With only a few days to go until he competes in the London Marathon, EastEnders actor Adam Woodyatt has hit a stumbling block. Quite literally. “I was doing fine,” he says of his current mindset. “Apart from the fact that I’ve just banged my knee on some flat-pack furniture. Like everyone else, I was getting frustrated with the stupid stuff and I slipped as I was lifting it.”
Thankfully the injury (the pain being equivalent to “standing on a plug”, he jokes) isn’t going to hold Woodyatt back. I get the impression that it’ll take much more than some tricky self-assembly to throw him off course, such is the amazing backstory to this particular sporting endeavour.
For those who aren’t aware, Woodyatt is taking part in this Sunday’s event with his son Sam, something that they’d decided upon back in mid-September last year. Then, not even a fortnight later, Sam was hit by a car while crossing the road and was treated by London's Air Ambulance, who put him in an induced coma before taking him to the Royal London Hospital.
“There’s no sugar-coating it – it was a tough time,” Woodyatt Sr says. “There were a lot of unknowns. We didn’t know how he was going to be when he came out of his coma, what it’d be like when he came out of the wheelchair or tried to walk. But the way he’s recovered has been phenomenal.”
It’s also a story that features one of those strange, disconcerting coincidences of life: having already decided to run for the Air Ambulance Service prior to Sam’s accident, Woodyatt and his family have now ended up having first-hand experience of the kind of care provided, in their specific case from London’s Air Ambulance.
“Like other people in this country, you just assume that the Air Ambulance Service is an extension of the NHS and the other emergency services, with funding provided for by the government. But that’s not the case,” he explains. “It survives purely on donations and on the public’s goodwill. If we don’t raise money year after year, then those helicopters don’t get in the air and the rapid response vehicles don’t turn up. And it’s a service that’s absolutely critical because – as wonderful as the ambulance service is – it’s stretched to its limits.”
During Sam’s stay in hospital, the prospect of competing in the London Marathon became an incentive for his recovery. “I’d tell him that he wouldn’t be lying there forever and that we were still going to do this together. We weren’t banging a drum about it, but I was saying things like, ‘come on, we can still do this.’ It was a positive thing and we used it as words of encouragement to help him get better.”
But now the time has come to put those words into action: the daunting 26.2-mile course is on the horizon, but anyone who witnessed Woodyatt’s appearance on yesterday’s edition of The One Show can see that he’s a man transformed. A training program combined with a 10-week diet has resulted in a new lean appearance. “It’s the Tom Kerridge dopamine diet,” he says, referring to the weight-loss regime that aims to boost your mood while you shed pounds. “It’s all about finding something that works for you. One of my mates cut out alcohol, another did the 5:2 diet, but we all lost roughly the same amount of weight over the same period of time.”
And how did he find the marathon training? Did he surprise himself when it came to what he was capable of achieving? “I did actually,” he says, with a hint of pride in his voice. “I used to do a lot of long-distance cycling back in the day and it’s all about breaking those miles down. It’s a mental thing more than anything. Same with the running: first of all, I did six miles and realised it wasn’t that far. Then you set a target of 12, then 18. And you suddenly realise that it’s fine. I did 18 the other day and I could have done another lap but I wanted to go and watch the football!”
Flashback to last September, though, when Sam was in a critical condition - could he ever have imagined that he’d be lacing up his running shoes alongside his son in a matter of mere months? “No. As good as all this has been for my fitness and for giving me something to aim for, all I wanted at that time was to see Sam get better. Thankfully, everything went in his favour. I know from hearing other people’s stories that it could have been a whole lot worse. So we were lucky. It really is miraculous.”
You can find Adam Woodyatt's Just Giving page here.
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