told me that they had underestimated the costing of the build and the opening of a brand new venue and decided that they were going to stick with the bar design but have the room as an addition to their existing club. This was another tough blow to the as I had put so much time and effort into this project and I was so excited to be working in the club scene again but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I went back to working for agencies again then in June 2006 heard about a job opening at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant called “Maze” in Mayfair for a position as a bartender.
Having not worked in Michelin stared restaurants before, I was intrigued. I went for the interview at the Gordon Ramsay head office and was successful in getting a trial shift. I got the Job and was there from June 2006 to 2012, A lot happened personally while I was in this job which was really hard to handle as it was a very tough restaurant to work in. As it was Michelin stared there was a lot of pressure on you as a member of staff to deliver top-class service, so when something happened of a personal nature, you had to always be professional. My relationship with my girlfriend was struggling by this stage. We had been together since 2002, and were planning to get engaged and spend our lives together. She was truly amazing throughout my entire cancer treatment right from the first A & E appointment, visiting me pretty much every day and sometimes even staying overnight when it was allowed.
It was a very hard time for her as she was seeing someone that she loved going through so much pain. I guess she needed other people to talk to about this and chat about other things so it didn’t completely take over her life. I became aware that she and someone that she was working with had become very good friends and had been spending a lot of time together. I was fine with this as she needed to confide in other people during my treatment and use it as some kind of release for her. We broke up in 2006 and it was an incredibly tough time for me. The reason for the break up is very personal but it completely broke me at the time.
My sister very kindly let me stay with her at the time. It was a rock bottom time and hard to explain when you have been given a new lease of life. Things should have been so much better than they were 6 – 12 months previously. Within less than a year of my operation, I had lost my job and my 5-year relationship was over and was not in a good place at all. So what next? the last thing a cancer survivor would do: I started smoking again. I used to smoke before I was in a relationship but to go back to it after coming out of cancer was crazy.
I was in a dark place and needed to get out. I was struggling to keep my head up and I didn’t have a huge group of friends to socialise with as I was working a lot. The few friends I did have were invaluable during this time as I was hitting a new low in my life and couldn’t find an escape. That support structure was truly golden and after a few months of feeling low and very depressed, I pulled through.
How did I do this? Well I had an epiphany and realised that I was feeling low and depressed and I was unsure as to why this should be happening and that I needed to sort myself out and get back on my own two feet.
This was all after I had moved into my own flat but was still struggling with how I was going to cope. One evening as I was smoking a cigarette it suddenly hit me, “WHAT THE FU*K AM I DOING?”. I flicked the cigarette out of my finger and said, “Right, things need to change and they need to change now!”
So, with that in mind I thought about what had happened and how I could make things better. I thought what made me happy when i was younger. My school days were really not that nice as i was bullied a lot. The main thing that kept me going was sport and the great outdoors That was it! I had the answer to make my life great again. All I needed now was a plan.
By now it was mid-2008 and sport was going to be the solution to getting back into life. I had thought of getting back into triathlons and duathlons, something I used to complete in when I was younger, and I was keen to get back out there. So, with that in mind, I began to run and cycle a few times a week. Not a huge distance to start with; just a few miles and then I would slowly build it up. My aim was to enter a duathlon in September 2008 called the Jekyll & Hyde. It comprised a 10km run followed by a 20km cycle on road followed by a 5km run, all one after the other with no breaks.
I was feeling pretty good through my training and was managing to get out of London for a couple of long cycle rides. I also wanted to give back to the cancer community as a “thank you” so I started a JustGiving page to raise money for Cancer Research UK as my professor who headed my treatment was funded by them. I contacted a printing company called Blade Printing and they very kindly offered to put the website address for my JustGiving page on my running kit and triathlon suit. My first race went better than I thought and I was back in the zone.
I like the buzz sport gives you when you are competing and the zen it gives you when you were training and at one with nature. I was enjoying being active again and while I was working at Maze, one of the security team told me about this chap called Rich Roll because he knew I had been running home after work at 3am and I was keen to change to a better diet. Rich Roll is a ultra-endurance athlete and is also a vegan, something I was interested in. I’m always interested in trying new things and seeing if there is any difference in diets so I started on a completely vegan diet going 100% straight away. Another seed planted by rich Roll was ultra-running. This is running distances which are over the marathon distance of 26.2 mile, sometimes a lot further.
