Real Lives: I’m running my way clear of cancer


Chris Marks on being inspired by Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr to take up running in his 40s 

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18th September 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

I started running in July, eight weeks after my last surgery. I’d always been quite active but never done any formal exercise. A bit of climbing and hillwalking, walk or cycle to work sometimes, and I’ve been chasing after the kids since the oldest was born 12 years ago. But gyms were never part of my routine and I’d not run for anything other than a bus since I left school.

The second surgery was tougher than I was expecting. It was to reverse a stoma, six months after I’d had a section of my bowel removed. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in June last year; no warning, few symptoms other than a vague persistent pain in the backside. Radiotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor and a section of bowel, chemotherapy and then more surgery to plumb everything back together again. It was a hard year.

I wanted to get fitter and had already settled on running. After my first surgery I’d read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running which turned me on to the idea. Later I read Johnny Marr’s autobiography Set the Boy Free which brought the revelation that my guitar hero had taken up running in his mid 40s.

I liked the simplicity of it. A pair of trainers and away you go. I downloaded a couch to 10K app and signed up for the Scottish 10K at the end of September. I wanted something to focus my training towards, but I also wanted to give a bit back. The treatment I’d had from the NHS over the year was incredible. From the surgeons to the oncologists, the ward cleaners to the chemo nurses, everyone was amazingly kind and attentive, and they’d got me through a pretty awful year alive. Cancer Research UK is one of the official partners of the 10K so that seemed like the obvious way to go.

The first week was the hardest. The app makes you run for a couple of minutes then walk for a bit and then repeat. Two minutes was a struggle. Ten weeks later and I’m ready for 10K. I like how quickly I’ve progressed. I like the simplicity of running. I’ll run in the morning after dropping my youngest at school, or go out at lunch. It’s a great break from the desk. I’ve found parts of Edinburgh I’d never seen before. And I’m feeling fitter and stronger than I’ve ever felt before. It’s quite addictive.

So now I’m just days away from my first 10K. Fundraising has gone well. Everyone has been incredibly generous and supportive and, having set out to raise £500, I’ve now passed £1000.

Almost half of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. It's a long road that I and too many good friends and family have walked over the last few years. I'm doing this for those of you who might need a bit of help in the years ahead. 

Support Chris to raise money for Cancer Research UK