After retiring from the Metropolitan Police force in 2007, Paul Hope admits that he was bored and unhealthy. He weighed 22 stone, rarely ventured out of his home and was being urged to diet by both his doctor and family.
While watching the London 2012 Olympic Canoe Slalom Competition on television, which was staged at Lee Valley White Water Centre, Paul became engrossed by the sport. He also lives close to the venue in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire and once the Games were over, decided to get off the sofa and give the sport that had caught his attention a go.
Paul joined the over 50s kayaking sessions at Lee Valley White Water Centre, eventually becoming accredited to ride its Legacy Loop alone. The 160m course is designed to improve the skills of canoeists and kayakers so that they can eventually graduate to performing at a higher level and navigate the more demanding Olympic Standard Course. It was specifically designed to help produce a new generation of champions and enhance the venue’s ability to deliver an enduring legacy for paddle sports.
“Passing the test to kayak on the Legacy Loop was one of the greatest achievements of my life,” said Paul. “I felt really proud. When I started kayaking, my health improved, I felt much better about myself and I started losing weight.”
During one of his regular visits to Lee Valley White Water Centre, Paul, who was aged 53 at the time (he’s now aged 58) picked up a leaflet advertising specialist coaching to improve running skills, a sport he had enjoyed in his younger years in the police force when he was also a member of the Metropolitan Police Cross Country Team.
Paul soon became a regular at the running sessions at Lee Valley Athletics Centre, reigniting his passion for the sport and gaining a whole lot more in the process.
Since returning to running at Lee Valley Atheltics Centre, which also required him to follow a fitness and diet regime, Paul has shed more than seven stone and seen a major improvement in his mental and physical health. He has participated in 100 parkruns, a global community 5 kilometre running event, one of which is also held in Lee Valley Regional Park. He also regularly participates in the annual 10 kilometre run hosted by the park and other running events around the country.
Paul said: “I have a family history of diabetes and know that it’s very important for me to maintain my health. I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been in my life and that’s down to Lee Valley Regional Park and the sport that it offers.
“The park is a fantastic community resource and I really appreciate the benefits that it has brought me. I often take friends and relatives to the park for walks or to see paddle sports at Lee Valley White Water Centre. Not only is it great viewing but the coffee and the cakes are also very good.”