When most people nowadays hear the word ‘journey’, they think of X-Factor and the journeys that some of the contestants that cry at every opportunity have gone through to be on national TV or they think of the crap band whose song should never have been brought back to life but that’s my opinion. As a personal trainer and very much a people person I am interested in hearing people’s journeys as it can only help me improve in my profession in understanding what makes them win, lose or fight on.
On the 19th July 2014, I took the challenge on to earn the Spartan Trifecta and add to my own personal journey by attending a Spartan training day held at Fortitude Fitness Centre near Cambridge. Why this date is significant is because it was also a day that very much changed one man’s life.
George William Trotter was born in 1977 and soon after was diagnosed with ‘Christmas Disease’ a rare genetic disorder in which blood does not clot properly. In 1988 he went through an ordeal that no one should ever have to go through where at a private school, he was beaten and raped by four boys. Five years later his parents split up. A difficult start to anyone’s life and one that left him with a very low level of confidence as you can image.
However, in 1998 George volunteered to work for a charity in Israel, met someone in 2000, was married in 2001 and had 2 children, one born in 2003 and the other born in 2004. Things were going well until he and his pregnant wife split in 2006 a few months before his third child was due in 2007. Over the next 6 years George was frozen out of family life, falsely accused of indecent behaviour and found himself being taken in by some local travellers preying on a weak man in a position of desperation. He started getting involved in petty crime and it wasn’t long before he was put in prison for driving whilst disqualified. Not long after being released he was sent down again for the same offense whilst driving for the travellers and whilst inside, he made the decision to try and clean up his act. On release this time George got a job working and living in a 2nd hand shop. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse and he found himself involved in drugs as most of the people who came to his shop sold items to get money for drugs and before long he became a dealer, something he is obviously not proud to admit.
Life for George really hit rock bottom when he found himself getting high on an ounce and a half of cocaine on Hogmanay 2012, a colossal amount that fortunately didn’t kill him but if that wasn’t bad enough soon after he was attacked by a man wielding a samurai sword and rushed to hospital for serious head wounds. He had been cut down the middle of his scalp as his attacker made contact twice.
Thankfully life started to turn around and in March 2013, George, staring at 7 grams of cocaine decided to flush it down the toilet and call his Aunt to come and pick him up. After a few months of trying he was accepted by the homeless charity Emmaus. Emmaus supports people to work their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work as well as a stable home for as long as that person needs it. George needed it but he also needed friends, support and guidance.
There, he met Sean Elliott. A cheeky, quirky South African that he now counts as a true friend that has stuck by him no matter what and helped the then 27 stone George turn his life around for good. Sean told him straight one day that he didn’t walk, he waddled and pushed a newspaper article under his door about a guy much heavier than he was, who turned his life around too.
At the start of 2014 a group of friends at Emmaus started to talk about doing an obstacle race to challenge themselves and they eventually settled on doing the Spartan Super at Pippingford Park on 31st August.
George found someone on Facebook through a mutual friend who has become a bit of an idol and that person is Spartan UK Race Director Rich Pringle. George was desperate to train with Rich and was excited to hear that Rich was hosting a training day on 19th July at Fortitude Fitness Centre where our paths crossed.
During one of the many obstacles we were being coached on and as I stood next to this huge man, I felt I had to ask him what his story was. George stood out amongst a lot of fit, energetic, obstacle race ‘finisher’ t-shirt wearing participants whilst sporting a grotty white vest, black shorts and worn trainers.
George looked at me and replied that he used to be a 27 stone, homeless, drug addict and was determined to turn his life around. I instantly wanted to help him, get to know him and make sure he finished the Spartan Super race in August. During the day he unfortunately injured himself and had to be told to sit down by me and others even though he was determined not to quit. Eventually we said our goodbyes and soon were Facebook friends along with most of the other training day attendees…the OCR family is really like that.
