In 2015, at just 5’ 6” and 18 stone, Ian cut a very different figure than he does today, after running as he puts it ‘”saved my life”.
Ian says of his cautionary tale of how inactivity nearly took him away from his family and friends aged just 64: ‘Some call it inspiration, but I call it determination.’
Ian decided to take action when he first noticed walking up a slight incline in his neighbourhood in Blackburn with Darwen was making him short of breath. His son, a keen runner, suggested Ian try the much-lauded Couch-to-5K to shed some weight. The programme takes beginners from walking with a bit of running in the first few weeks, to being able to run 5K at the end of week nine of the popular running regime. In week two, tragedy struck for Ian in Witton Park.
Two silent blocked arteries did not take kindly to his new habit, and during a warm down suffered a massive heart attack. Thanks to the park first aider and the on-site defibrillator, Ian is here to tell his tale: ‘I was dead for five minutes.’
Surprisingly, perhaps, after two stents were in place and his GP gave him the OK to get back on track, in March 2016 Ian pulled his trainers back on to try Couch-to-5K again. Ian is now 70 years old and a much healthier 13 stone, with dozens of running milestones clocked up – the most recent being the Tatton Park 10K with his friends at Blackburn RoadRunners – the local running club he is a member of.
BwD Running Mayor Andrew Gardner is also in the local running group, he said: ‘Ian’s story highlights that running is something everyone can do, and it means not only is he is fitter physically and mentally than he’s ever been, he’s thankfully still here with us to see his grandkids grow up.
‘Ian is such an inspiration to myself and the Blackburn RoadRunners. And if you need extra motivation to try the popular running app, we’re so lucky to have a fantastic Couch-to-5K local group run by Rick Wilson.’
After Ian completed the initial Couch-to-5K programme, he took the celebration 5K run and then, with his goal achieved, he stopped running. But this turned out to be merely a pause. Ian said: ‘What they don’t tell you about a heart attack and recovery from it, is that depression is very common. I struggled with anxiety, and when I stopped running I realised the depression was returning.
‘I can’t recommend it highly enough, it won’t be for everyone. It’s hard some days to get going – even I still have days when I don’t feel like running, but I’ve learned that – whether I’m feeling good or bad – that I always feel better after running.’
The lockdown has meant running clubs paused group runs, but hopefully now with the pandemic easing, groups can get together again.
‘The social side of running is brilliant. I’ve made so many friends who I might never have met otherwise.’
Having spent lockdown trying the RED programme (run every day) with an incredible 500 consecutive runs clocked up, next in the running calendar for Ian is the next Southport 10K, Ilkley and Kessick half marathons and the Coniston 14 – the latter of which will be his fourth outing. But healthy competition keeps him going back. ‘My son has already done the tough Coniston 14 five times, so I need to get through it at least another couple of times to get ahead of him!’
Blackburn with Darwen’s Executive Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Damian Talbot, said: ‘Ian is such an inspiration for our borough. We have a dedicated team at re:fresh who are here to help any of our residents. They’ve helped people of all ages from all abilities who didn’t know where to start and just need some help, support or guidance to get active and to know what is out there.
‘The wider benefits of exercise and being part of a group are immense. We know that they not only help build mutual friendships but boost mental and physical health.’
If you’d like more information about getting started with running contact the re:fresh BwD team.