In 2015, Paul Commons was a 47-year-old borderline alcoholic, drinking heavily every day and weighed 22 stone. But, as Kent Online reported earlier this month, the dad from Ashford, Kent – who is now somewhat famous within his local community for his running accolades – is now not only nine stone lighter, but a completely different person – and he credits that to running.
Looking back now, he believes he was close to taking a turn down a dangerous path. 'I could have been in a different place if I didn’t do anything,' he tells Runner’s World.
So he decided to start exercising. 'I had this lightbulb moment that I needed to change things,' says Paul. 'So I started walking. For the first five months, I did six miles three nights a week in order to lose weight. Physically I was completely out of shape, but mentally I was strong.'
A big factor that helped him get out the door was his partner’s TV-viewing habits. 'She used to watch EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, so I thought, "I’ve got an hour and half while they’re on to go out and do something." I began walking for a couple of hours and was determined to keep going.'
People questioned what he was doing and told him he wouldn’t keep it up, but that simply spurred him on to continue. 'It made it into more of a challenge. I got the bug and just kept going – I’d swapped one type of addiction for another.'
After three months of regular walking, Commons, who works for an electrical company, had lost a stone and half, and after six months he felt fit enough to begin to run. He also changed his diet, completely axing fast food and beer. 'Because I wasn’t out drinking, I also stopped eating fast food, as they go hand in hand. I don’t have a special diet, though, I just eat smaller meals.' He’s now been teetotal for seven years. 'It was a complete lifestyle change and I wanted to give it my best shot.'
From there, he began to enjoy running and the buzz it gave him, and he entered his first marathon in May 2015. “It was the Spring Cakeathon, and I did 29.5 miles in 5:17.” For Commons' second big challenge he pushed himself further in a 50-miler, completing it in 14 hours, before completing his first 100-miler in 2016.
Since then, Common has run more than 460 marathons and ultramarathons and has chalked up an incredible 1,111-day (and counting) running streak that includes a marathon PB of 3:26 at London in 2021. 'I do a minimum of six miles every day. It’s an hour out of my day, and I can put time aside every night, come rain, wind or snow.'
Despite clocking up thousands of miles, he’s never found motivation a problem. 'I’ve always liked going out on my own to run, so I don’t have to run with anybody to enjoy myself. I can do it on my own and I find it fun. But also I’ll run with anybody, at whatever pace, as long as I can keep up with them.'
Paul’s dedication to running, enthusiasm for the sport and the fact that he always runs with a smile on his face has served as an inspiration to many. 'Local walkers stop me and say, "You’re the guy who runs every day" and say they follow me on Strava, and Tracey Crouch is my local MP and she wants me to train her for a half-marathon.
'I also organise a weekly ‘River Run’ in Maidstone, an out-and-back six-mile route along the river. There’s a group of about 20 people, just via a small Facebook group I set up, and I run with the slowest runner. They come along and ask me questions and it helps them get motivated. It’s nice to be able to give something back, as I was in their position once.'
And for those in Paul’s position, his advice is not to worry about your weight. 'No matter how fast or slow you go, just try to get out and enjoy it. The hardest thing is getting out the door. Everyone says that, but it’s true.'
Compared to how he felt in 2015, Paul, who now weighs 12st 12lb, says he relishes every day. 'I get up and just look forward to running. If I couldn’t work and run instead that would be my ideal job. You don’t need lots of money to be happy – just enjoy life and go running every day.
'Mentally, I was weak, as alcohol controlled me,' he adds. 'Now that it doesn’t, I can think clearly and know what I’m doing, what my goals are and what I want to achieve. It’s completely changed my life. That’s the power of running. People don’t always understand it – they think you just put a jacket on, go out and run and that’s it, but it isn’t like that for me. I strongly believe running can help people.'
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