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Trinity Road, Darlington, County Durham, DL3 7BF (Sat Nav DL3 7AZ)
Opening hours: by appointment only
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“I believe anybody can run, it’s just a case of learning how. That’s my mission – to teach others.”

In 2019, Mr Ruiping Sun faced several health problems that made him spring into action and take matters into his own hands. Starting up running, Ruiping soon lost 60 pounds in weight and hasn’t looked back since.

Aged 62, Ruiping said: “My mentality changed when I read 'Born to Run', all of a sudden, I looked at running different – I reassessed my form, as sometimes the smallest of changes, such as looking at how to run properly, can make the biggest of differences. I almost immediately felt a change in not only how far I could run, but it also had a positive effect on my wellbeing and emotions.

“I truly believe anybody can run, it’s what we’re meant to do. It’s just a case of knowing how to. Since I retired, I’ve been trying to encourage my friends and family members to take up running and see how it could change their life.”

Ruiping’s runs are made even better by his partner in crime, 6-year-old German Shepherd, Watson, accompanying him everywhere he goes.

“I’ve had Watson since he was very young, we adopted him after his previous owners gave him to an animal shelter. He’s such a clever dog, we’re very lucky. We meet up yearly with his shelter brothers and sisters, which is great.

“We first started running together almost immediately, we love to go on adventures and seize every opportunity. We run, we hike, we wild camp – he shares the tent with me and my wife! My fondest memories are of Watson and I hiking with friends, and he believes himself that he is the leader of the pack. He’ll roam off but always come back to check if we’re okay – he’ll kiss my hand, which is his sign of affection, and run off again.”

Originally from America, Ruiping has run marathons in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and further afield in Berlin and Beijing – all of which Watson helped him train for.

“Unfortunately, they don’t accept dogs in many official marathons, but Watson gets the training in with me, we normally run 6 miles a day together or more in marathon season. The park opposite Swinden Court, where we now live, is a great starting point for us, as we get to know the area more and more.”

Moving to the UK for his wife’s work, Ruiping spent months looking for the right place to stay before stumbling across Swinden Court in Darlington.

“We looked at a lot of different places, locations and building types – apartments, single houses and so on. We found out about Swinden Court on the off chance and soon realised it ticked all of our boxes – it’s neat and new, we feel very safe and secure, everything is taken care of, and finally, it’s dog friendly! I never realised how difficult it would be to get Watson here from San Francisco and then find somewhere where we could rent that accepts pets.”

Thinking ahead, Ruiping recently enrolled for the London marathon – having not been picked twice before. “I will keep trying of course if I get rejected again, it’s a goal of mine to run it. My wife’s work might takes us to Japan in the next couple of years, but I’ll come back for it I promise!”