How I Ran It Off
Losing over three stone helped 1983 London Marathon champ Mike Gratton rediscover the joy of running
1983 London Marathon winner Mike Gratton
As an elite athlete I could eat almost anything without affecting my weight. My diet was quite basic – I ate pasta and chicken the night before I won the London Marathon. But I probably drank too much alcohol. In those days we liked to go for a couple of pints after training.
I never officially retired. I was still running quite well in my late 40s and early 50s but then I started to get a few niggles, which meant I ran less and gained a few pounds.
Running a sporting-holidays company (209events.com) meant I was travelling a lot, too. Even a trip to London for meetings would involve a couple of milky coffees, a sandwich and probably a cake. It was that typical middle-aged thing where entertainment becomes focused around eating and drinking.
Over the next seven to eight years, the balance tipped to the point where my weight was impeding my running. I’d gone from doing 60-70 miles a week in my late 40s to around 15 miles a week in my late 50s. I was just jogging – the intervals and all that stuff had gone. I didn’t look or feel very healthy, but I kidded myself that I was OK.
In July 2016 I was running the Swiss Alpine 30K with clients and it was the first time I’d struggled in a race. Afterwards, someone posted a photo of me on Facebook and I thought ‘Is that me?’ I hadn’t weighed myself in years but I stepped on the scales and was shocked to find I weighed almost 16 stone.
I devised a diet, substituting green veg and salad for carbs and reducing or cutting out the things I was clearly having to excess, like milky recovery drinks and wine. Within two months I’d lost a stone and a half and could see my body changing. Once I reached my target weight, I went back to a more balanced diet, with potatoes, rice and, occasionally, pasta.
From the day I started the diet, I also began doing a mini circuit every morning of 25 press-ups, dips, sit-ups and bridges to kick-start my metabolism, and in October I began to attend interval sessions at my local running club. By Christmas I was running twice a week with them and seeing my times drop.
I feel so much more alive. Running isn’t a struggle anymore and I’ve got my competitive instinct back – I’m enjoying the cut and thrust of racing. My goal with every race is to finish as high up the field as I can.
I’m still maintaining my goal weight so I appear to have reached a point where my energy expenditure matches my intake. I’m eating much better now, but I’m not fanatical. The odd glass of wine, or a coffee and slice of cake are still on the menu.
I’ve had such a positive response to my weight loss. People have said how well I look and some older runners have said it’s inspired them to start running again. For seven to eight years, I wasn’t really a runner. I’m 62, but I’m running quicker than I was back then and it just feels right.