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Ex-Craig Dunain rugby player Sam Hourston wins ‘virtual’ place in London Marathon and is raising cash for Doddie Foundation

Sam is hitting the gym to sharpen up for the virtual London Marathon. Picture by Sandy McCook
Sam is hitting the gym to sharpen up for the virtual London Marathon. Picture by Sandy McCook

A diabetic former rugby player and manager is on a fresh fitness drive after winning a “virtual” place in this year’s London Marathon.

Sam Hourston, 44, played for Inverness Craig Dunain for almost 20 years. He hung up the boots two years ago after type two diabetes and an ongoing knee injury put him out of the game.

With his weight rising and fitness faltering, Sam spotted a special competition run by Genius Brewers, who donate 5p from every can of its drinks to the My Name’5 Doddie foundation.

The prize was to secure a sought-after spot in the London Marathon without having to go to the UK capital to take part. Raising at least £500 was the only condition.

The My Name’5 Doddie foundation, launched by Scotland rugby legend Doddie Weir, raises funds to aid research into the causes of Motor Neurone Disease and investigate potential cures.

Sam is on the treadmill here, but will be on the streets of Inverness for his London Marathon challenge in October. Picture by Sandy McCook

Inspirational Weir, who was capped 61 times for his country, kicked off this charity four years ago after he discovered he was suffering from the incurable disease, also known as MND. He continues to inspire.

Scotland stars willing Sam on

And the efforts of Smithton-based Hourston have already been spotted and shared online by Scotland internationalist Gordon Reid.

His progress has also been followed by another international player, Jade Konkel, who used to play for Craig’s women’s team.

Scotland’s Jade Konkel is backing Sam for his virtual London Marathon challenge.

Sam, who is a waking night responder for care provider Lifeways in Inverness, explained why the competition caught his attention.

He said: “I thought that I am overweight, diabetic and not doing enough exercise, so I decided to go out there and push myself.

“I entered the competition and the next day, which was my birthday, on May 13, I won. That was some birthday present.”

The former Craig Dunain boss says his current lack of fitness at more than 18 stone, combined with having diabetes, will make this a really tough challenge and take him out of his comfort zone.

He stressed: “Although I’ll have 24 hours to do it, it’ll still be a big ask.

“From midnight on October 3, I can start walking and my progress will be tracked. It will then be up to me on 11.59.59pm that night to ensure I have completed 26.2 miles.

“There are some marathons where you can do it on a treadmill, but this one has to be completed on foot, without any help.

“My friend and I have been looking at various routes and we will almost certainly be doing it on the streets of Inverness.

“Unfortunately, it is on the same day as the Loch Ness Marathon, so I have altered my route a wee bit so that I don’t interfere with that. I did have a flat course, but I’ve had to add a few hills, but I’ll just take it as it comes.

Sam Hourston at the Juvenate Gym in Inverness.

“I’ve not done serious fitness work for years. I used to be slim and 12 stone and play rugby every week. That changed after, when playing rugby, I suffered a knee injury and that set me back.”

Gym staff working on special programme

Sam praised the team at Juvenate Gym at the Jury’s Inn in Inverness, who have taken him on board at a special rate and are already preparing him for the big day.

He said: “Andrew, who is the manager there, will be watching my progress and the new staff being employed there will be devising a specific programme for me.

“A lot of it will be focusing on the lower body, although I need to also get the legs going again.”

Just a few days after launching a Virgin Money Giving page, Sam’s backers have already chipped in £135 to set him on his way.

  • To bolster that fundraising balance, with My Name’5 Doddie Foundation benefiting from Sam’s marathon efforts, log on to Virgin Money Giving and search for Sam Hourston to find his page.

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