Welcome to Run With Less, Dan Woodgate.
Dan is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring people I have met.
Also known as @half_the_man_dan, Dan is on a personal transformation journey.
From his heaviest at 27 stone, Dan has lost over 13 stone and is very close to reaching his target weight of 13 stone, losing more than half his original body weight.
Dan has been hugely inspirational to my own personal journey. He has entered three marathon events and an unwavering commitment to regular parkruns & volunteering.
But more importantly, by sharing his inspiring story and the amazing transformation encourages others to embrace their own weight loss journey.
Dan, thanks for joining us for a chat.
Run With Less: Could you give an introduction to your story for any readers who may be unfamiliar with it?
Dan Woodgate: Hi Grant, thanks for asking me to be a part of this exciting new project. As you had mentioned, at my heaviest I was 27st, and in 2012 I gave up alcohol for a year and lost 2st.
The following year, in memory of my Granda, I walked the Coast to Coast of England (192 miles in 12 days) and in doing that lost a further 2st. At this point I was 23st and I plateaued at that weight for a while.
Fast forward to October 2016 and I suffered the devastating death of my Dad at 63 years old. We were very close and it was a real turning point in my life and, amongst other things, it made me think about my own mortality.
My children were 17 months and 3 months old, and I wanted to do everything I could to become fit and healthy for our future together. I discerned for a short while and decided, in April 2017, to join Slimming World. Within 3 months I had lost 3st and weighing exactly 20st I ventured into the world of running.
RWL: How did you get into running?
DW: When I joined Slimming World I lost 3 stone in 3 months and it felt amazing. I have always been a fussy eater so felt like I needed to do something to assist with my weight loss journey. There was no way I was ready to run around the streets of Thornaby, at 20st and in the light, so people could see me – my confidence was not ready for that yet, so I thought where best could I go with minimal sightings.
Fortunately, as you well know, we are blessed with the Tees Barrage and surrounding area, which is out of view of traffic and perfect for runners.
Initially, I had a couple of tester ‘runs’ with my brother and my uncle, and in August 2017 I looked into parkrun and realised there was one every week at the Tees Barrage…how lucky!
Initially I thought of visiting to see what it entailed, but figured looking at it wouldn’t help me lose weight, so there and then I signed up to run it. 5th August 2017, my first parkrun.
RWL: Why do you run?
DW: Initially it was as an aid to lose weight, but parkrun then gave more reasons. Sure, I loved to see my times improving each week and seeing the PB next to my name, but there was something more than that, I felt an instant welcome into the running community and I was overwhelmed by the encouragement and support from strangers as I dragged myself around the course.
There is also the achievement factor – 2 years ago I would not for a minute think I would be in a position to say I have ran 95 parkruns, 7 x 10K’s, 4 half marathons and 2 full marathons, and be in training for my third.
Running has had a positive impact on my family too. My son recently ran his first parkrun, at 4 years old, and Saturday is now known as parkrunday. Competing in various races has also allowed us, as a family, to visit places we wouldn’t necessarily have visited, so we are getting to have some great weekends away too!
Overall, my relationship with running has developed over the last 2 years and I think it’s safe to say another reason I run is simply, because I love to!
RWL: How do you keep your running simple?
DW: I tend to train for 4 months leading up to a marathon and then ease off for 2 months so it doesn’t become pretty intense. My wife is extremely supportive but I do try to fit my runs in around family time, whether it be before everyone wakes up on a morning or once the kids are in bed for the night. Of course, it doesn’t always happen like that.
I like to prepare my kit before I run, so as soon as it’s time I can be ready and out as quick as I can.
RWL: As a result of the change to healthier lifestyle, you have reversed the effects of Type 2 Diabetes?
DW: That’s true. In 2013 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and, to be honest, never ‘owned’ the illness. I was taking metformin tablets but never really helped myself and so, over time, the medication increased. When I started to lose weight I took more of an interest and wanted to see if I could make a change. Around Christmas 2018 I was told that my results were below what would be considered diabetic and was able to come off my medication. Although I am still expected to attend check-ups, I consider myself now to be a non-diabetic and I take no medication whatsoever.
RWL: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting running for the first time or making a change to a more healthier lifestyle?
DW: Do it! I was very self-conscious when I first ran. Other than parkrun it took me months before I dared to run around my home town in the light. I would wholly recommend signing up for, and taking part in your local parkrun. It really is all inclusive and caters for everybody. Since I made the decision to become healthier and more active, I can honestly say there has been no negative aspects, everything really is for the greater good.
RWL: Since finding a love for running, you’ve been walking over 10,000 steps per day?
DW: I find doing so keeps me on my toes, so to speak, and making a conscious effort to hit that target. I work in an office and I spend my whole lunch hour walking so that’s 3 miles (approx. 6k steps) incorporated into my daily routine.
RWL: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to lose weight?
DW: Speaking from experience, I would say don’t be nervous taking them initial steps, whether it be to walk into a Slimming World group for the first time, or lining up amongst the hundreds of other people at your local parkrun. You will, in time, be so grateful you took that leap of faith.
RWL: What is the most valuable thing you have learnt from the experience?
DW: No matter how out of control things seem, it’s never too late to change. I was in my mid 30’s, a heavy drinker with a terrible diet and pretty inactive. Now, at 38, I’ve shed almost half of my body weight, I no longer drink and I am a multiple marathon runner. Things don’t happen overnight, but a bit of determination and effort will, ultimately, reap great rewards.
RWL: Slimming World has been a key factor in your weight loss?
