A burly builder shed four and a half stone after embarking on a strict training regime for a half marathon in aid of charity.
There was a time when Joe Swanson, 35, would have struggled to run a mile but when he took on the 13.4-mile route, he crossed the finishing line in 1hr 45mins – 15 minutes less than the two hour target he had set himself.
Joe, of Narbeth Drive, Aylesbury, was cheered on by fiance Tori Brown and their daughter Rees, 11, as he ran the race, raising £280 for the Little Princess Trust.
The charity makes wigs for children suffering from cancer, and Joe chose to support it after seeing his friend donate her hair a couple of years ago.
Builder Joe, who works for Taylors Scaffolding in Aylesbury, said: “Being the father of an 11-year-old daughter, I couldn’t imagine what those poorly children and their parents must go through.”
Once Joe has set himself the challenge, he decided to aim to raise £350 – the cost of just one wig made by the trust.
Joe said: “Just being able to pay to make one would be a fantastic start. The trust relies solely on the efforts of enthusiastic community fundraiser and receive no formal funding.”
The dad-of-one embarked on a gruelling year-long training regime, using willpower to stick to a strict diet, giving him the best chance of remaining on top form during his vigorous training sessions.
But the path to fitness was not a smooth one, and the runner encountered a few hurdles along the way.
Joe said: “My training hit a few stumbling blocks over the last three months with a hip problem and I broke a couple of toes in my left foot.”
But Joe did not let the setbacks dishearten him and was ready to take on the run in scenic Henley last weekend.
Joe credits the support of local Aylesbury business Just Baguettes after owner Jean Paul Young agreed to put a donation box on the counter of the Bourbon Street sandwich shop – and he’s offered to match the total cash donated in the pot too.
Joe said: “I am grateful to him and his staff for all their support. My friend Graham Russell, who manages funeral directors Greens of Princes Risborough, has also generously sponsored my run.”
Joe said it felt great to have completed the race in under the initial time he set himself, and said the encouragement from his family has been invaluable.
He said: “I’d never run a half marathon or even 10k before, but both Rees and Tori were very supportive of my challenge – and now they ‘re trying to find me a new one!”
If you would like to donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JosephSwanson.