Scottish stroke survivor John Owens is hanging up his running shoes after completing 1,000 miles in 12 months and raising £1,700 for Help for Heroes in memory of his best friend.
The Ayrshire former army officer undertook his epic and emotional challenge in aid of Help for Heroes and Chest Heart Stroke Scotland, following the tragic loss of his best friend and former soldier David Davis, to suicide late last year.
As part of Davy’s Run he completed the London and Stirling Marathons, six Half Marathons, 12 10km Races and the River Ayr Way Ultra Marathon Relay, finishing with the Great Scottish Run on Sunday, a year after losing his childhood friend.
John, 43, from Kilmarnock, has raised £1,700 for Help for Heroes and CHSS along with awareness of PTSD and Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds service, which gives mental health support to veterans and their families.
John had his first stroke in his early 20s followed by a second stroke when he was 38 and working as a weapons instructor. A blood clot had become lodged in his brain, and further tests confirmed it was as a result of a hole in his heart, which he had been born with.
The former Royal Highland Fusilier was left with a brain injury, which can make processing information more difficult. He also faces the possibility of further strokes. At his lowest point, he was walking on crutches, and thought he'd never walk properly again. After being medically discharged from the army, he also had to adjust back into civilian life.
After his diagnosis, John underwent months of rehabilitation at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre and has been supported by Help for Heroes in his ongoing recovery, including from depression and anxiety caused by his physical injuries.
Four years ago John took up running to get out of the house and make new friends. He did his first 10km race in 2012, trained with his local Park Run and Irvine club Ron’s Runners, completed the Scottish Half Marathon and the Great Scottish Run in 2016. Just a few days later, his friend David Davis took his own life leaving John devastated and Davy’s Run was born.
He said: "Every single event of the miles I've covered, David and I were there at some point, either serving or for military training. His family are 100% supportive and have backed me in everything I've done. It was very emotional at the finishing line at the Great Scottish Run on Sunday.”
Speaking ahead of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10 October, John added: “I needed something to get me motivated and keep me going. My recovery from two strokes, depression, anxiety and most importantly speaking out about my mental health issues, has enabled me to turn my life around through lifestyle change and have the confidence to make that first step out the door and be myself again. Nothing is stopping me from doing what I want to do.
“Having a positive mental attitude definitely helps. I'm passionate about a healthy lifestyle and keen to share my experiences to help others who find themselves in a similar situation. You don’t need to be a marathon runner - just find something you enjoy that gives you something to focus on.”