How running turned Matt Pyatt's life around and why he'll always be a Renegade
Matt Pyatt knew something had to change.
A nine-hour drinking binge had ended up in a trip to A&E after a fall, which injured his shoulder.
The rehabilitation work led to Matt joining a gym and he finally resolved to lead a healthier lifestyle and put his life back together.
Being a keen runner at Downham Market High School for many years Matt then went down a different path – one that involved drinking plenty of beer and watching lots of football.
It had seen him pile on the pounds for a number of years to a stage where he started not to recognise himself any more.
But in A&E that night it was the start of a new life for Matt, that of a runner… and a very good one at that.
“I was overweight and I was probably drinking 50 pints a week at the time,” said Matt, now recognised as one of Norfolk's finest runners in his age category.
“I ended up in A&E and I realised that I needed to make some changes when I got out of there. It was a bit of a sliding doors moment really and thankfully now I've been sober since May 2009.
“The accident led me to try and get some fitness back and I started running on a treadmill at the gym and I slowly increased it each week. Then I saw an advert for a 10K race and I said if I can do 10K on the treadmill then I'll enter.
“I just about managed to do it and I loved that first race. I struggled towards the end but managed to get round in 43 minutes.”
The competitive side of Matt had been reignited and when parkrun came to King's Lynn in 2011, little did he know what sort of impact it would have on his life.
“Parkrun gave me the incentive to just keep chipping away at my time,” he said. “I got talking to someone there and they said to me that if I could lose another stone then that would really bring me on.
“I then met Lisa at parkrun and I really felt like my life began at 35.”
Lisa was training for a 20-mile leg in the Round Norfolk Relay and Matt said he would like to train with her.
He started to log the kind of mileage he had never thought he'd be capable of and more importantly, he was enjoying it.
“I loved it and I started to feel really part of the running community,” added Matt, who went on to marry Lisa in June 2014. “After doing all that training with Lisa I did the Great Yarmouth Marathon (a one-off event to mark the 25th anniversary of Great Yarmouth Road Runners) and I loved talking to people on the way round.
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“I thought to myself that I'll find a marathon for myself to do the following spring and I did 2:40 in Manchester.
“That was when I was doing a lot of long stuff, and I was running around 70-80 miles a week.
“In 2013 I started recording all my runs and I still do to this day.”
This was when things really started to take off for Matt as he posted a time of 2:39 at the London Marathon in 2014 before running 2:36 at Berlin the following year, which remains a personal best.
However, logging such regular high mileage caught up with him the following year as he endured a bout of shin splints although it made him realise that he needed to take a more sensible approach.
He reaped the benefits of this in 2017 when he went under 16 minutes at the Wroxham 5K and he also posted personal bests for 10K (in Lincoln) and 5 miles (in Great Yarmouth).
2018 was a difficult year thanks to a virus Matt struggled to shake off but he has made a very promising start to the year.
He is getting closer and closer to breaking the 16-minute barrier once again for 5K and recently finished second in the veteran category at the Lincoln 10K in 33:47.
“This year has started a lot better – I'm happy with how it's going at the moment,” he said. “I've changed my mindset as much as anything - I spent too much of last year in my comfort zone.
“I've started to push myself a lot more towards the end of my sessions and it seems to be paying off in the latter stages of races. I've felt really strong each time.
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“I wanted to get back under 34 minutes for 10K and under 75 minutes for a half marathon.
“I've got Edinburgh next month and I'm looking to go well there.
“I do feel I've come quite far since that day in hospital – suppose it's fair to say that running has changed my life for the better.”
The parkrun movement has been the major factor in getting running booming in the UK.
It's what helped keep Matt Pyatt keep lacing up his trainers every Saturday morning once the running bug had bitten him again.
It has also provided an excellent pathway for runners to join their local running club.
But some people don't want to commit to joining a club although they do want to improve as a runner.
Looking around King's Lynn parkrun nearly two years ago, Matt realised this and decided to try and give people an avenue to improve.
He set up Renegade Runners in May 2017 – a running group that meets in The Walks every Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
“I just thought that some runners could do with a bit more guidance to their running,” said Matt. “I set up Renegades and it's now been going for two years next month.
“Nine people turned up to the first session and then word started to get around and we got 40 at the next.
“It's now a huge part of what I do – we get up to 70 people some weeks.”
Renegade Runners is open to anyone regardless of age, gender ,ability or club affiliation.
The sessions are on Tuesday nights usually in the Walks starting from the B&Q car park at 6.30pm. The Wednesday morning sessions begin at 9.30am.
Factfile- personal bests
5K – 15:54 Wroxham 5K 2017
10K – 32:58 Lincoln 10K April 2017
5 miles – 26:35 Great Yarmouth 2017
10 miles – 55:13 Kent Sidcup 2015
Half marathon – 73:27 Prague 2016
Marathon – 2-36 Berlin 2015