Lettercreeve man Martin Harris will be pounding the streets along with 36,000 others as he takes part in the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday (April 23).
For the 45-year-old it is another milestone in a journey back to health that started when he tipped the scales at 21 stone and spent time in hospital suffering from an infection that saw him potentially lose his right leg.
“I remember it well. It was June 2012, on the day the Olympic Torch was passing through Ballymena, which I was upset to be missing,” he says.
“The consultant had just visited me at my bed in Antrim Area Hospital to check on my progress and, quite matter of factly, told me that if they hadn’t caught the infection when they did then amputation was a possibility.
“That was a real wake-up call. From that point forward I became determined to start looking after myself. I was overweight, unfit, unhealthy and unhappy.”
Over the next few years he adopted distance walking as a bit of a hobby but never considered running as an option until one eureka moment in May 2015.
“I was walking through Pennybridge feeling good and I suddenly wondered if I’d be able to run a little bit.
“So I did, just from one lamp post to the next. I didn’t collapse in a heap so I tried it again and, encouraged by that, started to incorporate running into my walks more and more over the weeks that followed. Eventually I felt confident enough to go to the local Saturday morning parkrun at the Ecos Centre only to injure myself a few days later which led to me being out of action for the next few weeks.
“But I had caught the bug. As soon as I was able I was back out running again and, on a whim, I decided to apply for a ballot place in last year’s London Marathon, never really expecting anything to come of it.
“Remarkably, I got chosen but, being inexperienced, my preparations were hampered by a further injury which restricted me to being able to train a total of just 86 miles before the event. However, I turned up on the day and I got around the course despite suffering badly from cramp from the halfway point onwards.
“A few days later I decided I wanted to do it again, and I wanted to do it the right way. So I signed up for the Ballymena Runners Cosy Sofa to 5k programme to learn how to run properly, then joined the club and haven’t looked back since.
“My running has improved immeasurably. I’m definitely more tortoise than hare but the advice and support from the club has been invaluable.”
A major feature of the London Marathon is the huge amount it raises for charity each year, and Martin is keen to play his part in that.
“I am running this year to raise funds for Asthma UK. My wife and two of my children suffer from asthma so it was already a condition I was aware of, but I was really shocked when I learned that there are three asthma related deaths each day in the UK alone.”
Asthma UK is the only charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the 5.4 million asthma sufferers in the UK by funding vital research, information material and essential services.
To help raise as much as he can for the cause Martin is hosting a table quiz this Wednesday night in the Front Page Bar on Ballymoney Street, beginning at 7:30pm. It promises to be a great evening, and includes a raffle and light supper.
If you wish to help Martin reach his fundraising target you can make an online donation at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MartinHarris1971