Forces Charities

Marathon Man: Former Soldier Runs 1,000 Miles In One Year For Charity

John Owens has battled back from devastating health problems to renew focus on his fundraising campaign.

A former soldier who has battled back from two strokes is gearing up for a charity fundraising effort.

Gulf War veteran John Owens credits his passion for running with helping him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he has experienced after the recent death of a friend and former comrade. 

He has been nominated for the 'Soldiering On Awards' in the People’s Choice category.

Mr Owens says turning to a long-held passion has helped him focus and build a life after the military.

After being medically discharged from the Army, Mr Owens says his passion for running has helped his recovery.

At 17, he was one of the youngest soldiers to serve in the first Gulf War.

Without realising, he suffered his first stroke in his early twenties and carried on with the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

It was only when he suffered his second stroke over a decade later that he realised his military career was over.

Mr Owens has overcome major challenges and has his sights set firmly on goals ahead.

Despite the devastating injuries, Mr Owens has been able to battle back and rekindle interest in long distance running.

This, he says, has helped his recovery both physically and mentally after his best friend and former comrade took his own life in 2016. 

Mr Owens credits the focus required to run 1,000 miles in a year to the memory of his friend: "I do recall being at his funeral, in the back of the car looking out and I could see his coffin and the shine of our battalion's cap badge on his coffin - I thought, that is a sign, I am going to run.

"This is what he would have wanted. He wouldn't have wanted me just to go back into a pit of despair."

"So I decided to come up with 'Davy's run' - to run over 1,000 miles in the space of a year which I've done successfully."

His passion has also helped to raise vital funds for two charities that are very close to him.

Help For Heroes and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland played a vital part in his recovery and he has returned the favour by raising money through his running challenges.

Mr Owens has also received a nomination for this year’s Soldiering On Awards.

"The fact I've just been nominated, itself speaks volumes. Certainly for my own recovery."

"Following 'Davy's run' there were a few awards I received locally - from Ayrshire Harriers and other running clubs, Troon Tortoises.

"This one kind of tops what has been, personally, a very successful few years.

"But, in hindsight, it is shaping me to be the man I am today."

Mr Owens has also received a nomination for this year’s Soldiering On Awards.

Although it has been a challenging journey, Mr Owens has overcome it and has his sights set firmly on goals ahead: "It felt kind of surreal, that this was me.

"Eventually I left the military and I had to open my eyes a bit and step into the limelight of the big, bad world.

"Having been medically discharged, it was pretty much the end of what I'd known essentially, and still trying to comprehend in my mind that I'd overcome a serious illness, and that I had to find a way to move forward.