'I will run 26 miles through the streets that used to be my bedroom'
From living rough on the streets to taking those first running steps, a once homeless man is tackling the Brighton Marathon this weekend to help his recovery.
Wearing his newly-crowdfunded trainers, Stephen O’Grady will take part in the gruelling event this weekend (April 15).
Like many others, Mr O’Grady slept rough in Brighton for more than 12 months.
Given the harsh conditions, he developed an addiction to alcohol.
“I don’t blame anyone on the streets for their addictions because you have to do something to make it a bit more bearable,” he said.
Just over a year ago he was not only struggling with a drinking habit, but confirms he felt about as low mentally and physically as anyone can get.
“I knew sooner or later the street would get me so I had to do something quite drastic. It would have killed me. My alcohol addiction would have ended up ruining me. And life on the street.”
Having reached out to New Hope Trust in Watford, Stephen sought help and found himself getting into running.
“It’s become my new addiction, running," he said.
“I am just over 14 months sober and running has played an enormous part in that.
“I have had various medical treatments and counselling to deal with the underlying issues, but ultimately my escape is running.”
Although Mr O’Grady is running in aid of World Cancer Research Fund, he is also hoping to raise awareness for those living rough.
It is estimated that there are 178 people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove in 2017, a 24 per cent increase on the same period in 2016.
Mr O'Grady said: “If I can go some way towards changing people's perception of rough sleepers on the street then that would be great.
“Everyone that's on the street has got a story.
“There are some very talented people that are homeless and are overlooked, so if I can change people's perceptions of what is possible and to encourage others to treat everyone like a human being then that would be great.”
From hitting rock bottom to making a speedy recovery in just over a year, O’Grady, like many of the competitors for this weekend’s Brighton Marathon is about to embark on a significant emotional and physical journey.
“It’s almost like a sense of closure for me," said Mr O'Grady.
“Brighton saw me in a really dark place of my life, what better way can I prove that I have overcome that by running 26 miles through the streets, the streets that used to be my bed.”
Rather than allowing the streets to become his death bed, O’Grady has turned them into the runway to his own mental and physical success.
You can sponsor Mr O’Grady here.