When you’re planning to do a race called Hellrunner and have agreed to pound the pavements in a dog suit, you know you’ve caught the running bug.
In the past year-and-a-half, Phil Hall has completed two half-marathons, a marathon, a 10-mile run and a duathlon. In the process he’s raised more than £2,000 for charity – and lost over seven stone.
Now he’s planning to raise money for charity Canine Partners by doing the Great South Run dressed as a dog and take on the ominous-sounding Hellrunner – an ultra tough winter trail race through mud, water and who knows what weather conditions.
He’s also planning to do 50-mile and 100-mile runs over the North Downs Way and take part in Endure 24 – a 24-hour race, which can be run as a relay, over a five-mile loop of woodland trails.
It’s not bad for someone who used to weigh more than 21 stone and was out of action for months with a broken foot.
‘I suppose because of how far I’m taking it in quite a short time, some people think I’m a bit mad,’ laughs Phil. ‘But I love it.’
To fit in with family life, the 36-year-old dad regularly leaves behind the comfort of the duvet at 4am to go on training runs.
The reward for these early starts is the chance to run past dazzling fields of pristine snow or enjoy the beauty and peace of the sun rising over dew-soaked meadows.
Phil admits that he’s caught the bug in a big way and should serve as quite an inspiration to anyone who’s facing the weight loss challenge.
‘I think it’s important to find something you really enjoy. It might not be running, it could be something else,’ he says.
‘I love it. I do a lot of running first thing in the morning around Stansted Park and it’s really lovely, especially when there’s snow on the fields and it’s untouched.
‘It makes me feel great. I think I would have found it extremely difficult to lose the weight without the running.’
Phil admits his lifestyle might not be for everyone as he has gone from sofa to serial race participant in quite a short period of time.
Since October last year 36-year-old Phil has completed the Great South Run, the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon, the Leith Hill Half Marathon in Surrey, the Brighton Marathon and the Portsmouth Duathlon.
And the dad-of-two is planning to pick up the pace.
Phil is training for the Clarendon Marathon in October. This takes in off-road trails and there are more hills, adding an extra challenge to a road marathon.
Then of course there’s Hellrunner in Bordon. ‘My wife and daughters have come to cheer me on at other runs, but they say they’re not turning out for that one,’ he laughs.
Phil, who lives in Horndean, manages a Portsmouth Co-op store and will be running with colleagues for this year’s Great South Run.
The company raises money for Canine Partners – which trains dogs to help people with disabilities – and that is the reason for the dog suit.
‘That will be a bit of a fun one,’ he laughs. ‘But you never know, I might start running and suddenly get the urge to do really well.’
As well as Canine Partners, Phil has raised money for the Portsmouth branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
He says: ‘Raising money is great, it makes you feel pretty good and it gives you more motivation when things are getting difficult.’
Helping others and doing something you love is a brilliant way to improve your health and lose weight.
A lot bigger than he is now, Phil had nevertheless completed one Great South Run and was training for another when he tripped and injured his foot. He decided to go ahead with the 10-mile run anyway and completed it even though he had broken his foot.
Phil ended up having an operation and spending 16 weeks off work.
He was out of action for months and ended up piling on weight, eventually reaching over 21 stone.
At the beginning of last year, he decided to get back into the gym and then his passion for running took off.
‘It was a struggle at first because I’d put on the weight and still had pains in my foot. I would recommend people take it slowly. Don’t try to do too much too quickly.
‘Confidence can also be a problem. When I was bigger I felt self-conscious when I was going out running. I thought people were looking thinking “what does he think he’s doing?”
‘It can be quite strange running in public if you’re not used to it. But I don’t think anyone’s looking really. and if they’re thinking anything it’s probably ‘‘I wish I could do that or maybe I should give it a go’’.’
Now he has a running partner – Graham Carter – and recommends this as it’s great for motivation and makes running more pleasurable.
Of course, many people are short of time but Phil manages to fit his training around a busy family life.
That’s why he’s such an early riser. ‘I can be home and then have a normal day with the family,’ he says.
And this running man is also practical. When he visited friends with wife Naomi recently, she drove the eight-miles and he ran.
Naomi and daughters Amelia, 11, and nine-year-old Megan have been extremely supportive of his diet and exercise.
Phil has dieted by himself but followed the Slimming World plan.
He’s cut out crisps and chocolate and only snacks on fruit.
Breakfast is a bowl of cereal and lunch is Ryvita and fruit rather than sandwiches and crisps.
For dinner he’ll have his usual meals but cut out the extras. For example he still enjoys a bowl of chilli but cuts out the garlic bread and cheese.
His family sometimes cheer him on and made a surprise appearance at the Brighton Marathon.
But it’s perhaps understandable if Hellrunner is another matter.