Mike writes about his long-distance run for the love of prisoners of anything in life that takes away our peace and for the great love-centred work of the Prison Phoenix Trust.
I left prison in 2018 after serving a total of three years and four months for financial related crimes. When I arrived home, whilst delighted to be out, there were many problems. My mother-in-law had moved in and her dementia had unfortunately advanced. I returned to a small island community where I was labelled by many as a criminal. I struggled to find meaningful work. My family had been scattered. The parole people were administrative – their principle concern was to restrict my travel and the places I could stay. It was a becoming a nightmare and I was trapped.
30 months ago I moved back to the UK, which was a relief. In that time, I completed numerous marine industry courses, rented a house, acquired transport, moved my wife and now 14-year-old child over with me whom I placed in a good secondary school.
Having achieved a more settled life, I picked my training up again. Running has always been a large part of my life: I represented Sark in the Island Games several times as well as Guernsey at other levels. Running also got me through prison. I ran every day and we even held our own half marathons (running around a football pitch, over and over again).
Yoga came into my prison life in a big way and it came to be a support for my running. It brought flexibility and general health to my tendons, bones and so on. One day the prison doctor told me I had an arthritic toe. I thought the game was up. But yoga eased the pain and enabled me to train. I went to yoga in Guernsey prison every week and continued to practise after I was released.
I always enjoyed and was inspired by other people’s personal journeys in the PPT newsletters. Reading them helped me realise I was not alone in my suffering.
These days yoga is an integral part of my continued training and I have adapted my own routine. It strengthens my back and core muscles and stretches and brings flexibility to my body (especially my legs). In the summer I often do yoga before a run in the fresh air.
I have learnt these days to enjoy my yoga, to find postures I enjoy. These tend to be child-like positions that make me feel good. I have tried to keep the flexibility that I worked so hard to gain. Caroline, who taught me in prison, was and remains a gift to yoga. She was born for it. She has also witnessed a part of my journey that few people would understand – what it is like to be humiliated and made subservient, to be removed from your family and to be labelled as a criminal. I do not complain here by the way – it was my destiny. There were many great people in Guernsey that helped and supported me without judgement. I am hugely grateful to them all.
The London Marathon and I have unfinished business. I went to see the first ever London Marathon in 1981, on my racing bike aged 13. In 2001 I ran it and blew up at the 19th mile. I ran it four years later with my wife, but had to pull out at Tower Bridge with an injury. When the doctor told me in prison that my toe was arthritic I thought I’d never get the chance to run it again. I thought my toe couldn’t cope. But I now believe that it can, thanks in part to yoga I have actually run several half marathons with that same toe. Yoga flexes my feet and the toe bones. This flexing delivers blood and oxygen to the right places. Then there is the psychological effect, with positive manageability replacing negative fear.
A marathon that I did complete was in Paris in 2003. I ran in someone else’s name but since had it changed. I was there to watch and someone pulled out. We decided I should take this person’s place and use it as a training run, doing half. In the end I ran it all and had the race of my life at 2:55:58! But I’d dearly love to get a time this year in London!
I remember watching the London Marathon while in prison. One of my Guernsey running friends finished in eleventh place that year, and I watched him on TV from my cell, feeling so away from it all. If you’d told me then that in 2021 I’d be running the race, I wouldn’t have believed you!
So I dedicate this run to prisoners of anything in life that takes away our peace – and to the great love-centred work of the Prison Phoenix Trust.
Mike will be running the London Marathon in October 2021. You can sponsor him here.