Bob Swindell’s journey from bystander to marathon man

Bob Swindell, 48, first discovered running after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – and has never looked back
Bob Swindell’s journey from bystander to marathon man
June 12, 2017   |    Trish Lesslie

Back in the spring of 2013, I left my GP’s surgery feeling confused, upset and lacking information or support after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It was a huge shock.

I’d been feeling run down, was unfit and had been putting on weight for years, but the diagnosis still came as a bolt from the blue. Desperate, I called the Diabetes UK helpline, which pointed out that changes to my diet and becoming more active would help me manage the condition and may avoid potential complications such as kidney disease, amputations and blindness. But, with being overweight, I was intensely sensitive about being seen exercising.


After a few false starts I discovered the Couch to 5K course (C25K) on NHS Choices website. It’s designed to get you off the sofa and gradually work you up to running 5K or for half an hour at a time, in just nine weeks. I downloaded the podcasts to my phone and completed the plan over the summer, furtively running late at night or very early in the morning, so no one would see me. This just added to the toughness of it all. Even in summer, it’s hard to drag yourself out of bed! At first, the thought of running for just a couple of minutes seemed extreme, and I struggled to believe running 5K continuously was even possible for me.

By the autumn, my secretive solo running was stalling. I was still very conscious about my weight and being slow. My motivation just seemed to drift away because I lacked a target. Then a friend suggested I try Parkrun, free running events that take place across the country every week. Honestly, I lost count of the number of times I put on my trainers on a Saturday morning, only to decide to do something else instead. I just didn’t think I was up to it.

Once I finally summoned the courage to go, I knew Parkrun was something special. From the first day, I found that running with others really inspired me to keep it up – I’ve been a regular ever since. I’m now a Run Director of my local meeting and a Parkrun ambassador. My Parkrun ‘family’ have encouraged me to push my boundaries and I’ve gone from running 5K to 10K to half and then full marathons, running roads, track, beaches and a bit of cross country along the way.


Last year I also took part in the first 1 Million Step Challenge. It’s a Diabetes UK initiative that encourages people to take a million steps between 1 July and 30 September and get sponsored.

Running has helped me sleep better and lose 50kg*. As a result, I no longer need medication to keep my blood glucose levels within my target range. It’s also provided me with amazing opportunities and some wonderful new friends. I wouldn’t choose to have Type 2 diabetes but running has been my silver lining.

To take part in the 1 Million Step challenge, visit

In order to get people eating more healthily, Diabetes UK has embarked on a new ‘Food you love’ advertising campaign all about healthy eating to inspire everyone with recipes featuring the food they love, only healthier. The charity hopes the easy recipes and tips will inspire more people to make small changes that can make a big difference to how they manage their diabetes.

The ‘Food you love’ campaign is being fronted by five ‘everyday’ people, including Robin, cooking the recipes they love and has received celebrity support from chefs including: Jamie Oliver, Prue Leith, Deliciously Ella and Angela Hartnett.

Sign up to receive free recipe videos and more at Diabetes.

During Diabetes Week, the charity will be highlighting the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle in managing diabetes and preventing Type 2, through eating well, getting active and maintaining a healthy weight.

The charity’s theme for Diabetes Week 2017, ‘Know Diabetes. Fight Diabetes’, reflects this call for change. They’re asking others to get involved, share their stories of how they know or fight diabetes online and help the charity fight for a world where diabetes can do no harm.

Read more: Diabetes, debunked

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