Torch Bearers

I hated sports at school – but even I’ve been caught up in the Olympic headlines.

Yet some of the greatest victories are won outside the main stage.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Ian Sockett, (one of the Olympic torch bearers), tells his story:

“Four-and-a-half years ago I was lying in hospital, terrified I was about to die. I weighed about 5½st and had been anorexic for 20 years. Of course, a lot of people assume men don’t suffer from eating disorders, but I’m proof that they do, and that they can recover.

My problems started in the summer immediately after my O-levels. I was in the top sets at school, I played cricket and rugby for my county and I was a very good runner. I’d won the Midlands 400-metre title and competed in the English Schools Championships.

But, that summer, my nan died and my world turned upside down. Suddenly, I felt I had no right to enjoy life. I know when you look at it in the cold light of day it’s irrational, but I felt I was only justified in being alive if I punished myself in some way, so I started cutting down what I ate. At first, I would just skip the evening meal. But, as time went on, I ate less and less until all I was having was coffee for breakfast, an apple for lunch and a salad for dinner.

At the same time, I continued to run every day. This carried on for years. I looked skeletal. I hated myself and what I’d become. But then, in December 2007, I got a chest infection that turned into pneumonia. My right lung collapsed and I was told I needed a blood transfusion. As I watched the blood dripping down the tube towards me, I was suddenly petrified I was going to die. That was the turning point. Something switched in my brain and, for the first time in 20 years, I wanted to get better. To spur me on, I set myself a goal: within a year I would run a marathon. Today I weigh 9st (within the normal range for someone of my height) and I’ve run three marathons – the last one in three hours 13 minutes – and raised £11,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

It’s a huge honour to carry the torch. I’m slightly worried I’ll break down in tears, but I hope my story can inspire hope in others. Anorexia doesn’t have to be a life sentence. You can go on to do amazing things”.

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