In getting to the ‘Super’ race, he was constantly let down by his fellow Emmaus racers, some of the staff refused to assist him thinking he was crazy and they wanted nothing to do with him ‘risking his life’ by attempting such a race but this only made him more determined to get to the start line…already one hell of a struggle for this man. George made it to Pippingford Park by getting a loan for the train ticket, walking, hitching a ride and a lift through the generosity of a local farmer. He started to feel accepted and quickly made friends with various Spartans. He recalls fondly how Pete Marshall, Aaron Kelly and Simon Murray with his Welsh cake, instantly made him feel the warmth of the OCR community.
George stood at the side as he watched eventual winner Sam Cherry and the other athletes in the elite wave run off down the hill and began to absolutely brick it. He started thinking that all of the neigh sayers may be right, maybe he was crazy to do this and his fears were heightened after the first climb and first obstacle. It was at this point where George knew that he simply had to return to Emmaus with the medal around his neck. George got in with Kyla Harris and her group from Fitness Bootcamp. Kyla recalls “George was amazing, he helped me through my first ever OCR”…it was his too. When he eventually crossed the line, he became an emotional wreck with tears running down his face. Unfortunately his day didn’t end there as he still had to get home to North Bedfordshire. Again he walked, managed to get a discounted ride from a taxi driver and whilst waiting for his train, made an emotional phone call to his Aunt who rescued him from his drug hell in 2012 and simply said “ I did it”.
On arriving at Bedford train station, one of the Emmaus staff, risking being told off, drove down in their own car to pick him up and he instantly “flaked out”.
George was hooked, he felt like he was part of a family again, like most of us in OCR do but for George this was more than just a fun day out. He is grasping OCR with everything he has and is loving the banter of the many Facebook groups including the ‘singles’ site.
Dave Beatty is another name that he talks about fondly and that’s because he befriended him at the Spartan training camp and when George arrived at the Sprint race in Cambridge to marshal (getting a free race entry in doing so), Dave, on finishing his race promptly joined George and helped him and others around the course. George admired what Dave was doing in tackling the course but also in helping others to get round too. This was to become the way George did things too.
Rich Pringle on seeing George cross the Sprint finish line told him he had to attempt the Beast race and therefore gain his Trifecta medal. George was thrilled that his idol was saying this to him but at the same time was doubting that he could do it. He begged his friend who was also marshalling to have his free race ticket but he refused fearing for George’s safety so Simon Murray suggested he try the charity route and for £20 he could get the required race entry form Sparks charity if he raised £100 in sponsorship. £20 he could manage but the extra £100 was going to be a struggle.
George made it to Pippingford Park again and was ready to take on The Beast. This time he had ankle problems but knew that even if he walked and kept a ‘never give up’ attitude he would survive. On the long tyre carry, he saw a sign that read “Are you tyred yet?”. He swore, then stopped and chuckled to himself. He started to see the light hearted side of OCR, the fact that this is all pain and heartache but only if you look at it from that angle. He realised that it’s a big playground with many obstacles to conquer…much like life itself.
George crossed the line and with immense pride collected his Trifecta medal…one of his proudest achievements to date. He has since done Urban Attack, Tough Mudder, Judgement Day and the 10 mile Eliminator race, well, he was due to do the 10 mile race but got cramp helping people out the water obstacle for over half an hour so did the 5 mile instead.
George has now become known amongst the Obstacle Race Community as ‘’The Gentleman’ for the kindness and support he offers many other racers, even whilst he carts his 22 stone frame around the gruelling courses.
He is not obsessive about his weight but realises that he has an incredible dream that he wants to achieve and to succeed he needs to become stronger, fitter and obviously lighter.
George inspires people, he inspires me and even though he has to overcome more hurdles than most, he still keeps going.
In 2015, because of the reasons given, I have volunteered to train George towards his goal of competing at the OCR World Championships in Ohio. I will need support in doing this but not as much as the big man himself. I ask you guys to wish him well in his journey because at times…he will need it. As it stands he has knocked over 5 minutes off of his 5km parkrun time and made small but important changes in reducing his caffeine and sugar intake. Thanks to Carl Wibberley, you will be able to read more about his journey in two more editions of Obstacle Race Magazine. I will also be revealing his training plan, changes undertaken and his stats.
Let’s do this buddy!