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I was 35 stone and depressed... now I'm running the marathon

JUST one year ago, Dublin man Eric Russell weighed more than 35 stone and got out of breath after walking short distances.

Now, the Sandymount man is planning to participate in the Dublin City marathon -- after losing an astonishing 15 stone.

Inspirational Eric's life has changed in the past 12 months -- and he is winning the battle against the obesity which wreaked havoc on his life.

Growing up, Eric was always tall and had a naturally broad build.

Although he was a bit heavy as a teenager, he was still very active and fit, competing in table tennis and showing a lot of promise as a rugby player.

But the death of his grandmother and problems in his parents' marriage left the young man prone to bouts of depression. He lost interest in sports and began to comfort eat.

After school, Eric trained as a plumber and eventually started his own plumbing company. He was successful for a few years but then fell on hard times. The pressure took its toll and he began drinking excessively as well as bingeing on pizzas and curries.

"I would drink maybe 20 or 30 pints in the pub and if I didn't go out I'd drink at home," he told the Herald.

He became reclusive and severely depressed.

As every year passed he gained another stone, and last year when he climbed on the scales he was shocked to find that he weighed over 35 stone.

He realised that he was locked in a vicious cycle and wanted to change.

But he was still struggling with emotional demons. It was hitting rock bottom that finally convinced him to take action and turn his life around.

"Last Christmas I got very depressed and two days before New Year's I decided I was going to commit suicide. I had the rope around my neck when I said to myself 'Either kill yourself now or do something about this'. So I took the rope off and decided to change."

Eric began this process by going walking. Then just before St Patrick's Day, he decided to give up alcohol.

"When I raised my glass and said this is my last pint, the people round me in the pub laughed."

Eight months later Eric is still alcohol-free.

Encouraged by the support of his brother Ray, he joined a gym and began training. Within three months he had lost five stone. Then in June he made up his mind that he would run this year's Dublin marathon.

He began working with personal instructor Kane Kearns in RAW gym in Portobello, doing fitness training three times per week.

"I started to believe in myself. I kept track of what I ate and began to lose more weight. I began to get compliments about how I looked."

Eric has also addressed his depression, attending a six-week course with Aware, and has a strong Christian faith which he believes keeps him steady.

Eric, who is 6ft 5in, hopes to reach his target weight of 18 stone by next summer and be able to complete the 2,000km Camino de Santiago walk through France and Spain.

"After conquering my demons I feel like this is my time to shine."