Radio presenter Richie Firth, from Absolute Radio’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show, has lost five stone after being told he was at risk of a massive stroke unless he took drastic action.
Richie, 36, from Eastbourne, has completed two half-marathons in his journey to fitness – raising money for St Wilfrid’s Hospice which looked after his mum – and his now gearing up to run the full 26.2-miles in the London Marathon.
Richie used to weigh 18 stone, and lived on a diet of pizza, chocolate, and takeaway foods including vast qualities of his ultimate weakness – fried chicken. He was living a life of early morning starts, getting up at 3.15am to broadcast to millions of listeners nationwide as co-presenter on the Breakfast Show - followed by afternoons of bingeing on junk food.
It was an on-air challenge that caused the full impact of the health problems to come to light, something that he describes as a “massive wake-up call”, It left him genuinely in fear of his life, and whether he would live long enough to care for his two children, Caitlin, 11 and Charlie, eight.
The problems first came to light when Richie was challenged by O’Connell to embark on a Tube Train Challenge which would see him visit every single stop on London’s Underground tube network over 24 hours.
Richie agreed to the challenge, but as the physical enormity of the task became apparent – station bosses insisted Richie undertake a full medical beforehand.
At an appointment with a London doctor, Richie was shocked to discover he had sky-high blood pressure and ran a major risk of collapsing within months. His blood pressure was so high that immediate action was required and he needed to be put on tablets for the rest of his life.
He vowed to do something about the situation. He downloaded an app to his mobile phone and recorded the calories in the foods he was consuming, started cycling in the afternoons and running almost every day. He said, “It was so exciting, I’d always been a bit of a dreamer, and this was incredibly empowering. It was amazing what I was actually capable of once I’d put my mind to it.”
He will be running the London Marathon in aid of The MS Society. The charity helped his best friend and fellow radio personality and producer Beccy Huxtable, from The Scott Mills Show on BBC Radio 1, after she found out she was suffering with the illness at the peak of her career.