From 30 Stone To Half Marathon Hero

Ben Fraser

Roll back the clock to January 2015 and Andrea Whiting was at an all-time personal low. With her father dying of cancer Andrea was put into a position that required strength, strength to support someone she loved dearly.


Weighing 30 stone and with limited mobility Andrea began to think differently about her personal health.


My dad was dying of cancer and supporting him made me realise I’m stronger than I was – life is precious and if I didn’t want to die, I had to do something about it


Andrea took the first steps into the world of physical activity through a personal trainer who went on to recommend running as part of her recovery plan. At the same time Andrea was receiving close support from Hoop: a charity that supports obese people to build self-esteem and self-efficacy. 


I chose to stop merely existing and began to embrace life


With as little as 5 minutes brisk walking on a treadmill – shin splints and a problem with the piriformis blighted her efforts from the off. Through determination, hard work and the right guidance Andrea chipped away and took back control of her situation.


If we were to plot the key turning points for Andrea, completing her first parkrun in January 2016, after a recommendation from a niece, has to be up there.


I went flying into the mud, still got up, hating every minute of it – I was determined to finish it and not let it beat me!


Andrea kept coming back to parkrun. It’s fair to say that once the ball starts rolling and a challenge is met and overcome it rarely stays the same. Running for Andrea evolved quickly and turned into entering for The Great North Run. After much haranguing from a friend, words close to…


Stop dicking about you don’t need 20 months to train for a half marathon


Andrea soon received the news that she had got into GNR 2016!


With the goal posts quickly set her approach to running had to change. The very same niece who recommended parkrun was on hand to recommend the Bramley Breezers running club in April 2016.


Andrea is a regular with the Breezers every Monday night but has paradoxically given up her Saturday morning parkrun to get in her LSDs (Long, Slow, Distance) runs early doors.


Take stock of that for a minute; the same lady that couldn’t brisk walk for 5 minutes had reached the point where parkrun – a 3 mile running event – wasn’t long enough for her Saturday training run!


This blossoming relationship with running wasn’t always this dandy.


I used to avoid running on the roads at busy times through fear of being heckled, now I don’t care!


Exercise and running used to be a necessary evil, secondary to everything else, now her week is built around both.


I take a slice of Andrea’s super philosophy on running for beginners. I urge any newbies out there to keep going at it…


A beginner runner is starved of all the good stuff because they don’t break into that enjoyable mid-point of a run – it’s all pain – this is one of the biggest challenges to get through!


In conversation I unpick all the other new challenges and experiences Andrea has embraced since her transformation.


  • Learning to ride a bike for the first time
  • Obstacles courses with dreaded heights
  • Even running off road!


 A super courageous ‘YES’ lady sits in front of me, one who has un-learnt the fear barrier!


Stepping out of my comfort zone has been worth it every time


Originally Andrea just wanted to get through the GNR in any way she could, this changed to walking it, before she finally decided on running it!


I finished the run in 2 hours and 56 minutes, which surpassed my expectations but this was never about time, it was finishing and realising how far I had come


If we were hot on time… OBE track and field legend Denise Lewis added minutes onto Andrea’s race as she was stopped and interviewed live on the BBC – not bad going! 


A highlight was finishing the event surrounded by people, you were constantly in the mix!


The exhilaration of celebrating with hundreds of strangers in different guises and running for different reasons has made a mark on Andrea, one that will not fade for the rest of her life.


Andrea drops in a little golden nugget at the end of our chat… she’s only gone and put in for the London 2017 ballot… kept that quiet! 



Watch Andrea’s BBC Get Inspired video here:


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