Staring down the barrel, lifelong local Darren Cronk was faced with growing mental health problems that have led him on a journey to completing 15 marathons in three years. With bigger plans still to come…
The benefits of exercise have never been more relevant, strengthening the immune system in the fight against Covid. However, the current pandemic is not where the need to keep fit expires; taking up physical activity can literally transform your life. Darren Cronk is an inspiration for what can be achieved by putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how deep your despair. He describes running as being, “Good for my mind, when I’m out running, it’s just me and the surrounding area.”
Why Getting Fit Was Necessary
In 2014, Darren confesses to being in a dark place. His struggles and pent-up emotion led him to start kickboxing, and then onto Weaver’s Boxing Gym in Ferndown. He thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get in a ring and spar, but recalls “After I completed one round, I was absolutely shattered’. His coach pulled him to one side, and told the then 15-stone Darren, “You’ve got to get fit. Get yourself out running”.
Darren’s mental health hadn’t been the only reason he turned up at Weaver’s Boxing Gym six years ago. “I’ve got asthma, and was walking around at 15 stone… I’m only 5’4”!” He knew losing weight could transform his outlook and beams that “running has changed my life!”
Completing his first marathon in just under four hours — a very respectable time for a runner — Darren has gone on to complete a further 14, including October’s Bournemouth event. Another local run, The Coastal Path, 44 miles along the Jurassic Coast and Lulworth Cove, saw Darren raise £845 for Downright Perfect, a charity very close to his heart. It was during this run that he knew he could achieve anything he put his mind to. The completion of this hilly endeavour was made even more impressive as he went “partially blind.” Recalling only being able to “see blurred faces as I ran up by Durdle Door.” He finished in 11 hours, and now he “would never not complete a race. Even if I have to drag myself around like Terminator!”
The encounter is remembered well. And it was the catalyst for the phenomenal endurance achievements Darren has completed since. Having no prior running ability or experience, Darren refused to shirk the challenge and took himself down to Bournemouth beach.
He recalls, “I went to the beach, and ran a groyne, walked one, ran one, walked one, for about a mile, and each week I would add an additional groyne, so run two at a time, along the promenade.” A groyne is roughly 100m in distance, so one would have to run about 422 of them to complete the length of a marathon. Darren was not thinking big at this time, however. He had suddenly found something he enjoyed and the mental burden had eased. So the running continued, and the distances grew. He “eventually got up to running 10 miles in one go,” and thought, “I prefer this to being punched in the face”. By 2017, three years after his first trudge along the prom, he was ready for his 26.2 mile debut, at the Brighton Marathon.
When talking with Darren you can feel his passion for running and zest for life. At the time we spoke, he had just finished 20 miles running around the New Forest. A light training run, according to him. The fitness bug has now consumed Darren’s life as he proudly highlights being driven to work by his wife so he could run the nine miles home every evening when he clocked out!
Running Achievements since 2017:
- 15 marathons, including Bournemouth (26.2 miles each)
- 2 ultra marathons (31 miles each)
- 1 ultra plus (44 miles)
- 28 Medals
His sights are now set on a 100 mile mammoth event in Wales, the ‘Dragon 100,’ with a time limit of 28 hours and finishing in Cardiff Bay. With fitness the current buzzword, Darren hopes his achievements can inspire others to take up running. And there is no better way to get going than to head down to the beach and going one groyne at a time. “I am not the quickest of runners, but I don’t set off to break records,” Darren admits, “Just get out in the great outdoors, we are lucky to live around Bournemouth.”