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9 November 2023

Kevin’s story: The journey to the Ironman finish line and what I learned along the way

4 minutes read time

Truthfully, the first few Mo's I grew were because I liked the idea of supporting men struggling with testicular and prostate cancer. Of recent years, my motivation has been focused on the effects that mental health has. The stigma around mental health with men remains, and it inspires me that the Movember community is spearheading the fight against that – a cause that has become more personal for me.

I had just moved back to the UK from Canada, which was somewhat of a mental battle in itself. I was in a job, working for someone that really beat down their employees. On top of this, I had a stomach/groin pain that was fairly chronic and not going anywhere. I finally got through to a specialist who diagnosed it as an inguinal hernia (something very common in men) and had keyhole surgery 9th May. About 4 weeks later I was given the clear to start swimming.

I hadn’t even made it to the pool when I noticed a very large lump in my lower stomach, right next to one of the keyhole scars. A few weeks go by and I’m back down the route of getting a specialist. Between May and December, I had one keyhole surgery and two open abdominal surgeries for a misdiagnosed issue.

Fitness has always been a big part of my life and a tool I used to keep my mental health in check. But with these health issues, this of course was flipped on its head. I definitely struggled a lot with this. Questions of identity, what does my personality look like if I can’t train or how will I cope with struggle in the future if I can’t train how I want to? It may sound small, but my coping mechanism was gone completely. This coupled with the fact that I had utterly no idea how to talk about it meant I struggled, silently.

To change things up, I got very visual with goals. After watching a lot of endurance events following my first surgery, I started looking into different options I had for what I could take part in. At Christmas of 2019, I made a comment about doing an Ironman, which with a bit of joking back and forth turned into a $50 bet. This is where the whole Ironman goal started.

I wanted to prove to myself that I still had it. I met a girl this year, who was been the biggest support crew. She encouraged me to talk about the process and be more open. The training quickly became my time to work through the idea of talking. It’s amazing what you can do with so many solitary hours training! My plan was to run Ironman Canada and sport a Mo while doing so. Lots of time, energy and money went in to prep for it. Unfortunately the event was cancelled due to wildfires, 1 week out.

Essentially with one week of planning, my girlfriend and I decided we should do it solo, with her being my support crew. It was tough to not be doing the official race, but somewhat perfect that I was doing it solo with her next to me. The whole prep was brutal, injuries setting in, including a torn ankle 3 weeks out, but an experience that was worth it all.

I wanted to do something big in my eyes, an endurance event that would physically and mentally test my resilience. Although the days that followed were physically very painful, I felt like I was able to tackle anything. It was a whirlwind few months building up to it, but so many mental tests made me feel like my head was bulletproof when it came to possible road blocks.

My message to men about mental health is that the struggle of the silent fight doesn’t need to be that way. It’s much easier when we aren’t silent. When you reach out, you’ll be surprised by the response, people wanting to listen and see you succeed. I’m very proud of what I overcame to get to the finish line. This Movember, I hope to have conversations around that journey and to help motivate other people to approach their mental health the same as how they would train for an Ironman. Being vulnerable can be difficult at first, but the more you talk about it, the more you’ll be comfortable. That’s strength.

Support Kevin on his mission to change the face of men’s health.