Athletics News

Sole to soul: how hitting the road and miles have helped John Bell

WATCH: video interviews with Scottish 10K champions John and Natasha

Wednesday 13th September 2023

Inverclyde AC athlete John Bell won his first Scotland vest at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in August. It was a special and emotional moment for an athlete who has had endured quite a journey both inside and outside the sport.

By Michael Houston

A Scottish national champion and international road runner has thanked running for improving his life . . . after spending his traumatic childhood in a broken home and losing both of his parents.

John Bell claimed a cherished gold medal for the first time in his career at the Scottish 10K Championships in Glasgow back in May some eight years after taking up the sport.

That win came only a few weeks after two other podium places in National Championship events.

John was third at the Scottish 10-Mile Champs at Strathclyde Park in early April and ended the month with another bronze – this time on the track in the Scottish 10,000m Champs (when he won a photo-finish with Ryan Thomson of Cambuslang Harriers).

John, now 31, started his hobby by running home with friends from his job at Amazon and the Gourock man joined his local club, Inverclyde Athletic Club, back in 2015.

It was his first job after his mother’s passing, who died when he was just 21. A year earlier, his estranged father – who served time in prison – had died, too.

John discovered the body of his mother just before Christmas and one of her parting gifts already wrapped was a pair of running trainers, which he wore a few months later at the Edinburgh Marathon. He completed that particular race in under four hours while raising money for Help For Heroes.

Reflecting back on his childhood as part of the Athletics Trust Scotland ‘Transforming Lives‘ series, John noted the troubles he had from a young age in his family, effectively growing up in a life of poverty.

John races in the Scottish 10k Champs at Glasgow Green – where he took Senior Men’s gold (photo by Bobby Gavin)

‘We came from very little and through our time had numerous building and house fires,’ he recalled.

‘One of those actually left us needing to be rescued out the window by local fire services.

‘I had been taken to the police station in handcuffs by age nine and we had a break-in on Christmas Day.

‘Eventually we were evicted; my mum with her own struggles vanished on the day of eviction which left me to move into my sister’s house and stay on a sofa in a one-bedroom flat with too many…

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