Putting on his running shoes has helped Colin find his way through the darkest of time.
Colin, from Orkney, started running due to mental health issues stemming from a gambling and alcohol addiction dating back to when he was just 17 years old. Now at 42, Colin is putting in the miles and getting his buzz from hitting the trails.
“I used to be really active when I was a boy, with golf and football being my main sports. When I turned 17, that is when I turned to alcohol and I would just hide in the bookmakers throwing my money away.
“At that age I didn’t know what I was doing and how much it was going to affect me. I was desperate to get a big win and it was all about the buzz and adrenaline once I put a bet on. If it didn’t come in, then I would turn to alcohol to numb the pain.”
It's now or never
Colin struggled to combat his addiction for years, and it wasn’t until his partner gave him an ultimatum to turn his life around, that he was able to take action.
“Around 5 years ago was the turning point for me. Having gone through another rough patch with my addictions, my partner persuaded me to go out for a run and if I didn’t get my life back on track then that was it and she was out the door.
“I decided to do as she said and went out for a couple of miles. When I returned the endorphins immediately kicked in and that was me! Running gave me the same adrenaline rush I would get from gambling but in a much more positive way.
“From then on, I went out every morning, persevered and gradually ran further and got quicker. By the 6-month stage I ran in my first 10k competition and the excitement I got and the sense of achievement I felt was incredible.
“Running has helped me cut back on my drinking, I have stopped smoking and it’s assisted me through my gambling addiction.
"I have a new focus which I absolutely love, and it has made me a much happier person. One my family are prouder of.”
Colin thanks his new passion for steering him out of trouble and allowing him to enjoy his life again.
“As extreme as it sounds, I don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for running. It helps to take me away from everything, helps me focus on what matters to me – my two kids and my partner – and makes me feel alive.
“I still have my good days and bad days, but I have found a way to deal with it and it’s provided me a positive outlook on life now.
Colin joined the Orkney Runners, a social running group of like-minded people. The group gave Colin the space to speak to other people and talk about his problems through a running capacity. It then wasn’t until 2019 that Colin took his newfound love to a new level and started to compete on a more serious level.
He now has a coach (Sophie Dunnett) who has helped support him both as a coach but also a friend, helping him to compete at several large-scale events. Colin's highlights include completing three ultra-marathons – known as the Triple Crown – consisting of the 53-mile Highland Fling, the 96-mile West Highland Way and the 42-mile Devil o’ the Highlands foot races in a combined time of 36 hours 20 minutes and 37 seconds, coming in third place.
“For anyone looking to get started, be honest with yourself. I never thought I would be a runner - so what I am achieving now is unbelievable.
“I know running, certainly ultra-running isn’t for everyone, but there is definitely something out there for you. Try something new and find out what it is that you love to do.”
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