No Longer Running From Myself: Why I’m running the 2022 London Marathon | Scotland
Log in
What you can do
A man of colour stands smiling at the camera, wearing running clothes, in a green open space in front of a row of houses

No Longer Running From Myself: Why I’m running the 2022 London Marathon

Content warning – mental health, eating disorders, weight loss

This year, our trustee Jean Vianney is running the London Marathon to raise money for Stonewall. Do you want to take on a challenge to fundraise for us? We have sponsored places at London Marathon 2022 and the Royal Parks Half Marathon 2022. Or, you can do a challenge event of your choosing!

During the 1990s, when I was growing up, I heard a lot of hate speech about gay men and the broader LGBTQ+ community from across society. While the daggers from the outside world were sharp, it was the comments in my own household that cut deepest. I grew up in a very conservatively religious family. As a closeted gay man, it seemed that my only option was to live a lie.

I repressed my sexuality for years. Because I couldn’t be myself, the stress and pressure manifested as obsessive eating. Comfort could be found on the plate. Every bite was a morsel of distraction. I eventually ate away my emotions to the point of becoming clinically obese.

I can still feel the sheer relief that washed over me when she accepted me.

A weight-related injury in 2014 caused me to hit reset. And after many years of personal struggle, I decided to take the daunting step of coming out for the first time. I told my former boss over a seemingly unassuming lunch. I can remember physically shaking as I worked up the courage to say the words. As I trembled, I realised: it’s now or never. The time between me saying the words and her response couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. It felt like an eternity. I can still feel the sheer relief that washed over me when she accepted me for who I am. This is when life as I know it now truly began.

Jean in 2014

Jean in 2014

Throughout the next year, I gradually came out to friends and family members. Some conversations were easy – friends and family who were swift in their affirmation of love and support for me. Other conversations were difficult – people who felt betrayed that I hadn’t shared this earlier, or in some cases, didn’t believe me. If you think the words “I’m gay” are difficult to get out once, try repeating them over and over when people keep asking, “You’re gay?”, thinking you are joking.

All of this helped build resilience and shape the person I am today. After a few years on this journey, I came out to the final people of import in my life: my parents. I practiced repeatedly, mulled over the right words, planned my retreat if it went south, even going so far as to ask my brother to have his car keys ready in case we needed a getaway vehicle. No matter how many times I practiced, the nerves and anxiety of that moment still got to me. I somehow managed to get the words out. And although it has a difficult journey with many tears, my parents have come to accept me for who I am.

My physical health improved when I stopped living in the darkness of a lie.

As I came out to more people and my stress levels dropped, my eating disorder started to fade, and I lost weight. Comfort was no longer found on my plate, but rather in a deep loving and acceptance of myself. People ask how I did it: “what diet?” or “what exercises?” was I doing. The answer is that I started embracing my authentic self, inside and out. For me, my physical health improved when I stopped living in the darkness of a lie. Overall, I lost about 9 stone (120lbs or 55 kgs). I wasn’t trying to hit a target – I was just finally being me. The external weight loss was tied to an internal acceptance of who I am.

In December 2020, I joined the Board of Stonewall. Founded by Sir Ian McKellen, Lord Michael Cashman, Lisa Power and other trailblazers, Stonewall has led fights on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights since 1989. Their many UK successes include an equal age of consent for gay and bi men, the end of Section 28 in Scotland and England and Wales, the right for same-sex couples to get married and, more recently, getting LGBTQ-inclusive teaching in the national curriculum and helping evacuate LGBTQ+ refugees from Afghanistan.

It’s organisations like Stonewall that help move the needle, supporting every one of us to embrace our true selves. That’s why, on Sunday 2 October, I will run the London Marathon in support of Stonewall. (If you have a place for this year’s marathon, you can use your place to fundraise for Stonewall, too!).

Jean in 2022

Jean in 2022

Standing on the shoulders of giants and with your support, I will fight my way through 42.195 kilometres (that’s 26 miles, 385 yards). With each step that I take, I’ll remember my journey, I’ll remember my pain, and I’ll finish my story – it does have a happy ending!

Until then, please consider donating and sharing this story with your own networks. I’ll see you at the finish line!

#londonmarathon #freetobe #youunlimited

Inspired by Jean’s story? Donate to his Just Giving page, or get involved in your own fundraising event!