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Russell Simpson, of Stroud Athletic Club, on track to run London Marathon in October

All Areas > Sport > Running

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 26th March 2020, 09:00

Russell Simpson, left, with Ryan Major Russell Simpson, left, with Ryan Major

The London Marathon always provides great stories. It’s one of the iconic sporting events, allowing as it does elite runners to compete alongside club runners and social runners.

But there’s more to it than that, of course, because as well as titles, personal bests and fancy dress, it produces so many tales of the unexpected where people have overcome unbelievably tough times just to take part in the 26.2-mile event.

Russell Simpson epitomises that can-do spirit where just about anything is possible if you really put your mind it.

You see, Russell has battled with - and beaten - a heart condition that was with him for some three-and-a-half years, a condition that saw him balloon up to more than 19 stone.

Now, four-and-a-half years later, the 48-year-old Stroud Athletic Club runner will line up with 40,000-plus others for this year’s delayed London Marathon on Sunday 4th October , weighing in at under 14 stone and looking to complete the course in around four-and-a-half hours.

This will be only Russell’s second marathon – and his first in London – but such is his determination that everyone who knows him just knows he will come through his capital test with flying colours.

Russell’s story is a truly uplifting one.

“I was diagnosed with a heart condition eight years ago,” he told The Local Answer. “That got resolved about four-and-a-half years ago, but I put on a lot of weight, I was completely unfit because I hadn’t been able to do anything.

“So, I started running on my own on Minchinhampton Common. I also did a Couch to 5K but I found that it wasn’t really progressing me.”

It was then that Stroud-born Russell, a former Marling School pupil who these days lives in Shortwood, made a decision that was to change his life.

“Stroud Athletic Club were running a beginners’ course and that sounded absolutely perfect,” he said.

That was just over three years ago and it’s fair to say he was spot on because Russell, who played prop for his school’s 1st XV back in the day, has been right up there in the front row when it comes to clocking up PBs over the past few years.

“My first proper race was the Minchinhampton 10K,” he said, “I finished in about one hour, 11.

“I ran a few more 10Ks in 2017 and by the end of the summer I ran under an hour for the first time, so I was certainly progressing.”

He certainly was and he was also happy to step up in distance as well.

“I ran 2.24 in the Stroud Half in 2017 and the following year I finished in 2.07,” he said.

Last year his time was slower – 2.26 – because he helped someone around the course but although clearly comfortable over 13.1 miles, he initially had no real ambition to run double the distance.

“Doing a marathon was not something I thought I’d ever do,” he admitted.

That all changed in April last year when he ran the Brighton Marathon.

“I ran 4.54 which I was very pleased with,” he said. “I ran all the way. I stopped for a couple of drinks, but I did everything I wanted to do.

“I’m going to London hoping to beat my Brighton time of last year, I’d be over the moon with four hours, 30.”

Whatever happens in October, one thing is for certain – Russell will carry on running.

Although he played rugby and a bit of football when he was younger, he played little or no sport for 20 years before getting the running bug.

And while he was well past 40 when he took up the sport he’s certainly very pleased that it was a case of better late than never.

“The health benefits are obvious,” he said. “But it’s not just the health side, it’s the social side as well.

“I’ve met so many good people at the club, we train together and sometimes we do parkruns on a Saturday. You’re always meeting new people.”

And Russell, who works for Muller UK in Stonehouse, wants to continue challenging himself as far as his running is concerned.

“We’ll get the London Marathon done and see where we go, maybe go for a longer distance,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “Nothing crazy like 100 miles, maybe 50K or 60K!”

Russell was given a ballot place at this year’s London Marathon but is raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“I don’t have to but I want to,” he said.

To support him, donate directly to his fundraising page https://www.justgiving.com/

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