A Wearside man who shed seven stone is set to take on a new challenge.
Gary Wilkinson, took up running in January last year in a bid to lose weight and get fit.
Now, the 51-year-old is about to take on the 2017 Active Kielder Half Marathon in another step towards a happier and healthier lifestyle.
For the Sunderland dad-of-two the 13-mile track around Northumbrian Water’s Kielder Reservoir will be the longest distance event that he has ever faced and he will be raising money for mental health charity, MIND.
At 19 stone Gary found he was becoming out of breath very quickly while playing with his six-year-old son and his weight was affecting his life and making his job, as a full time carer, very difficult.
He found the beginning of training very difficult, but with the help of staff at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre and gym, he slowly built up his fitness and he developed a real passion for running.
Running has changed my life completely and has given me my life backGary Wilkinson
The weight soon began to drop off and, now at 12 stone, Gary is happier and healthier than he has ever been and is looking forward to the challenge of the Kielder Half Marathon.
Gary said: “Running has changed my life completely and has given me my life back.
“I found it tough going when I first got started, but with the help of my family, the people at the gym and those around me, I’ve managed to lose seven stone and I feel better and more positive than I have ever done before.
“Running helps me relax, it helps me switch off and deal with stress and problems in a much better way.
“It’s improved my general health and every aspect of my life. Each time I complete a run and manage to push myself that little bit faster, or further, I get a huge sense of achievement and there is no better feeling.”
Gary has challenged himself to compete in five different running events throughout 2017, and having completed 5k and 10k events earlier in the year, he will tackle the Kielder run in October, before doing two more events in November.
He said: “I can’t wait for the Kielder Half Marathon. I’ve heard a lot about it from people who I train with and they said that the scenery and the course is the most beautiful they had ever seen. I know it’s going to be tough and extremely challenging but I’m training hard and raring to go.”
The Kielder Marathon Weekend 2017 is run by Events of the North, a company led by Olympians Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley.
Steve said: “Gary’s story is so uplifting and positive and is a real reminder to us all about how fantastic running and exercise can be and the benefits it can bring to our lives.”
Steve Dougal, Everyone Active’s general manager at the Aquatic Centre, said: “We are extremely proud of what Gary has achieved and we wish him all the best for his half marathon. Our goal is to encourage the local community to become more active and lead a healthier lifestyle.
“I would encourage anyone who would like to improve their overall health and wellbeing to find out more about the ways we can help them on their fitness journey.”