LAST year Darren Sharp, a 45-year-old civil servant, suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.
It was a huge wake-up call for the unhealthy, overweight father-of-three who stopped smoking, cut back on his alcohol intake and improved his diet. Having shed five stones in weight and taking regular exercise, he is now fitter than he has been for 25 years and is aiming to run a 10k run in July and a marathon in two years.
He is taking part in the Jane Tomlinson run in York on July 31 to raise money for Heartbeat, the Brighouse Heart Support Group, which has helped him on the road to better health.
He said: “Heartbeat is receiving less funding this year and could have to reduce some of its activities. This could mean that in future it will be able to support fewer people who are in the position I found myself in.
“Heartbeat helped me so much and I wanted to give something back.”
Darren, a keen Bradford Bulls fan, now has a number of long distance runs in his sights - as well as the Jane Tomlinson run, he is planning to tackle a half-marathon in 2012 and a full marathon in 2013.
“Because of my renewed fitness, I have developed an ambition to run a marathon but at the same time I recognise my limitations and need to build up gradually. I am increasing my training over the next couple of months and hope to complete the 10k in 50 minutes.”
Darren, who has three children aged 16, 20 and 23, attends classes run by Heartbeat at Brighouse Adult Education Centre. The voluntary organisation, which is affiliated to the British Heart Foundation, has more than 230 members and runs exercise and weight loss classes for people who have had a heart attack - or who have been identified as being at risk. It also offers Tai Chi classes and runs an extensive programme of walks and social events.
Chairman Roger Bailey said: “We are going from strength to strength. Last year we had more than 6,000 attendances at our classes and people really appreciate the support they get. We are friendly and sociable and our members enjoy themselves while they get back to better health.”
Future funding could be a problem and the group, whose first patron is Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, relies heavily on its own fundraising efforts to keep going. Its biggest fundraising event, the spring fair, will be held on May 21 at the Adult Education Centre and the group is hoping to top last year’s total of £1,500. A concert at Central Methodist Church by Clifton and Lightcliffe Band in June has also been planned.
Roger said: “We are determined to keep going because we know how much coming to classes has improved the quality of life for members.”
Secretary Margaret Riley said: “I tried going to the gym but it just wasn’t for me. At Heartbeat classes we all encourage each other.”