A BASINGSTOKE man recently completed the London Marathon, culminating a remarkable journey that began with a casual conversation at the pub.

Darren McGregor, 47, who runs the Kempshott Post Office with his brother, first thought about the marathon glory when he was talking to his close friend Craig Broadbent in April 2023.

Craig, an experienced marathoner and Ironman competitor, challenged Darren to consider running the London Marathon.

The Hatch Warren resident soon found himself obsessing over the idea and eventually secured a charity spot for the 2024 marathon through Craig's connections with Phab, a charity dedicated to supporting children and adults with disabilities.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Darren before and after he started his trainingDarren before and after he started his training (Image: Contributed)

After training for a year, he ran the 2024 London Marathon just three weeks ago, completing the race in five hours and 51 minutes.

It was also a weight loss journey for him as he lost three and a half stone over the year of training and significantly improved his fitness levels. He was 18 stones last April, but 14.5 stones on the day of his run.

But, the path to the finish line was not without hurdles. 

His training began in May last year with the popular Couch to 5k programme, but his focus was on making it 'Couch to Marathon'.

However, a holiday mishap resulted in a fractured leg, sidelining Darren for three months. Not willing to give up, he resumed training in September, only to face another challenge: a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in October.

This diagnosis, rather than discouraging him, became a catalyst for a lifestyle overhaul.

Basingstoke Gazette: Darren McGregorDarren McGregor (Image: Contributed)

“Initially, I was frazzled thinking about how to manage diabetes alongside marathon training,” Darren recalled. “But with good advice and support from those around me, I decided to hit it hard and get it done.”

He recommitted himself to training with renewed focus. He re-joined the Couch to 5k programme in September, followed by a personalised 16-week training plan designed by his friend Craig, who became his coach.

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Early morning runs as long as 18 miles became a regular part of his routine, demanding dedication alongside his work schedule. Juggling his responsibilities at the Post Office, Darren often found himself running at dawn, sometimes as early as 3.30am or 4am, to fit in his long training runs before starting his workday.

Joining the Hatch Warren Runners club provided Darren with a strong support network. The encouragement from fellow runners bolstered his confidence and morale, helping him stay focused and motivated throughout his training journey.

Basingstoke Gazette: Darren completed the marathon in just under six hoursDarren completed the marathon in just under six hours (Image: Contributed)

On the day of the marathon, Darren approached the race with a clear and simple goal: to finish.

“I wasn’t aiming for a specific time,” he said. “I just wanted to cross that finish line.”

And cross it he did, to the applause and admiration of his supporters and fellow runners.

Reflecting on his journey, Darren said: “Over the weeks and months, people kept telling me my story was inspirational. I didn’t see it at first because I was so engrossed in my training and diet. But looking back, I realise what a significant achievement it was.”

The sense of accomplishment was so profound that Darren has already signed up for the next year’s marathon.

The marathon was not only a personal triumph but also a successful fundraising effort as he raised £4,628 for Phab.

Basingstoke Gazette:

His commitment to fitness has also had a positive impact on his health. By losing weight and staying active, Darren is on the path to potentially reversing his diabetes.

“The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“It made me focus on my diet and training, which has been incredibly beneficial.”

His fundraising page remains open for those who wish to support his cause and celebrate his remarkable journey: justgiving.com/page/darren-mcgregor-1684069424760.