Olympic rower Collins approaches end of marathon challenge

For many athletes the weeks directly after a Games can be the hardest with the comedown following the months and years of sweat and toil to make it to an Olympic Games.

Whilst Team GB rower, John Collins, anticipates going for Paris in three years’ time, it didn’t take away from the post-Olympic blues felt directly after the Games having finished fourth with partner, Graeme Thomas, in the double sculls.

To stave off those blues, Collins has set upon a challenge that has not only kept him occupied but ensured he and his teammates can make a difference to a cause close to their hearts – The Running Charity, who support young people experiencing homelessness.

Over a two-week period Collins and the brains behind the Metro Marathon Challenge – Dr Kevin Dutton – will have covered 315 London Underground stations, 305 miles on foot and to round things off, will finish with the London Marathon on Saturday.

“I knew I needed to find something straight after the Games to avoid those post-Games blues,” explained Collins. “The day after I got back Kevin said ‘do you want to do this’ and without really giving it too much thought I said ‘sign me up!’ It feels rather foolish in hindsight but it was just the sort of thing I needed.”

Having competed at Rio 2016, Collins knows what it can be like to have that period of introspection without the rigours of the previous four years and admits it isn’t always easy.

“There is a singular drive and determination to succeed; it’s what makes you get up at the crack of dawn, the thought of competing at an Olympic Games is an incredible motivation,” said Collins.

“When you come out the other side of that, suddenly that drive, that goal evaporates in front of you and it can be a struggle to go into a period without any goals, even if another Games is something you’ll go for.”

And so, with the entire London Underground tube map covered off, they have just the small matter of the London Marathon to get round, something that Collins has always wanted to complete, though admittedly these circumstances are slightly more unexpected.

“I’ve always wanted to do a marathon or even an Ironman (triathlon) at some point but the London Marathon is a special one for me and has always been on my bucket list,” admitted Collins. “I always wanted to run it fast but I think after the two weeks previous to it, running fast might have to take a back seat.”

Collins has worked with Dutton, a psychologist and elite performance expert, since Rio 2016 and it was the latter’s experience as a teenager that made him want to undertake this challenge and support the many young people throughout the UK that struggle with homelessness.

“Kevin had stormed out of the house after an argument and went to chat with a man called John Dwyer, someone he’d often run past and spoken, who lived under a bridge after the death of his wife and daughter 36 years previously. He told him to go home as you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone,” explained Collins.

“It can be so difficult for young people. They have their lives ahead of them but wrong decisions can really derail their lives and can be really difficult to get back on track as a result.”

Throughout the challenge, they’ve been sleeping outside each night, in tents and sleeping bags before starting each day travelling between London Underground stations, covering on some days as much as 33 miles. It’ll be just the 26.2 miles around London finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. An incredible feat but one that shines a light on those all too often forgotten about in society.

You can learn more about the Metro Marathon Challenge and donate at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/metromarathonchallenge