Runner's World Heroes 2011

Meet this year's Heroes of Running, as named by the Runner's World UK team.

Posted: 10 May 2011

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The Survivor: Geoffrey Corcoran

What is true misfortune? Is it losing a loved one? Losing your home? Your job? Your family? Perhaps it's all four, as happened to actor Geoffrey Corcoran in 2006. In the space of a few months his mother was killed in a car crash and his father died shortly afterwards. He lost his best friend to breast cancer, before becoming estranged from his sister over a family dispute, a situation that spiralled into him losing his job and his home, and ending up in a hostel at the age of 60.

"I was so depressed that I couldn't think straight or make simple decisions," he says. "I was an ultra runner and 3:40 marathoner at that time, but I stopped running - which in hindsight was the biggest mistake I could have made. I became a recluse. My weight ballooned and I couldn't sleep. I just sat in an armchair in a filthy flat.

"I know the actor Simon Pegg and at that time he was filming Run Fatboy Run. I was going to be offered a part in it, but he saw that I was too depressed to work properly, so I couldn't take the job."

Geoffrey's doctor prescribed anti-depressants, but instead of subduing his suicidal feelings, they intensified them. He made a trip to Beachy Head, but held back from taking his own life.

In December last year Geoffrey wandered into a newsagent's, where a copy of this magazine caught his eye. "I had stopped reading Runner's World when I first became ill," he says. "The sight of the familiar lettering stopped me in my tracks. I spent 20 minutes reading it until I was informed that this wasn't a library. So I bought the magazine.

"The next morning I got up at 6am and walked an hour to Hampstead Heath in my kit. When I got to Kenwood House I began to shuffle a bit. I lasted 20 seconds, then I had to stop and walk. I carried on like this for a bit - jogging very slowly then walking - and I knew I had found the thing that was going to save me. After about 25 minutes I stopped and cried. All I could think was, 'I'm back.'

"I got the bus home and did something amazing: I went to the cafe round the corner and had poached egg on toast, the first time I had been able to go out and eat in public for five years. I felt fantastic."

Six months later Geoffrey's recovery continues apace. He has work, a flat and a new set of friends from his local running club. And he can run for an hour without stopping.

"What running can do for you is amazing," he says. "It's the best therapy. Now I'm running again,  I'm never going to stop."

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