Gareth Yeoman will complete a remarkable journey from 29 stone to 26 miles when he crosses the finish line at the ABP Newport Wales Marathon.
The 31-year-old Newport resident, who often struggled to climb the stairs, has shed an astonishing 10 stone in less than 18 months – but he is not stopping there.
Gareth will take on the challenge of a lifetime on Sunday 29 April when he joins 6,000 runners on the start-line, exactly one year on from his first ever 5km Parkrun.
The daunting distance may be intimidating for many runners, but Gareth is relishing the opportunity to show just how far he has come on since signing up to Slimming World with his partner, Shelley in September 2016.
“All my life I’ve been heavy, I was always the prop in rugby or goalkeeper when I played football,” he said. “But it wasn’t until my 20s I got lazy, there is no sob story here.
“When I saw my wife had lost four stone in 10 months since joining Slimming World, I had to join. I thought I would be around 22 stone when I weighed in, but it came up as almost 30 stone and that was the thing that started it all.
“I never thought I would get into running because I was too big, but I loved climbing mountains and I started running back down and I really enjoyed it.”
His new found hunger for running helped him summon the courage to get down to his local Parkrun. The 5km course took Gareth 47 minutes to navigate, but even when he slashed his best time to 35 minutes, then 27 minutes, a marathon was never on his mind.
“I remember my first Parkrun was on April 29, 2017, so it will be exactly 365 days by the time the marathon comes around,” he added.
“A marathon was never on my radar, but I’ve built up from 5K to 10K to half marathon distance. I’m aiming to complete it in about four to five hours and what better place to do it that in my home town just around the corner from my house.
“It’s not just me though, my whole family will be getting involved by doing the Family Mile, so my two daughters will get a taste what should be an amazing day.”
Gareth is hoping his story can inspire other men to begin talking about their struggles with their self image. The inaugural ABP Newport Wales Marathon will be the start of a new era for distance running in Wales, and Gareth is hoping to begin a new chapter of his own.
“If my story can inspire others then that’s great, I would love to one day setup a group for men in their 20s and 30s to sit down and talk about their issues with weight,” he said. “Blokes struggle to talk about these kind of things, we just bottle it up.
“I want to get a community of blokes who can all help each other get more active and show that it is possible to change your lifestyle.”