Stepping into Ultra-Marathons
So it’s now 2012 and I’m heading to a triathlon show at Sandown race course, during the event I was listening to a speaker by the name of Mmi Anderson, she was an ultra runner, something of which I wanted to become, one of her achievements stood out for me and that was an amazing run where she had run from the most southern tip of Ireland to the most northern tip in just over 85 hrs…WOW!!!, I wondered if I could do that, so I started planning how to go about getting my body prepared, but more about that later, We spoke after the talk and within and week or so she had become my coach, later that year as well as competing in some Triathlons including Ironman 70.3 uk and some swimming events, I completed in my first marathon (London) this was in fancy dress to raise awareness for BYB, a few months later I attempted my first ever ultra running event, The Grim Reaper, a 100 mile run with was 10 X 10 mile loops 70% trail 30% road,I got to 90 miles but had to stop due to a old knee injury, I ran a few shorter ultras that year from 54 to 62 miles and also nutty November which is the same objective as the Mad May Idea, One of my favourite events of this year was Hell On The Humber in August, an event based on the Humber Bridge, it’s organised by Karl Jackson who is such a nice chap, the idea is to run back and forth over the bridge (2miles) as many times as possible in 12 hours, it was a great experience and the other runners were so awesome, I knew I would be back for more after this, and as promised I was back, after my London to Brighton Ultra, This time the HOTH event was Halloween themed, so you had to wear fancy dress and run over the bridge, this time for 6 hours, It was so much fun and very interesting wearing what I’d chosen to dress up in (see pic)
In 2013 I ran a few mountain ultras in the Peak District & The Brecon Beacons and again competed the Ironman 70.3 UK, I also returned to the Grim Reaper and finished 3rd overall !!, I even ran the Grim Reaper half Marathon the day after I finished the 100, in 2:08, after few weeks after this event I was back on the Humber Bridge and HOTH, and another 12 hour races, later that year I ran what was at the time know to be the hardest ultra in the UK, Caesars Camp, this was a 100 mile run consisting of 10 X 10 mile loops taking in over 15200ft of elevation, 79 started the event and I came 6th overall out of 10 finishers, this is still one of my proudest achievements to date.
In 2014 I up’d the anti and increased my yearly distance so I entered the Centurion Grand Slam, this consists of 4 X 100 mile events in the same year, The Thames Path 100, South Downs way 100, North Downs Way 100 and the Autumn 100, in addition I added in a 50 miler earlier that year for good measure, I completed all of them even if I had to almost crawl to the first of one of them, that was the TP100 where I was hyperglycaemic with just 2 miles to go, I started crawling and was helped by a local runner called Emma who just through water over me and got me hydrated and then ran with me to the finish…THANK YOU EMMA !!!, Once again just 2 few weeks after the winter 100 I raced Hell On The Humber Helloween Madness again, this time with a crazy hair style too (see pic)
In 2015 I wanted to try a few things out ,one being to beat my marathon time, which I did in Manchester, 3:24:54, another was to run two ultras within 3 weeks of each other, which I didn’t, well I completed the first one (TP100) but dropped in the second one (Grand Union Canal Race) due to injury , The other was to race the T184, this is a 184 mile run unsupported along the full length of the River Thames ,Starting at the Thames Barrier in London and finishing at The Source in Kemble (Cirencester) carrying all your kit and food, a truly epic event, even though I got very lost in the last 30 miles I came 2nd in my first attempt in 55:50 with only 5 X minutes sleeps !!! Now running Ireland was looking promising, and to top off the year, within 2 months of completing the T184, I ran a 100 mile race in 22:21…HAPPY DAYS, once again ending my season on the Humber Bridge in a glorious Halloween costume.
So in 2016 I went even bigger, I started well by completed the Grand Union Canal Race, A race I dropped from in the previous year, then there was a reece race called the T60 which was the last 60 miles of the T184 which I got a 4th place, August was to my biggest race to date, I wanted to run the T184 Double, totalling 368 miles (592km) unsupported, I completed the 1st leg finishing 2nd in the main race and then as it rained for last 20 miles of the 1st leg, I waited for my shoes to dry in someones car and then ran back to the Thames Barrier. by now I was fully convinced I could run the length of Ireland with minimum sleep, So It was on and the planning could start !!!!.
