Michelmores Charity Run winner

Winner of Michelmores Charity Run launches support bid to realise his athletic dream

This year's winner of the Michelmores Charity Run and local athlete, Owen Walpole – who finished the course in an incredible 16 mins 6 seconds, is soon to be jetting off to Africa to continue the pursuit of his dream of competing at the top level in Athletics as a 1500m runner and gain support for his foundation, Isaiah Walpole. We caught up with him to hear more about his running career and what local businesses can do to support him to help meet his goals…

Tell me a little about your background

I was born and bred in Exeter and went to school in Torquay. I played a number of sports but running was my first love – my limited co-ordination meant I was sadly never going to be the next Lionel Messi! I put all my energies into athletics – running in particular, and I've found it a great way to bring people together and have fun.

What got you interested in running?

I remember my parents first took me to the Exeter Harriers as a six year old – they have always been running fanatics. Mum is still a competitive masters athlete and has been coached by my Dad for decades – watching her compete and train always inspired me as a youngster and still does.

What made you decide to train to become a professional athlete?

Last year I started a graduate role in Glasgow with NHS Scotland and whilst I enjoyed the job my running took a hit and I felt it was limiting my progression. After chatting to Myles Edwards who runs a charity and trains out in Iten, I knew I didn’t want to look back and think 'what if?', so I decided to take the plunge and head to Kenya. I have plenty of time to forge a career but an athletics career is finite.

Why have you chosen Iten as the place for your training?

Once I had made the decision to put everything into improving as an athlete Iten stood out. It is the home of distance running and has produced a host of Olympic champions and world record holders such as David Rudisha and London Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge. It has an almost mythical reputation as the heart of Kenyan running dominance and, with its altitude base, was somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting.   

What's your ultimate dream?

The dream is to get a Great Britain vest and compete in a major championship. The Olympic Games is the one that you really dream about as a kid and is something I still haven’t let go of. 

My goal for next season is to make good improvements on my personal bests at both 1500m and 5k and qualify for a final at the British Championships. 

Why is it so crucial to have local businesses sponsor your journey?

In order for me in continue pursuing my dream and improving my running in Iten I require sponsorship. As a local athlete it would be fantastic to have the support of a business that is embedded in the local community. In exchange I would happily get involved in any company events, wear their logo on my sports kit at a host of local, regional and national event as well as talk about the support given in my fortnightly Western Morning News column. 

As well as allowing me to pursue my dreams as an athlete the support of a local organisation would allow me to grow the foundation that I have set up – Isaiah Walpole – which supports a primary school in Kenya to stay open and take on new pupils but it also has a bigger vision.

Can you tell us more about this foundation?

Several years ago former marathon runner Isaiah Kosgei decided he needed to give something back to his home town of Segero, Kenya, so with his own money he built a not-for-profit primary school. King David School provides an education to over 170 children and has already done great things for the local community. On my first trip to Kenya I met Kosgei and visited the school and I immediately wanted to get involved and help the project. 

With over 1million children of primary school age not in education in Kenya we firstly want to expand King David School to accommodate a greater numbers of pupils – calculating the cost of supporting a child's educational needs for one year to be £78.50 for a child in Year 1-4 and £58 for a child in Year 5-8. Our long term vision however is to build a Technical College for older children to  learn a trade – the college would follow our not-for-profit principles, providing cost neutral or free education where it is needed. 

As we carry out this work I am keen to forge links with local schools and organisations in the South West. So as well as training full time as an athlete, I plan on spending a lot of time in schools and other community groups throughout Devon. I want to help to grow the foundation and create links between the two communities by organising cultural exchanges and fund raising events.

Education should be a basic right for all kids regardless of their economic status, and our foundation will help to cover the cost of school fees, school meals, uniform and educational materials. 

Please contact Owen Walpole for any information about sponsorship, email owen.walpole@hotmail.co.uk or phone 07595 184 069