ELATED record-breaker Steve Way bravely admitted the sensation of realising his Commonwealth Games dream had matched the joy of his wedding day.
The 40-year-old’s miraculous journey from being a 16-stone, 20-a-day smoker to representing his country in today’s marathon in Glasgow culminated with a personal best time of 2:15:16, resetting the UK over-40 record which had stood for 35 years.
En route to his 10th-place finish, Way shaved more than a minute off his previous best achieved in April’s London Marathon – the event which saw him qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
He was one of five athletes from the 27-strong field to clock a personal best and was England’s top performer, beating younger team-mates Nicholas Torry and Ben Moreau by more than a minute.
But while the run may have taken some fortitude, Way’s confession that the ecstasy of winning was up there alongside his nuptials to wife Sarah was arguably as courageous.
Way told the Daily Echo: “I always have to be careful when I talk about the best days of my life.
"I’ll be in trouble if don’t mention my wedding day and that definitely ranks up there but this at least equals it and I’m sure Sarah agrees with me.
“I’m so thankful for everything, I couldn’t have asked for more and, to me, this is my gold medal.
"It was absolutely awesome from start to finish and the feeling of crossing the line, knowing I had achieved all my goals was mind blowing.”
Way, whose time beat by 30 seconds the long-standing over-40 standard set by Ron Hill in 1979, briefly led during the opening stages.
But while he felt good about his progress from the outset, it wasn’t until the halfway stage that he realised he was onto something special.
“You can usually tell how you’re doing by the last couple of miles but you’re never 100 per cent,” he added. “The only time you’re certain is if you’re having a shocker.
“But I knew early on that it was going well, I was setting a good pace and within myself I felt how I had hoped to at that stage.
“It was strange because I had my pace planned but the African runners were not being even with their pacing so I found myself leading for a while. That was bizarre and quite unexpected but not as scary as I thought it would be.
“They inevitably had a surge but I stuck to my plan and felt reasonably comfortable. By the halfway stage, I knew the personal best and veteran’s record were achievable if I kept it sensible.”
Way will now remain at the Athletes Village for the rest of the games and plans to take in plenty of events as well as wading through his myriad of goodwill messages.
“I think I need some help managing my social media,” joked Way. “I have gained 1,000 followers on Twitter over the past day or so and my Facebook page has gone into meltdown.”
- Former Bournemouth AC athlete Louise Damen finished seventh in the women’s marathon in a time of 2:32:59. She was also the best-placed English competitor.