Fiona McCade: Hoping the Games can inspire my man

Steve Way went from 16-stone smoker to marathon record-holder. Picture: PA
Steve Way went from 16-stone smoker to marathon record-holder. Picture: PA
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Tales such as marathon man Steve Way’s may be rousing but getting hubby to stir off the sofa is no easy task, writes Fiona McCade

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person in the world who isn’t watching the Commonwealth Games. Sport just isn’t my thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m ignoring everything that’s happening in Glasgow. Besides, even though I don’t give a flying discus who wins a medal, there are some great stories out there and one of them has certainly enthused my husband.

Husband had a birthday this week. Not an important one, but let’s just say that 40 is now indisputably further away than 50. His waist measurement is also hovering around the big 4-0, so he wasn’t a particularly happy bunny until, hallelujah, he discovered Steve Way.

Way has inspired my husband more than Slim Fast shakes and Christian Bale’s willpower ever could, because – exactly like him – Steve used to be a couch potato. He also used to be a lardy lad (over 16 stone), and he smoked and drank heavily. Then, at the age of 33, he decided to sort himself out, and his solution to the problem of an unhealthy lifestyle and incipient middle-age-spread was to start running. Now, just seven years later, he has transformed himself into a Commonwealth Games competitor and British over-40s marathon record-holder. In short, tubby, ageing, unhealthy blokes everywhere can take heart from the metamorphosis of Steve Way.

Way is far from being the only athlete in these Games who can give us pause for thought. Erraid Davies is only 13 and she’s the youngest ever Commonwealth medallist. She won the bronze for Scotland in the SB9 100m Breaststroke the other day, despite having only been able to train in tiny swimming pools, a third the size of the Olympic-sized pool where she triumphed. She is also still overcoming a serious childhood hip disability which kept her in a wheelchair for several years. She is amazing and I hope her example gives loads of kids the confidence to take to the water.

I’m also awe-struck by Muhammad I’maadi Abd Aziz, the sole competitor from Brunei, who has now cycled for his country in front of millions, despite never having trained in a velodrome, because there aren’t any where he comes from. And let’s not forget the team from St Helena, who live so far away they’ll be spending less time at the Games than they will simply trying to get to and from Glasgow.

All these people show us the very best of what humanity can achieve; their passion, dedication and courage highlight our potential for greatness. But will any of this get my husband on to a running track, a cycle lane, or into a pool? I doubt it.

Steve Way says that if he can inspire “couch potatoes everywhere” to get up off their behinds and get some exercise, he’ll be happy. And so will they, if they ever get around to it, but one thing I’ve noticed about people – well, OK, my husband – is that, unlike Steve Way, they don’t always act on their best impulses. There is a yawning chasm between finding a story inspiring and being actively inspired by it.

My husband is now a huge fan of Steve Way, and all these wonderful athletes, and has talked of little else this week, but that’s all it is. Talk. He’s not changed any of his bad habits, or showed any of the necessary determination, commitment, drive or self-belief that made the difference between chubby, chain-smoking Steve and the champion athlete he pushed himself to become. I’m hoping that the Steve Way Effect might have more than a merely theoretical effect on my husband’s lifestyle, but will he ever get off the couch and into a new way of life?

Only a couple of days after Way’s record-breaking race, my big-boned 40-something was already starting to sound less inclined to improve his fitness levels.

“I am inspired by Steve,” he assured me, now on first-name terms with his hero, as he poured himself another lager. “But I’m also inspired by Nelson Mandela. And Mandela’s life shows us that you can change your attitudes, which is more important than just running around.”

Hang on – Steve Way transformed himself through a complete change of attitude; that’s precisely how he did it. What’s your point?

“Er…my point…” he replied, succumbing to honesty, “is that it’s much easier to be inspired to run than to take up running. Besides, I can only be inspired by one person at a time, or I get confused.”

So, there you have it. He’s been pre-inspired, so he can’t take on anything new right now. But of course, he thinks Steve Way is great and really wishes he could do something similar. Really, he does.

If only the Commonwealth Games had a Belly Sucking-In event, because my husband would win gold, no question.

Unfortunately, like so many of us, I can see that he’s in real danger of letting the moment of enthusiasm and exhilaration pass him by and that would be such a shame.

Right now, before our very eyes, we have some incredible people showing us the very best of themselves and, by reflection, ourselves. They’re demonstrating to us how we can become better people; not just physically, but psychologically, too. And we need to seize this day.

How ironic that it’s me, with absolutely no interest in sport, who is pushing the example of the Games to make my beloved more active, but yesterday evening, after I dragged him out for a walk – got to start small, don’t want to give him a heart attack by demanding he actually break into a trot – he agreed that it was a good idea to stretch his legs every once in a while.

As far as I’m concerned, if the only legacy of these Games is a smaller waistline for my man, they will have been worthwhile. I have no illusions that he’ll become a champion in time for Gold Coast 2018. Well, not unless they introduce Sumo wrestling.