How marathon man Jeff turned his life around

Jeff Clark from Portchester, with some of the medals he has earned at running events Picture: Sarah Standing (160607-1965)
Jeff Clark from Portchester, with some of the medals he has earned at running events Picture: Sarah Standing (160607-1965)

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Looking at Jeff Clark today, it’s hard to imagine he was ever the ‘lazy overweight truck driver’ that he quite happily dubs himself.

The fit and healthy marathon man has turned his life around, taking some of the toughest races quite literally in his stride.

Jeff Clark before his weight loss

Jeff Clark before his weight loss

As recently as 2010 Jeff weighed 19 stone and had a 42-inch waist but thanks to some key lifestyle changes and support from his family, he’s managed to lose nearly five stone.

A self-confessed lazy lorry driver, Jeff said his unhealthy lifestyle was making him unhappy and that catching a glimpse of an unwanted reflection of himself made him say ‘enough is enough’.

‘Driving a truck is a very sedentary job,’ he said.

‘Sitting behind the wheel all day and then watching TV at night, it was an unhealthy routine that I just got used to.

‘I’d park up at a truck stop and wouldn’t have the luxury of selecting any healthy food, so ready meals and burgers were a regular occurrence.

‘Even on the weekends I spent all my time watching football and eating pizza, that’s the way my life went on back then.’

Pizza and burgers are now a thing of the past for Jeff after a sobering moment in the bathroom marked the turning point for the ex-navy serviceman.

‘One day I remember getting out of the bath and catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror,’ he said.

‘There were parts of my body that I could no longer see and I knew at that point that something had to change.’

Now a keen marathon runner, Jeff, 56, literally stumbled across the major factor that would kick-start his weight loss.

He said: ‘I had parked up at a service station that was being refurbished so I had to find the nearest supermarket to get some dinner.

‘I got the map out and found the nearest bus stop but the buses weren’t running.

Luckily a passer-by told me a Tesco was just down the road.

‘Six miles and a few wrong turns later I staggered back to my truck and out of curiosity I looked up how many calories I had burnt and to my amazement it was over 1,000. This is easy I thought!

‘So I started making this part of my day. When I’d park up in the evenings I’d make sure I went for a bit of a walk.’

This lay the foundations for Jeff’s weight-loss journey as he swapped greasy motorway burgers for vegetables and fresh meat.

‘My daughter bought me a slow cooker, so I stopped eating all the rubbish whilst at work and started cooking my own meals,’ he said.

‘I’d put all the fresh meat and vegetables in the cooker in the morning and it would be ready for me after my walk in the evening.’

Jeff’s family played a huge role on his journey to a 34-inch waistline, none more so than his wife Michelle Clark, who has also lost a lot of weight.

He said: ‘We’ve been on this adventure together. We started going for walks at the weekend and exploring the countryside instead of staying inside watching football.’

But, after what had started out as a way to lose a few pounds, Jeff’s exercise was taken up a notch after he committed to his first competitive run while on a family holiday.

‘We were on a cruise and one night over dinner I foolishly agreed to do the Great South Run,’ he said.

‘The next morning I was in the ship’s gym, that’s when I started training properly.

‘I remember my first proper jog, I ran for about 15 minutes and was coughing after for about two hours.

‘But slowly over time I started increasing the distance slowly and I felt better about myself.

‘I joined The Hilton Hotel gym and made sure that I stopped near one at night, so that way I could fit my running around my job.’

After completing the Great South Run, Jeff, of Kelvin Grove, Portchester, made sure he kept to his lifestyle changes as he started to see improvements in his health.

‘I’m no longer so lazy,’ he said.

‘I now have more energy, my blood pressure has decreased and my cholesterol has dropped. I was just a more healthy person in general.’

Since the Great South Run, Jeff has competed in three full marathons including last year’s London marathon amongst countless other half-marathons and running events.

Nowadays Jeff’s life is completely different, as he has recently gone vegetarian and has quit his job as a truck driver and now works at Environmental Treatment Concepts in Fareham, jogging to work twice a week.

‘I’m a member at David Lloyd now, doing running, swimming and cycling,’ he said. ‘I’ve come a long way since those nights in the cab.’

Jeff, who has lived in Portchester for nearly 25 years, has a completely new wardrobe after going from a 42-inch to a 34-inch waist and says wife Michelle is proud of his transformation.

‘She’s proud of me and I’m proud of her too,’ he said.

‘I say that she’s now got a new husband and I’ve got a new wife.’

Jeff has a had a bit of time off from competing recently but is back in action next month with his next event being the Alton 10k run on May 8. He said: ‘I’m excited to get back into it all at Alton.’

One step beyond... for worthy cause

Jeff Clark has recently gone one step further than competing in running events by organising races himself to help raise money for charity.

The recent Hundred Acres 10k was a great success and it raised nearly £1,500 for Guide Dogs.

Jeff is proud of his new endeavour.

He said: ‘I am so pleased by the level of support people have shown by signing up for the various events I have organised.

‘People have so far enjoyed the events and raised money for a very worthwhile cause, and there’s lots me to come.’

Jeff has also got other events lined up, with The Fareham Solstice 10k in June and the Portchester Castle 10k in July, which he is particularly excited about.

‘I’ve been overwhelmed at the interest we’ve received about the runs,’ he said.

‘Portchester Castle was 90 per cent sold-out in a few days.

‘It’s the first run in this area and it has been brilliantly supported by both English Heritage and Fareham Borough Council.’

Jeff is also a member of Fareham Crusaders Running Club and is a guide runner for visually impaired competitors, in stark contrast to his weekends in previous years 
spent watching football and eating pizza.

He said: ‘It’s nice encouraging runners from different backgrounds and of all abilities to get together and enjoy some beautiful local routes.’

All the races organised by Jeff this year will be raising money for Guide Dogs, with future events supporting different charities.

For more information about previous and upcoming events go online at jeff261159.simpl.com/index.html