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Snickers to Marathons

In 2009, I faced a pivotal moment - my expanding waistline demanded attention. From struggling to run 50 meters to conquering marathons, my story is a testament to the power of perseverance and stepping out of your comfort zone. Join me in my journey of self-discovery and triumph.
Lee Simmons- Before & After

In 2009, I realised it was time to tackle my expanding waistline. Despite trying to quit smoking, I kept gaining weight, probably because of overeating and regular pub visits. Ignoring warning signs of health issues, I relied on a Snickers bar for quick energy fixes at work.

Lee Simmons - Welsh Mountains
At my heaviest, reaching 16.5 stone, occasional comments about my size began to surface. However, what really sparked my decision to start running was an incident at Boots. While using a machine with a friend to measure our height, weight and BMI, my results prompted the machine to recommend speaking to someone in the store about weight loss. That experience really made me think.

I began my running journey with a pair of budget Reeboks from JJB Sports. Starting with a mix of jogging and walking, even managing 50 metres was a challenge initially. But I persisted, gradually increasing my distance until I could run three, then five miles without stopping. Running six nights a week, regardless of weather, I eventually comfortably ran five miles. Upon learning about the Stafford half marathon, I joined with friends, following a strict training plan leading up to my first half marathon in March 2012.

Following my first half marathon, during a leisurely stroll in the Welsh mountains with a few mates, I crossed paths with a chap named Matt Tonks. He was a friend of a friend and a proper speedster. Matt casually suggested I tackle the Wolverhampton marathon in October that same year, so I thought, “Why not?” and signed up without really pondering the consequences. With a shrug and a nod, I embarked on a training regime.

Before I knew it, race day had arrived and after crossing the finish line, I was hit with an undeniable craving for more marathon madness (not a Snickers bar). Fast forward to now and I’ve clocked up a surprising 30 marathons, even throwing in a couple of ultra marathons for good measure. While I entertain the idea of tackling more ultras in the future, I must admit, there’s something about the marathon distance that keeps me coming back for more—it’s a challenge I can’t resist.

Lee Simmons standing by his collection of medals
My PB marathon time stands at 3 hours and 18 minutes, achieved during the Spring Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford in 2017 while I was preparing for an ultra marathon. This particular marathon consisted of eight laps and I can still vividly recall the pain I endured throughout the race. The struggle to surpass my previous personal best was ever-present, urging me to push through. During the event, I encountered Matt Tonks, the individual who initially inspired me to take on marathon running. It was on one of the final laps that we had a brief chat. He advised me to maintain my pace, assuring me that doing so would result in beating my previous time. Taking his advice to heart, I remained focused and determined, ultimately achieving my goal.

30th Marathon and Counting

My latest marathon goes by the name of the Tissington Trail Marathon (completed 21 April 2024 ). The route is a former railway line from Ashbourne to Buxton and runs along a 13 mile route from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne in Derbyshire. Surrounded by beautiful countryside the traffic-free trail is ideal for a marathon and, because the route is slightly downhill on the way back, you’ve got gravity on your side! This venture marked my forth marathon of the year, with aspirations to maintain a monthly marathon streak throughout the entirety of 2024. Why am I disclosing such information? Oh well, I guess I’m committed now 🙂

Believe it or not, my preferred marathon isn’t the renowned London Marathon; instead, it’s the challenging Snowdonia Marathon, a race I’ve completed five times. This scenic route offers a breathtaking experience as it winds its way around Mount Snowdon, encompassing approximately 20 miles on road and around 6 miles off-road. The fresh, picturesque surroundings make it an unforgettable journey every time.

Edinburgh Marathon 2023

Edinburgh Marathon 2023

One of the most formidable challenges etched in my memory. While the route itself was beautiful on the eye, it was the scorching heat that transformed this race into an epic test of endurance. The sweltering conditions proved too much for many participants, with several succumbing to exhaustion in the later stages, some requiring IV drips to revive them. I found myself teetering on the brink of collapse, a fact witnessed by my running companion, Hilary Peters, who can recount the peculiar sounds of pain I was making.

After completing the run, my scalp resembled a ripe tomato, yet with Flynny’s support (girlfriend extraordinaire), I recuperated swiftly.

The icing on the cake

The toughest marathon I’ve undertaken was likely The Icing On The Cake Marathon February 2024, commencing at Carding Mill Valley and comprising two loops around the Long Mynd and Church Stretton area. The weather was wet and windy and the course was technical with significant elevation gain, all off-road. Without prior experience, I’m uncertain if I would have managed to finish it.

Step out of your comfort zone

When Martin (PR Group Leader & Coach) approached me about becoming a PR Run Leader, I was taken aback. “Why me?” It required some serious consideration. The idea of being a run leader had never crossed my mind before, not to mention it being a role far outside of my comfort zone. Addressing a group of up to 70 people on a Saturday morning and explaining a run session felt daunting, but as I attended the Leadership in Running Fitness course and led PR sessions, my confidence grew. It has truly brought me out of my shell and boosted my self-confidence. I take pleasure in assisting others in achieving their goals and I understand that some people view me as inspirational. However, I hope that after reading this, that people will see that I’m just an ordinary bloke who managed to break free from the grip of modern-day laziness through sheer willpower, determination and the right mindset.

Every individual who attends a Penkridge Runners session is fitter than I was when I began running. This indicates to me that all of us can push ourselves a little further to reach goals we believe are beyond our grasp. Aim high and seize the opportunity! The only sure way to fail is to not give it a go. Even in failure, there is a lesson to be learned.
Thanks for reading

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