Joe Horner during the Anglesey Half Marathon
Joe during the Anglesey Half Marathon

At school, my favourite sports were athletics (100m, 200m, long jump & triple jump) and hockey. At the time, in rural Devon, development chances for track & field were pretty much non-existent so, when I left school, I also left the track behind.

6 years in the army encouraged fitness but (naturally) aimed very much at endurance rather than raw speed. I’d always hated endurance ⁠— 400m was a distance event for me ⁠— but it was part of the job.

After years of slogging through distances I was never designed for, when I left I promised myself I’d never run anywhere again. Only, that became “never exercise again”, with predictable results.

Joe enjoying his local parkrun

In 2018, at 51 years old and 110kg, I suffered a heart attack which became a serious wake-up call. With a newly-fitted stent holding my arteries open I threw myself into the rehab gym sessions — then, when lockdowns closed the gyms, forced myself through the Couch to 5K programme. I still hated endurance stuff but, at my age, “that’s what people do”.

One half marathon and a lot of parkruns later I realised in early 2022 that the only part of parkruns I really enjoyed was opening it up for a (sort of) sprint over the last couple of hundred metres. But I have a heart condition and all the advice was to do “moderate” exercise, not to give it everything you’ve got and a little bit more!

So I booked a stress test with a rehab charity, explained why I wanted it, and let them stick me on a treadmill to exhaustion. Walked away from that with as near to a clean bill of health a heart patient could expect, so headed down to our local track the week after to see how it felt.

It felt good enough that, a few weeks later, I was joining my local club (Menai Track & Field) and buying a pair of spikes!

Joe training on track

Training alongside mostly teenagers, about the age I was when I last did this stuff, has been challenging ⁠— their recovery ability is phenomenal!

In 2022 I only had time for two competitions ⁠— the Welsh Masters Championships in Aberdare, and our own club’s end of season Open — but I didn’t disgrace myself and am looking forward to hopefully making big gains into 2023.

So, I suppose you could say I got here by a lucky combination of a heart attack, COVID lockdowns, and a slightly rebellious streak that didn’t want to play by the “take it gentle” rules!