Within 3 weeks of completing the T184 Double I helped a friend of a friend complete their first 100km, by running with them for the last 50km..WELL DONE CHRIS !!
So 2017 was the year I would attempt to run the entire length of Ireland (all on road), I clubbed together the finest crew members I could find, Mark Denby, Kevin and Jake Mayo and Balloo, This was going to be epic !!!!.
All my training had gone well and I was feeling strong with some of my training weeks reaching in excess of 22 hrs.
The attempted started at the exact time I turned 40, It all went really well and I completed the route of 358 miles (676 km) in 83 hrs 15 mins with less than 30 min sleep.
I did this to raise awareness for BYB, to do this we had sent over 350 posters throughout the route and advertised the run and the website on them, we also handed out BYB leaflets and temporary BYB tattoos to people we passed, All in all it was a great success.
Later that year and only 3 months since Ireland, I ran the T184 again and finished 2nd…..again, to top off the year in style I took part in a charity event organised by a good friend of mine, Mark Thronberry, Mark is such a special chap, he was diagnosed with terminal Primary liver cancer and only given 6-9 months to live, (I’m writing this in November 2019 and he’s still here, against the odds !!!, HOW AMAZING !!!)
In September he set out to run the Grand Union Canal from Birmingham To London, (he’d entered the GUCR race in May but due to medical reasons he was unable to run), so in September he organised a run himself of the same distance, there were about 50-60 people that took part in the events over the 3 days and it was amazing to be a part of it, I met the group in somewhere not to far from Milton Keynes and joined them all the way to London, the organisers of the GUCR event put up the finishing gantry for him, HOW SPECIAL !!!
If you wish to find out more about Mark and his amazing story please click here
So how do I followed that in 2018 ?, well in April, I quit hospitality after 24 years, This was something of which I had been thinking about for some time, you see I’d worked in that industry since 1995 and really wanted to do my own thing, I didn’t see myself still working behind bars when I was 65, and I knew that my real passion was wellness, fitness and motivating people to be the best that they can be, So within one month of me quitting my job I was on the Advanced Diploma Course in Personal Training, I found the course really hard and struggled with the classroom environment, something of which I found hard as a kid, as I was bullied, I even experienced a sense of that on this course, But I was so passionate and really wanted to put my stamp on this industry and inspire people and nothing was going to stop me !
It wasn’t a great year in terms of running, I completed the Manchester marathon and the TP100 again but later that year in September I had to drop from the Tooting Bec 24hr race because of Laryngitis, this lasted until the middle of March 2019.
So in March 2019 I received news that I’d passed the course and became a fully qualified Advanced Personal Trainer. HAPPY DAYS !!! this was a good few weeks for me, not only did I pass my course but I ran my first race for 6 months, well I got half way through it, which I was pleased about, It was the Crawley 24hr race, I couldn’t complete the full 24hrs due to lack of training ( I’d only been training for 4 week since my laryngitis)
So as well as starting my business plans I was training strong again and had a full year of racing ahead. It started with the Canal Slam, which consisted of, in May the Grand Union Canal race, then in July the Kennet and Avon Canal Race and then in August the Liverpool & Leeds canal race totalling 420 miles (675 km), my biggest race was the Lon Las Cymru in October, at 253 miles (407 km) running from Holyhead to Cardiff, the race was truly epic, 35 entered, 25 started and only 4 finished, I was the 4th placed finisher in 83:56..WOW what a year especially as I only had 7 month of training
Many people think that I’m crazy competing in these sort of distances and thinking that it is not good for my body, then I explain the reason I compete in them, you see I’m always looking for way to challenge myself away from the norm and exploring the possibilities of human endurance, I have some VERY VERY BIG plans for the future and I’m sure many of them will shock some people, but there is one think I know for sure and that is THAT THE MAGIC ONLY HAPPENS OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
Since I’ve qualified as an advanced personal trainer I want to help empower and motivate others in fitness and wellness, helping them to the achieve their goals and dreams too.