Carl Dillow goes for London Classics victory at RideLondon-Essex 100 after shedding more than eight stone
Just eight years ago, Carl Dillow was an overweight, self-confessed couch potato. Now, in 2022, Carl hopes to complete the inaugural RideLondon-Essex 100 bike ride and become a London Classics finisher, having already conquered the London Marathon and the two-mile Swim Serpentine challenge.
The 43-year-old from Northampton weighed more than 25 stone when the death of a close friend in 2015 prompted him to change his life in a way he couldn’t have imagined.
“It made me re-evaluate everything,” said Carl, who was a promising hockey player in his teenage years before sustaining a serious knee injury which, he says, became “an excuse not to exercise”.
“I was a 25-and-a-half stone couch potato when I decided to try to exercise again,” he said. “Because of the amount of weight I was carrying, my leg muscles had grown strong and my knee had stabilised, which meant that there was no strain on the ligaments I’d damaged as a teenager. Once I’d established that, I started doing the Couch to 5K programme.”
Having stuck with the programme through to completion, Carl decided to follow the Couch to 5K with his first parkrun. This was followed by a 10K – and then a half marathon.
And so, the challenges kept on coming. But as Carl continued to tick off each running milestone, the same question remained – “What next?”
This meant he had only one more challenge to conquer before finishing the thee-part London Classics – the 100-mile RideLondon sportive.
But before Carl could take steps to achieve this feat, Covid-19 arrived – and the world was put on pause.
“Lockdown was tough, and I started to put on weight again,” said Carl. “I was eating takeaways and staying inside – as we all were. But then I tried to give exercise another push and started to get into indoor cycling. Now, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been and down to 17 stone in weight.”
Thanks to his cycling training, Carl is excited to take part in the first RideLondon-Essex 100 on Sunday 29 May 2022, which will see riders set off from Victoria Embankment into the glorious Essex countryside before journeying back to central London for a vibrant finish at Tower Bridge.
“The London Marathon was incredible – there’s nothing else that compares to it – and Swim Serpentine was brilliant, so I’m really looking forward to completing the London Classics at RideLondon,” he said.
The lasting impact of London Classics success
Like all London Classics finishers, Carl will receive his well-deserved London Classics medal and secure his spot in the London Classics Hall of Fame. But, for Carl, the rewards of completing these three events and returning to exercise have much greater meaning.
“The impact that physical activity has had on me has been immense,” he said. “There’s the physical aspect of having confidence in yourself again and that sort of thing. But there’s also the mental changes it can instigate.
“It has even given me the confidence as a person to the point where I’m now studying for a degree. I wanted to go to university to study sports science, but when I injured my ankle as a teenager I gave that up and went into full-time employment after my A-levels. But I’ve always wanted to go to university and now here I am, studying for a BSc in professional management.
“I still have a way to go, but every step forward is a step in the right direction. My only regret is that I wish I’d started exercising sooner!”