I went to Hexham High School where I developed a love of sport, primarily through rugby and athletics. I got to a national and international level in Athletics in sprint hurdling while at school and went on to study sport at university.
I was five years behind the likes of Colin Jackson. It was hard to see a future in elite hurdling when you had the best in the world to race against, so I moved into decathlon while I was university in London. I trained at Belgrave Harriers, where I was rubbing shoulders with Daley Thompson. I gained a real passion for decathlon and I got more enjoyment out of it than concentrating on just one event.
I returned to the North East and spent five years teaching and lecturing at Newcastle University and Northumberland College. Then I got what was my ideal job at the time: a regional manager position for England Athletics. It meant I was living and breathing the sport.
I’ve always been interested in the events side of sport and I organised the University National Championships the year after I competed in them.
I started organising an annual decathlon meet at Hexham, which is where Dean Macey qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was famously interviewed afterwards standing in a wheelie bin of ice. Lots of people copy it now; I have photo of Jessica Ennis in a wheelie bin in Austria!
I also brought the double decathlon to the UK for the first time. It’s a crazy event where you do 20 different track and field events over two days. We started it in Hexham in 1999 and the next year it became the World Championships. There’s a group of athletes who live for their double decathlons.
In addition to this, I had been organising 10km and half marathon runs in Northumberland which were growing in number and popularity.
I never set out to make money out of organising events; it was a labour of love. But I realised I could create a business to expand the races outside of the county and established Run Nation in 2013.
The number of runs has increased each year. In 2016 we are hosting 14 events in Northumberland, three in Durham, two in Cumbria, two in Scotland, one in Newcastle and one in London.
I’m the only full-time member of staff and I have a team of people who help me with the organisation of the races on a part time basis. We work with a medical/first aid team and each race requires a number of volunteer marshals (to whom we pay expenses). We also work closely with Newcastle University offering placements to students who are completing the sports management course.
We attract everyone including club runners, non-club runners and people who have never done a run before or want to move up from the weekly 5km Parkrun. With each run, we try and make everyone feel part of it, whatever their level.
I would always encourage people to go along to a club. It’s not as intimidating at you’d think; it’s just helpful to have a more structured training programme. There are also a number of informal jogging groups that are ideal for taking your first steps into regular training.
The great thing about distance running is that it’s something you can do at any age. You don’t tend to get 50-year-old athletes starting the pole vault or the hammer.
To continue to increase our races each year. I eventually want Run Nation races to be held in all four corners of the country, but I’m mindful of controlling the growth so that each race is good quality.
Run Nation’s 2016 events:
Feb 14: LOVE2RUN Valentines 10k, Town Moor, Newcastle
Feb 14: LOVE2RUN Valentines 10k, Victoria Park, London
Feb 21: Run Scotland 10k, Strathclyde Country Park, Hamilton
March 19: Run Northumberland 10k, Cragside
April 3: Run Northumberland Half Marathon, Kirkley Hall
April 4: Run Durham 10K, Hamsterley
May 15: Tynedale Half Marathon, Hexham (part of the Northumberland Festival of Running)
June 1: Run Northumberland 10k, Vindolanda, Hexham
June 12: Run Northumberland 10k, Bamburgh
June 29: Run Northumberland 10k, Kirkley Hall
Aug 17 Run Northumberland 10k, Stamfordham
Sept 9: Run Durham BIG 10 Miler, Hamsterley
Sept 25: SCA Prudhoe Miners 10k and Junior Run, Prudhoe
Oct 9: Run Northumberland 10k, Matfen
Oct 16: Run Scotland Rannoch Marathon/Half Marathon, Kinloch Rannoch, Perth & Kinross
Oct 23: Run Northumberland Castles Marathon/Half Marathon, Bamburgh
Nov 27: Run Northumberland BIG 10 Miler, Kirkley Hall
Run Nation is planning further runs in Lazonby, Cumbria, Newburn, Newcastle, Ampleforth, North Yorkshire and at Holy Island, Northumberland. Check the website for confirmation of dates.