Sheffield engineer has iron will to shape up

Ironman Richard Fearnside.
Ironman Richard Fearnside.
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A morbidly obese man knew he had to turn his life around when the scales topped 21 stone.

But 40-year-old Richard Fearnside, from Worral, Sheffield, went one better when he managed to shed an incredible seven and a half stone in just nine months and astonishingly, completed a gruelling 140-mile ‘Ironman’ challenge in the USA.

Richard Fearnside - 21 stone

Richard Fearnside - 21 stone

Richard soon realised something had to give and was shocked at just how much he actually weighed.

He said: “I didn’t really notice the weight piling on.

“Since I left University I hadn’t really done any sport and that’s how my weight ballooned, an office job, no exercise, working long hours and eating badly.

“Twenty years later, I was 21 stone. I was shocked when I got on the scales for the first time and knew I needed to do something about it.”

But it was the most unlikely of ways that Richard set himself up to turn his life around – a dare from a work colleague.

He added: “At the Christmas 2012 work party, a colleague asked a few of us if any of us would be interested in running a 10k for charity– I paid no attention but a different colleague dared me to do it. I took him up on the dare.

“The next morning, when I realised what I’d agreed to, I decided I’d better do something about my fitness.”

Supported by wife Vikki, and six-year-old daughter Millie, the first stop for Richard was to get back in the gym and change his diet.

Richard started to eat better and joined Concorn Sports Centre. He began to swim to tackle his weight problem- but the 40-year-old found it tough to begin with.

“After a long day at work there were many times when I would have preferred to drive home instead of the pool but after each swim I was always glad I went.

“As I kept swimming regularly, I soon started dropping weight and began to get fitter. I combined the swimming with running and cycling, and, by October 2013, I had lost seven and a half stone and had completed not one, but several 10k running races and half marathon races.”

It was with the extra running and cycling, Richard then got a real taste to attempt triathlons.

After four wardrobe changes, In August this year, Richard put his new found fitness to the test – completing the body-breaking Ironman challenge in Louisville, Kentucky.

In scorching heat of 38 degrees centigrade, Richard swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles and ran a full marathon under the 17-hour time limit.

He said: “The competition was as tougher than I thought - the heat was exhausting, sun cream was running into my eyes all day.

“When I finally made it, the announcer called my name out “Richard Fearnside, you are an Ironman”. That was an amazing feeling and when I think where I started, I couldn’t run 500 metres.”

“People all over the world were watching the event live on the Internet – I feel a million times better for it all, it’s not been easy for sure but I literally do feel a different person. I couldn’t have done it without my family, friends and coaches.”

Shawn Lee, swim coach at Concord Sports Centre, said: “It’s fantastic that Richard has been inspired, with our support, to go on and achieve so much culminating with his first Ironman title. He’s incredibly determined and driven and we’re looking forward to helping him complete his next challenges.

Richard, who now juggles work with a 15-hour training schedule, is looking forward to tackle his next Ironman challenge and is determined to keep the weight off for good.