Seven years ago, Steve Way was a self-described 16-stone “fat bloke” who smoked 20 cigarettes a day and had an addiction to takeaways. He started running to get fit, discovered he had a gift for it and, as unlikely as it sounds, will be representing England in the Commonwealth Games marathon in the coming weeks.
You’ve probably heard this inspiring story. Way has certainly been doing the media rounds in the past few months, even if he is now “getting his head down” and concentrating on his preparations for the upcoming games. What you may not know, however, is that Way worked at Barclays and, as he was “self-coached”, had to re-shape his career to fit around his burgeoning running career.
When Way started running seriously, he was working in an IT support role at Barclays, something that he said in his 2012 blog required being on call “24/7” and “was not really working anymore with the training”. Instead, Way switched to something “on the business side” that allowed him to follow a more 9-5 working pattern.
Credit to Barclays for allowing him to move internally into what seems like an entirely different part of the business. But Way himself made sacrifices to switch: “A bit of a pay cut but I think it’ll be worth it to allow me to get in the training and sleep I’m looking for – it’s not all about the money,” he wrote.
Way sailed quietly under the radar, taking part in ultra-marathons and marathons at elite level without the professional status, before signing himself up to the tiny sub-2 hours 45 mins group in the London Marathon this year. He finished 15th in 2 hours 16 minutes and 27 seconds, the third fastest British athlete behind Mo Farah and Chris Thompson – both of whom are not competing in the event at the Commonwealth Games – and 33 seconds below the qualifying time required to participate in the games.
The point is that despite reaching elite status, Way is not a professional athlete and has had to fit training around his day job.
Financial services professionals, investment bankers in particular, have a penchant for marathons and ultra-marathons. They account for around 30% of entrants in large-scale events like UVU Jungle Marathon, the Grand to Grand Ultra and the 4 Deserts events.
While sacrifice is required to train for these gruelling events, most investment bankers need the financial clout required to buy all the necessary kit, as well as flights and entry fees for ultra-marathons, which can come in at up to $5,000.
It’s unlikely, therefore, that many will quit their jobs or take something that pays significantly less in order to indulge their hobby. This makes Way’s story all the more remarkable.