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Fri 19 Apr 2024

Runner Stories: Gary Howells - Marathon Man

When Gary Howells, 43, lines up for the TCS London Marathon this Sunday it will be nothing new.
The runner, from Llanelli, has remarkably run the ultimate endurance race 104 times before!

But this time it will be different to the others. Gary will not be running it for a personal best or for personal glory, but as one with the Peak Performance Wales (PPW) team.

Twelve members of the Llanelli based group Gary set up will be running, some for the first time, and he won’t be leaving their side as they run to raise funds for Tenovus Cancer Care.

“I love the satisfaction of seeing these guys, some of whom are 60 years of age, running London with me,” said Gary.

It’s part of what they pay me for and why they turn up every week. It’s an experience we’ll be talking about for years to come.”

Gary’s running life started after he’d finished a stint in the military. He settled back into civilian life in his hometown of Llanelli, becoming an electrical engineer specialising in wind turbines.

He started to run recreationally in 2012 and a year later ran his first marathon, the first of many worldwide.

But it was in 2018, Gary’s life changed when he took on the Marathon De Sables - 7 marathons in 6 days across the Sahara Desert and known as the toughest foot race on earth.

It was then he decided to make running his full-time job.

It was a light bulb moment out there, and I just wanted to turn my ability to run marathons into a career.

So, I set up a club and a running group. You run a marathon once, and it changes your mindset. You run a marathon more than once, and it changes your life.

Gary’s running club and coaching company, Peak Performance Wales, now has 65 members who run anything from 5K to ultra marathons.

As well as travelling the world, Gary also opened a café, T1 in Llanelli.

“Running gives me life challenges, it gives me goals, it keeps me fit, and it keeps me mentally stimulated.  

“It's given me a job, obviously, but it’s also given me a running family. 

 Yes, they pay me for my service, but we’ve become a running community. 

 Everyone feels part of the Peak Performance integrity.”

Raising funds for Tenovus Cancer Care is close to the group’s heart.

“We lost a local Llanelli athlete, Wayne Evans last year to pancreatic cancer. He was well known around here and a great loss. I used to play rugby with him when I was younger.

Two other people in the club got skin cancer last year, so running it for Tenovus Cancer Care means a lot. We’ve raised £25K so far, but we are hoping for so much more on the day.”

The club has 31 runners ranging from farmers to construction workers, teachers, directors, and bank managers. There are husband and wife teams, the youngest 21, and the oldest 60, each with their own story to tell.

For Gary, it’s a chance to take members of his running club to one of the biggest marathon stages in the world.

We’re very lucky where we train. Everyone is just bouncing and feeling fit and healthy.

We are ready to go and when it gets tough at the end, we’ll be thinking of Wayne and what he went through for 12 months with his chemo and treatment.

We’ll have 6 miles to go, and he’ll be our inspiration. His memory will pull us along. It’s going to be magical.

After London, Gary won’t be hanging up his running shoes and he’s got his sights set on more challenges. 

“I want to run marathons in Kenya, Ethiopia and America, not just Boston and Chicago and New York.

I want to run those raw marathons where you’re climbing 10,000 feet of elevation over 26 miles, some of the toughest marathons in the world.”

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