At the age of 33, Steve Way could have been forgiven for thinking elite sport lay beyond his capacities. He was puffing 20 cigarettes a day, fond of a drink, weighed 16½ stone and could not sleep because of his smoker’s cough.
Yet on Sunday, some seven years and many, many miles of training later, he sprinted across the finishing line in the Commonwealth Games men’s marathon in 10th position as the top finisher for the England team.
In so doing, the bank worker from Poole, Dorset, set a new personal best for the distance of 2hr 15m 16s – beating the 35-year-old record for runners aged 40 and over set in 1979 by Ron Hill.
The race, which Way at one point was leading ahead of some of the world’s leading athletes, was the culmination of a remarkable transformation for the self-confessed former “couch potato” with high blood pressure and weakness for kebabs.
Speaking after he crossed the finishing line in Glasgow, with his wife Sarah watching, he said: “All my goals were top 10, personal best, British vet record and I’ve managed all three. I could not have hoped for a better day. I’ve always said my wedding day was the best day of my life but this equals it and I think Sarah won’t mind me saying it.”
The 40-year-old had had an inkling that somewhere within his then less than Olympian frame a decent runner was waiting to get out when he secured a place in the 2006 London Marathon, spent just three weeks training and finished in a time of slightly more than three hours.
But it was not until a year later, with his weight ballooning and his sleep disturbed by a hacking cough, that he decided to put his bad habits behind him. He said: “It was just a realisation that things were only going to get worse if I did not do something about it. It turned out I ended up doing quite a lot about it.”
The computer expert qualified for the Commonwealth Games by finishing this year’s London marathon as the third highest-placed Englishman behind Mo Farah and Chris Thompson.
Old habits, however, do not completely disappear. Asked how he would celebrate, Way said: “I do need to go and have a drink though. And I’m not talking water. I am going to have a pint. I have not had a pint for three months. There will be a couple. I may be around Glasgow.”