Parkrun To Ultra Marathon in 18 Months

Antony Gatley

Just a catchy title you say, not possible you say… read on I say.


September 5th 2013 was the day I stopped smoking, not a special day for anyone else but unknowingly that was the start of a life changing journey for me. As any ex-smoker will tell you, keeping yourself busy (and not eating) after stopping smoking isn’t an easy thing to do.  A friend suggested I take up running to keep fit so I tried to run a mile, although I was sick at the end I loved the buzz that running gave me. I heard about a free run called parkrun which was every Saturday morning at 9am, I went a couple of times and knocked so much time off from my previous attempts – I was hooked!


As I ventured out into a particular freezing cold morning in February 2014 (the type that makes your face hurt), I remember thinking that I used to snigger at ‘joggers’ as I sped past in my car. Now I had become that ‘jogger’ kitted in bright trainers and running tights. I used to think they were wasting their time, they were silly for running about in the cold, rain, wind, the dark nights and the frosty mornings.


I had received confirmation of my entry into The Great North Run 2014 a day previous, this was to be my first official race.


I did some research and asked a few people, their responses were mainly “you must follow this plan, eat this, train like this, wear these” in the end I didn’t follow any plans, I just used common sense and worked hard. After months of steady training, building up the miles, resting when I felt I needed it, the day came around for the GNR – I had given myself the target of finishing in under two hours


I had never experienced anything like the atmosphere before, so many people shouting your name, patting you on the back, willing you around and offering everything from jelly babies to a glass of wine. If anyone is yet to do the Great North Run I would recommend it, it’s brilliant and make sure you keep right after about 9 mile mark as all the free drinks are there. On a swelteringly warm day in 20 odd degree heat I completed my first race and half marathon in 1 Hour 58mins dead, my wife and young daughter were waiting for me at the end, I was proud to say the least. After that day I entered further races, amongst them The Cannon Hall Run 10k, Abbey Dash 10k, and at the end on 2014 I made a decision to step up again in 2015.


I came up with a 10UP challenge for 2015, basically 10 races that would graduate in difficulty as the year went along (10 races went to 14 races eventually with 11 of those down so far). The races varied from hard 10ks to trail 10ks to road half marathons, International races, trail half marathons, multi fell races totalling 48k and last week The Yorkshire Marathon. In less than 2 weeks I take on my first Ultra Marathon and I have two further races before the end of the year at Ultra distance. In 2016 I have the Highland Fling Ultra Marathon (58miles through the Highlands) and my ultimate goal – St Cuthberts Ultra 100k in July 2016.


I have met some amazing people on my journey, many friends for life and seen acts of selflessness and courage that I thought only happened in Hollywood Blockbusters. The point to this blog is really to demonstrate, that anyone from any background, level of fitness and at any age (I have just turned 40) can achieve anything with hard work and determination


P.S. I’m now a runner, not a jogger!


Antony used the ‘Stoptober’ App  to help quit smoking as it really shows you what you are saving and gives tips on how you can help yourself through the tough times, the other key piece of advice that helped was drinking lots of water in the first few weeks which flushed out the toxins.


Join the thousands quitting with Stoptober here:




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