Long Road to London

By Mike

I left prison in 2018 after serving a total of three years and four months. When I arrived home, whilst delighted to be out, there were many problems. My mother-in-law had moved in and brought her advanced dementia with her. I returned to a small island community where I was permanently labelled as a criminal. I struggled to find meaningful work, and so undertook all sorts of low paid work. The parole people in Guernsey were unhelpful – their only concern was to restrict my travel and places I could stay. It was a nightmare and I was trapped.

Two years ago I moved back to the UK, which was a relief. In that time, I completed numerous marine industry courses, rented a house, acquired a car, moved my wife and 12-year-old child over with me and placed my son 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. 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.

Mike running

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.

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. Around 2000 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.

The only marathon I did complete was in Paris in about 2002. Unfortunately I ran in someone else’s name. 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 2:51! But I’d dearly love to get a genuine time, in my own name, in London.

I remember watching the London Marathon while in prison. One of my running friends came in eleventh that year, and I watched him from my cell, feeling so jealous. If you’d told me then that in 2020 I’d be running it, I wouldn’t have believed you!

Since Mike wrote this article, lockdown cancelled the 2020 marathon, but after one more year’s wait he will be running the London Marathon 2021 in October! You can sponsor him here.