GARRY BOWER - THE INTERVIEW

Q. What was it that got you into running?
A. Turning 40 & a bit of a midlife crisis I think. I messed about that year & didn't really do much, just the odd jog/walk around the block, but wasn't really focused. It was 2011 that the bug took hold - seeing my then wife running the BUPA Manchester 10K, but not being confident enough to do it myself, shamed me into signing up for the 2012 event. As they say the rest is history.

Q. Why then decide, after several years, to join a club?
A. I had grown to love running but joining a club seemed so daunting & I had the same misplaced opinion as many other solo runners - that clubs are for elite runners not for the likes of me, who couldn't run 10K in under an hour. I craved giving it a go, but my nerves would set off my Crohn's Disease & thus I avoided anything that would make me nervous or anxious.The biggest problem with Crohn's Disease is explaining why you have to rush off to the loo, the fear is mostly in our heads & I have found that once people understand the condition on the whole they are very understanding & supportive & these fears are totally unfounded. Anyway I had a flare-up of my condition early in February 2014 & when I came out of it I thought "enough is enough", this condition wasn't going to hold me back any longer. I had a parkrun barcode but had not used it since I printed it about 18 months previous, so that Saturday I decided to go for a long run & have a look at Alexander Park, with the view that if I didn't feel comfortable I could just carry on running & give it a miss. But as soon as I got there I was made to feel welcome & have barely missed a weekend since. On the back of this brave move, on the Monday I finally plucked up the courage to come along to RRR & instantly regretted not coming along sooner. On that first night I joined Natalie's group - I went home buzzing that I had found my new home from home. I made some instant friends in Natalie, Fay, Sarah B, Sarah T & Mark O.

Q. Why did you choose RRR?
A. The honest answer is because we don't wear red! I also looked at Oldham & Royton, but it came down to the colour of the vest. Taking nothing away from O&R - I have some great friends who run for them.

Q. You mentioned your Chron's Disease. How does it affect your running?
A. Since I took up running my condition has had less & less of an impact on my life. I think the reason for this is because it is a great way to de-stress & stress was a major trigger for me. I still have the occasional flare-up but they are mild & I am medication free with the occasional need for pain relief. I am so lucky that I can be active - many sufferers don't have the opportunity because their condition is so bad. Joining RRR has also increased my confidence in every aspect of my life & I am now fully open about my condition.

Q. You seem to do a lot of races, even for an RRR! Has that always been the case, or only since you joined the club?
A. I didn't do many races at all before joining RRR, but I get such a buzz from the whole atmosphere of a race, with the chatting beforehand & having a laugh about who thinks they are going to do well & who isn't. I don't always love the race itself, but I always enjoy the post-race laughs & occasionally (OK, on many occasions) we have been known to drift off for a meal & drink in a pub or a cafe. Those are just great times, spent with great people who have just shared the race experience with you.

Q. You're also a big supporter of parkrun; what's the big attraction for you?
A. Again it's the people - all there for one reason, to run. RRR & parkrun has brought me so many friends it is unreal. The post-run cafe for breakfast is a big plus too!

Q. You came along to a few cross-country events in 2014-15 to take photos; any chance you might join the team this winter?
A. Erm...yes. I'm having my arm twisted by one or two fellow members & I will be doing some of this year's races when I'm free.

Q. You've taken lots of great pictures at races, many of which are on the website. How did that start?
A.  When I joined the club & started parkrun I saw an opportunity to put my son's camera to good use. Both Emma & I do get a kick out of taking the pictures & I have since upgraded the camera. You don't want to know how many pictures get deleted because I still don't know how to use it properly!

Q. Talking of Emma...what did it mean to you when Emma signed up as an RRR & when she first took part in a race?
A. Simple answer is that I thought my chest was going to burst, I was so proud of her. The first race we did together as RRRs at Southport Mad Dog (she had done some other runs before this) was just brilliant. To have one of your children find the same enthusiasm as you for something you love is amazing & has brought us closer together as a result.

Q. In your 'profile' you chose John Tarrant ("The Ghost Runner") as your favourite sportsperson; how did you come across his story?
A. It was covered on the One Show on BBC1, which inspired me to read more. I thought the way he fought the system was just fantastic - he was the best long distance runner this country had in the early 1960s, but because of expenses he received from a boxing match (not prize money) at the age of 18 he was classed as a professional sportsman & never allowed to represent his country. Thank God some things have changed.

Q. In 2014 you became the first 'new' member to win the RRR Club Runner of the Year award. What did that mean to you?
A. I cannot describe how it felt. It was a true honour & a very moving experience. Having never won anything before & then to be recognised by my fellow club members was just amazing. I didn't expect it - I just belong to the best club & because it feels like my 2nd family I just threw myself wholeheartedly into the whole club experience. I was just being myself & it brought this fantastic award.

Interview conducted by David Emanuel