2 Feb 2017

Gareth’s journey starts here

Gareth Simpson is taking on one of the biggest challenge events in the world for Act for Wildlife: the London Marathon.

Join Gareth from the start of his journey…

You’ve just signed up to run your first ever marathon. Why?!

I am lucky enough to work for Chester Zoo, so I see first-hand what we fight for every day. I know how much of a difference the sponsorship I raise will make, with every penny going directly to conservation. I also like to challenge and push myself and I consider this to be one of my toughest challenges to date.

This is what made me sign up – and this is what will keep me going!


What does your role at Chester Zoo involve?

I am Head of Site Operations so I am responsible for managing the zoo site operations and standards whilst ensuring that we have a safe place for our guests to visit and for our employees to work in. I take ownership for the zoo estate, the site operations team, maintenance and environment, security, health & safety, first aid and the zoo fleet of vehicles.

As you can imagine, no two days are the same and that makes the job very exciting however the challenge is finding the spare time to commit to my training.


What’s your fundraising target?

My target is £2,000. This will be tough to raise, but it could achieve so much.

For example, it could protect rhinos from poachers by fuelling a patrol vehicle for over five months, educate over 1000 children in Assam about the importance of treasuring their elephant neighbours or plant two hundred trees to rebuild the rainforest for orangutans.

How will you get ready for your 26 mile slog?

I am following a programme set up by a key supplier to the leisure industry. The plan is far from easy but it has helped build my fitness and stamina as some of my daily runs are in excess of 10 miles now. I have also had to change my diet and cut out the odd luxury whilst at the same time learning how to run, eat and drink in order to keep my fuel supplies up.

My fitness tracker is also helping me monitor my progress as I have seen my resting heart rate lowered by 25% and my recovery rate dramatically increase. It is simple things like this that keep me going.

I also really enjoy getting up in the early hours of the morning and set off in the dark watching the day begin and the city slowly wake up as I complete my run. I also make sure that the halfway point is always as far from my house as possible so that I have no option but to get back in time to help get the kids ready for school and to be in work on time. No pressure!


What are you most nervous about?

I ran two 10K events for Act for Wildlife and it was great to be part of a team and know that there were other runners with me. The marathon is over four times the distance and I’ll be running on my own this time, so I’ll have to carry the support of my friends, family and colleagues with me as I run.

Injury is always something on my mind too as that can stop everything and did so for most of December but I am now back on track again. Something as simple as a pothole or coming off a pavement in the wrong way could put a stop to everything!


What are you most excited about?

I am most excited about joining all the other runners on the day and experiencing London in a totally different way. The city has so much history and the route will be passing by some amazing landmarks and architecture and I cannot wait to be part of that. I am also interested to see how it will challenge me both physically and mentally.

Then of course there is seeing the finish line and finding those who are waiting for me on the other side. My wife, Tanya, and my children will be there to cheer me on and meet me at the finish and what more incentive do you need! My wife also works at Chester Zoo and my children have been involved in fundraising for our conservation work at their school, so I know how proud my family will be.