Steve Way to make debut for GB & NI

Steve Way

Not long ago, Bournemouth’s Steve Way (handicap MINUS 5.5) was being whisked away from the Glasgow 2014 athletes’ village for five hours of radio and television interviews, after achieving his ‘dream goal’ of finishing 10th at the Commonwealth Games in a British over 40s record of two hours 15 minutes and 16 seconds. This week he achieved another dream of being selected to represent GB & NI for the first time, for the IAU 100km World Championships which takes place in Doha at the end of November.

Steve spoke to Nick Howard from Run England about his ‘miracle’ journey that started with him as a 16-and-a-half stone heavy smoker at the age of 33 to where he is now as an elite endurance runner, running PBs at 40. It wasn’t just by chance but was a journey that everyone can take some inspiration from. 

Describing the period, seven years ago, when he decided that it was time to change his life, Steve said: “I didn't have a shining light moment where I got up one morning and put my trainers on and ran out the door, it was over a period of probably a few weeks when I was contemplating it and thinking ‘I need to do something about this’ and then finally I decided ‘this is it, let's do something about it’.”

The intentions were there for Steve long before he took action to build consistent running into his life. Despite smoking 20 a day (and up to 40 a day at the weekends) and having a waistline some 10 to 12cm larger than his current race day 28 inch waist, he would have short-lived fitness drives – a common theme for many.

“Every now and then when I decided to lose some weight, I would just turn up and run a half marathon or something and that would sort that out. But it doesn't work like that. It's all about making exercise a consistent part of your life. It's not the race that’s going to turn your life around; it's making running part of your life that will make the difference.”

It was in those events that Steve realised he had a talent for running, especially after finishing in the top half of the field at the 2007 Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon (picture, below right, of Steve 'before'). The following autumn he managed to get a London Marathon ballot place – and it was then that he started running regularly.

“I thought I would make a proper effort to train all the way though to the London Marathon and it would not only help me lose weight but also give me something to focus on and take my mind off smoking. That proved to be the winning formula really.”

He made remarkable progress, finishing the London Marathon in two hours 35 minutes and just outside of the top 100, out of a field of more than 34,000. An incredible achievement, but not by chance: Steve followed a 24 week marathon plan to the dot. To do so takes a lot of commitment and, even though he didn’t realise it at the time, what he was doing was replacing his smoking addiction with a healthier one in running. He also found that his legs could take an unusual amount of pounding, but his methodical approach is still one that could help the more fragile and less gifted among us get closer to our potential.

Steve Way before

“I obviously have a genetic advantage that enables me to train the way I do, but that's not to say that if most people stuck to a progressive 24 week plan and actually committed to it, people would be surprised at what they can achieve.

“One thing I love about endurance running is that it's such an honest sport because you do have to work hard to get the results, but they are there for the taking. If you're willing to work hard, you will see some significant improvements.”

In a warm up race just prior to the 2008 London Marathon, Steve was noticed as an unattached runner and approached by Bournemouth AC’s club captain who invited him along to train with the club. Steve says he had ‘never felt so special’ and duly took up the invitation following London. Since then, the club has played a supportive role in his development and in turn he has helped Bournemouth AC to achieve national success, culminating in the club winning silver in the England Athletics team championship at the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon.

“Where possible my club mates help me with my training sessions. What they quite often do is jump in and out of my sessions to help me and make it so I'm not on my own which is really cool.

“I now put together some of the plans so I'm informally helping out some of the guys at my club.”

Individually, Steve himself has increased his weekly mileage to volumes that most of us probably don’t even cover in our cars. But even he isn’t as indestructible as his 130 mile weeks suggest. He suffered injury and illness when trying to run further, and noticed that introducing some basic core and strength exercises into his routine helped prevent injuries. His message for everyone out there wanting to avoid injury (so, everyone out there!) is simple:

“It's not rocket science. I don't do the things that I think caused the injury the first time and I do the things I should have done which I didn't do until I got injured.”

“Not everyone should go out and run 130 miles a week but I found my limit and now I work just under my limit. Everybody has a limit in terms of what they're capable of doing and to reach your full potential you need to find out where that is and use it to your advantage.

“A lot of people get scared when they're doing 20 miles a week and think they'd never be able to do 40 miles a week but with a sensible, gradual build up people would be surprised what they're capable of.”

It's amazing how far Steve has come, turning his life around and showing what's possible. He started by simply wanting to improve the person he saw in the mirror each morning, which is something many of us can relate to, and showed us that whatever your health or fitness goal, it's never too late and you're never too unfit to give it a go.

“My goal was to lose weight and have something to do to take my mind off smoking, but it wasn't that long before all that was out the window and the motivation was purely coming from getting faster and faster and feeling the buzz of entering races and actually being competitive and finding a sport that I can do quite well.

Workplace group men

“These were feelings and emotions that I'd never had before because I'd never really been interested in competitive sports. It was suddenly a case of having excitement and adrenaline before a race and then having the elation of doing well or even the disappointment of messing it up – it's all the ups and downs of competitive sport that I enjoy.

“Soon it was no longer about losing weight and just doing exercise and it was a feeling of 'this is my sport and I want to be as good as I can be'.”

Good luck to Steve in achieving his now much loftier ambitions of racing for the win at the IAU 100km World Championships in November!

If Steve has inspired you to take the first step into running, a local Run England group - led by a qualified group leader - is a great place to get the support, motivation and encouragement you need to get started.

Visit to find your nearest group. Visit to find out how you can join in celebrating all the great benefits of running this summer!