DW: My Dad dying was the trigger for me wanting to change – Slimming World gave me the first opportunity to make it reality.
Nat (my wife) and Amy (my sister) had joined Slimming World and I asked them to do a ‘reccy’ to see if I would feel comfortable there. Thankfully, they gave it the nod of approval and so it all began.
Thanks to my consultant, Angie Taylor, and the members who have supported me throughout, I feel part of a wonderfully big family, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the group. Not only do I feel amazing in my own body because of Slimming World, but they also gave me the opportunity to run the London Marathon and now, in its 50th year, I have become an ambassador for the organisation and I am part of the Golden Bus Tour national campaign.
RWL: Slimming World and parkrun seem to complement each other well in helping you achieve your weight loss & fitness goals?
DW: Slimming World promotes body magic, which encourages exercise in conjunction with their eating plan. I have combined the two to great effect and they are both very much a part of my weekly routine now. Every Thursday is my weigh night and group session, and every Saturday is parkrun. It’s very rare that I miss either.
RWL: You are approaching your 100th parkrun?
DW: Who’d have thought eh? I’m currently sitting on 95 and it’s my parkrun 2nd birthday in two weeks’ time. As I mentioned previously, I try not to miss them! Parkrun really was the catalyst for me getting into running and, no matter what training plans I have, or races coming up, there will always be a little slot set aside at 9am on a Saturday morning.
Parkrun really has evolved for me on my journey. Initially I was chasing PB’s every week, but as I have developed more as a runner, I use the time for social runs, or in the midst of a longer training run, with less emphasis on time.
I love the community side of parkrun and the fact it’s really not to be taken too serious – in fact, I might even dress as Forrest Gump to run my 100th…
RWL: Favourite parkrun course?
DW: Maybe I’m a little biased, but my home course, Tees Barrage, is my favourite. It’s one lap, there’s 4 different bridges to cross, it’s all ran alongside a river and there’s beautiful scenery around it.
RWL: Current parkrun PB?
RWL: Favourite event distance?
DW: Good question. I love the 5K, it’s short and sweet and you can get a free weekly time at parkrun. With 10K’s and half marathons, there’s that bit more preparation required and you get the excitement of a race day to help you along.
Ultimately though, would I be a sadist if I said a marathon was my favourite distance? Training for 4 months beforehand and then on the day to have people giving up their time to come and cheer you on. It’s a test of what the body can take, but the sense of achievement at the finish line is like nothing else. You then get a couple of months off and start again on the next one…I love it!
RWL: Favourite running event?
DW: It’s got to be the London Marathon. The whole buzz of the weekend, from visiting the expo, to getting the tube to the start line. 42,000 people taking part and 1 million people around the whole course cheering you on. What a feeling!
RWL: You’ve also inspired your family. Your wife, Nat, has recently completed a Couch25K (C25K) programme?
DW: Yeah, she wanted to share my journey with me so completed the programme and ran a couple of parkruns. She too loves the whole atmosphere and volunteers whenever she is able. She does admit, however, she doesn’t quite share my actual love of running.
RWL: You’re also the ambassador for the Simplyhealth Great Tees 10K and planning on running the Mini event with your two children, Xavier & Martha?
DW: I think it’s great that this event is local to us and I’m extremely proud to be an ambassador for this event for the second year running. This event, in 2018, was Xavier’s first race and this year it will be Martha’s first race, so yet again it’s going to be an extremely proud Dad moment. They have both said they want to ‘run fast like Daddy’.
RWL: What is your proudest achievement?
DW: I can’t really pinpoint a single achievement, but the whole of the last 2 years and the way I have turned my life around has made both myself and my whole family proud.
RWL: What is your next running challenge?
DW: Yorkshire Marathon in October – my three goals are 1) sub 4:24 PB, 2) sub 4:15 and 3) sub 4h.
RWL: How do you make time and space in your life for the important things and the things that matter most to you?
DW: First and foremost, we make plans as a family, and then I try and fit my running schedule in around that. One of the advantages of parkrun is that it gets you up and out pretty early on a Saturday morning, I find this increases the length of time you have to do things at the weekend.
RWL: How do you make your life simpler?
DW: To be honest, I struggle with this. With working full time, having two small children and training for marathons, time seems to be of a premium, and I do hope I can develop a more simplistic life.
RWL: Are you aware of Minimalism or Simple Living?
DW: My wife has been inspired by your Instagram account @RunWithLess, and has recently taken on the #project333 challenge. I am in the process of minimalizing myself and have been able to vastly reduce my wardrobe. I feel doing this has had a great effect on our outlook on life.
RWL: What do you think about finisher T-shirt and medals? Keep all or curate the best ones?
DW: I’m a keeper! I have a wall full of my Slimming World certificates and races medals. I find the T-shirts are excellent for training runs and are quick and easy when it comes to washing/drying.
RWL: What one possession is most treasured and sparks the most joy?
DW: My most treasured possession is my Dad’s wedding ring, which I now wear as my own wedding ring after having it resized. In running terms, it is probably my London Marathon medal – it sums up the journey of the last two years – Slimming World, Cancer Research UK & the Marathon.
RWL: What one book has had the most influence or impact on your life?
DW: The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, by Catherine Gray. I read this book in the lead up to giving up alcohol from the start of 2019, and I felt it has helped greatly. Not once have I felt the urge to drink since the day I gave up.
RWL: You can add one word onto the end of the phrase ‘Run With Less’. What would you choose?
DW: Pressure. Not every race has to be a PB, enjoy the atmosphere, soak up the crowds, talk to people as you run. Just enjoy it!
RWL: Where can people find you online?