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We all find ourselves at a marathon start line for different reasons. Whether you’re motivated by life goals or friends and family, running is an empowering way to push past personal obstacles to become a better, stronger version of yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking on your first 5k or completing a full marathon, there’s plenty to gain along the way. So, what about the resilient day-to-day stories of runners who deserve their own winning moment?

GAY TIMES, Voltarol and Channel 4 have resumed their multi-year partnership to spotlight how transformational sports can be, whether you’re a beginner or a full-fledged fitness fanatic. This year’s collaboration sees a documentary-style mini-series showcasing that running is more than a sport — it’s a powerful way for people, of all experiences, to overcome personal hardships. 

Last year more than 58,000 people participated in TCS’ London Marathon with over 115 runners identifying as non-binary and 24,028 as women. However, this year, we saw a decrease (71 runners) in non-binary runners and an uptick in women participants (28,276), proving that while some areas of inclusion are growing, we still have some distance to go in accommodating runners of all ages and identities. 

Through this year’s campaign, two new runners (Elliot Deady and Alexandru Sones-Dawkins) open up about their inspiring stories and how their experiences have motivated their journeys towards the TCS London Marathon 2024. 

For Elliot (he/him) and Alexandru (xe/him/his/he) stepping into the shoes of a runner allowed them to build on their self-confidence and prove that they’re more than just a runner – they’re part of their own success stories. In his moving video, Elliot, 26, shares his story of being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder which severely affected his health. “I was too ill to do anything and I had a stem cell transplant, which saved my life,” he says. 

“I want to prove to the world that you can overcome a really traumatic experience… and go on to do amazing things.”

Now, after his recovery, he’s a “first-time marathon runner” hoping to spread the positives from his journey. “I want to prove to the world that you can overcome a really traumatic experience and come out the other side and go on to do amazing things.”

Meanwhile, for Alexandru, running has provided an outlet following the passing of xis mum, but it was also a way to funnel the difficulties of his tough upbringing in a productive, healthy way. “She had cancer when I was quite young and I lost her when I was 19,” xe explains. I wanted to prove to her that I did go down a good path, I did achieve what she thought I could achieve. But even more than that – exceed those expectations.” And so Alexandru decided to compete in this year’s TCS London Marathon which allowed xem to focus on a goal but also honour xis mum. “I can’t go through all of this and then not make it to the finish line,” xe tells GAY TIMES

Together, Elliot and Alexandru have used running to spotlight their stories and, importantly, found closure during a challenging time in their lives. As for their experiences, Alexandru was inspired to keep moving, through running, while overcoming the loss of his mum. While Elliot has found new confidence in his abilities, sharing a message of pride: “I’m just so proud of myself,” he says, celebrating at the finish line.