Oxford estate agent takes on Muscular Dystrophy UK’s 40th Town and Gown to celebrate being fit at 40

An Oxford estate agent is running Muscular Dystrophy UK’s 40th Oxford Town and Gown as part of his 40th birthday fitness challenge – and in memory of his late cousin.

Rowan Waller, from Cutteslowe, has been on a quest to improve his fitness for the past year, ahead of his 40th birthday in July.

He said: “I was fit until I was 18, but I started to suffer serious shin splints, which stopped me being able to run or play sports in any competitive way. As a result, I just became progressively unhealthy and unfit over the next 20 years. Last year I had a bit of an epiphany that actually, I’m getting on a bit and approaching 40, I really wanted to make the effort now to get in shape, or I might miss my chance.”

Rowan is running the event in memory of his cousin Fraser, who lived with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting condition that predominantly affects males and shortens life span. “He was a real diamond, a total character and the light of our lives. Very sadly he died in 2020, shortly before his 21st birthday.”

Armed with some new trainers designed for people with shin splints, Rowan, managing director at Wallers Estate Agents, got into jogging last year. He managed a mile first, then built it up slowly to two miles, before running his local Park Run.

The Oxford Town and Gown is his first official 10k running event. “I never dreamed I would be able to run 10k. It’s an absolute revelation,” he said. He’s finding the training tough – his shins are “protesting every day” but he’s enjoying the support and encouragement from his family. He’s especially excited for the buzz of race day, running with crowds through a city he loves, and seeing his family at the end of the finish line.

Rowan has casually run a 10k distance now, four or five times. “I’m not quick, I think my fastest time is an hour and 12 minutes, and if I can get round in an hour and 15 I’ll be quite happy with that. But I won’t beat myself up if I’m slower, it spoils it if you do. I’ve resolved to not worry about speed and to focus on strength, distance, and ultimately health and fitness, which is what it was always really about.”

As well as getting fitter, Rowan’s been on a weight loss journey over the past year. “I’m 6ft 3 and broad, so I’ll never be the lightest of human beings, but nevertheless I was 17 stone this time last year, and so when I embarked on this effort to get fit, I set a target to lose 2 stone by the time I’m 40 in July this year. I’m on track for weight loss target too… now 15 stone 4.”

He ran the Blenheim 7k fun run last October – at the time the furthest distance he had run – and this encouraged him to aim for the Oxford Town and Gown this year. Rowan is raising money for Oxfordshire-based charity Play2Give and will match any funds raised to donate to Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Jessie Keighley, event project manager for the Oxford Town and Gown at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Rowan’s clearly put a lot of time and effort into training for the Oxford Town and Gown and we can’t wait to welcome him on the day. It’s stories like this that really make us feel proud of putting on our flagship running event every year.”

The Oxford Town and Gown is a fast, chipped and marshalled course which allows runners to pace the closed streets of Oxford city centre, running past ancient buildings and ending in the beautiful University Parks.

About Muscular Dystrophy UK
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity bringing individuals, families and professionals together to beat muscle-wasting conditions.

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