Former rugby union player Lloyd Bentley quit his job to become a self-employed painter and decorator only to find he was allergic – to paint.

Lloyd, 30, now fitness and conditioning coach at Huddersfield YMCA, was seriously-ill and off work for three months until doctors diagnosed the allergy.

Now fully recovered Lloyd is taking on a double marathon running challenge to raise money for The Kirkwood, the Huddersfield hospice that cared for the dad of a friend, who died of cancer.

Lloyd, who has a fiancee Dominique, 31, worked for a decorating firm but only worked with paint on a couple of days a week. After he was furloughed, he decided to strike out on his own full-time.

Soon after becoming self-employed, Lloyd began to struggle and was having difficulty breathing whilst working. He was so sick he was off ill for three months.

On that scary experience Lloyd said: “I was furloughed from a job in Leeds and to keep myself busy I started to do some painting and decorating when restrictions allowed. When they called me back I just decided to go self-employed and it soon blew up and I had three or four months of work booked in. 

Lloyd Bentley is back to fitness

“After five months I found out I was allergic to paint. I was crippled with pain in my lungs. It got to the point where I couldn’t walk upstairs without having to rest. 

“It was a really frightening time. This has all been going on through Covid-19 and we thought at first it was Covid that I had. However when I visited the hospital several times they just couldn’t work it out. The doctors told me I was fit when I knew I wasn’t. 

“I was waking up every hour of the night as I felt like someone was hugging my chest. It got that bad I spent three months on the couch with my throat feeling like it was on fire. 

“A friend of mine asked what had changed in my life. All I could think of is that I’d gone from doing a bit of painting on the weekend, two days a week to now doing it as a full-time job, seven days a week. So the fumes and chemicals I was breathing in got more abusive on my lungs.

“When this was happening and the doctors didn’t know what was going on I started to Google things and that sent me down a dark path. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and so it’s the worst thing I could have done.”

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To help deal with the issue Lloyd bought a breathing mask which helps keep out the fumes. 

He said: “To combat this I bought a respiratory mask which has filters in it. I have to wear this at any point when I’m using paint. 

“Since using the mask I have been able to carry on doing the job I love and enjoy. It’s also meant that my lungs can work properly and I’m back at full fitness.

“We went from thinking it was something sinister to something I can actually do something about. Plus this is my livelihood, I’ve put a lot of time, effort and money into making this a success so I’m glad we found a way around it so I don’t have to change careers.” 

Lloyd with his special mask

After recovering Lloyd turned his mind to a new sporting challenge. A lot of people have done the Three Peaks Challenge. However not many have ran across it twice in one go. 

That equates to running 49.4 miles. Most people would see this as a hard enough challenge, but Lloyd insists he wants to complete the run in under 15 hours. 

He is also doing the challenge in memory of his best friend James Carbutt’s father Chris who died of stomach cancer in March 2019. Lloyd is raising money for The Kirkwood, the hospice which cared for Chris. 

Lloyd praised the hospice and said: “It was such a lovely environment to be in, it wasn’t sad at all and the staff were amazing. They looked after James too. Sadly Chris passed away and James lost his mum when he was only 21. He has no other family and this is why I am doing this for him. 

“I set the initial target of just raising £1,000. I’ve surpassed that so now the target is £2,000.”

So far Lloyd has raised almost £1,300 for the charity. 

Chris Carbutt

On his training regime and what he’s doing to prepare for the challenge which he’s running on May 22, Lloyd said: “I’ve never done anything like this. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do though. 

“After I had recovered and started to get my fitness back at the start of this year, I wanted to challenge myself and do some good after taking my health for granted. 

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“I think you have to have a bit of a screw loose to do what I’m attempting. However to run just under 50 miles in under 15 hours is something I really want to say I’ve done. 

“I live in Mirfield and I’ve been running around the hills in Hopton. I also run around the many trails that go past the Dewsbury golf course through the woods. 

Lloyd takes a break on a run

“Another thing I’ve been doing is running up and down the Scammonden Reservoir steps. I did 20 circuits of the steps in four hours, a personal best for me. 

“I get up at 5am to start training, it’s good to mentally get up that early in preparation for the day. 

“The lads helping me on the day who are my support crew, are Stuart and David Dyke, Ben Hardcastle, James Tindall, John Ambrose and my dad John. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.” 

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In preparation for the run, Lloyd has already been to scout the course.

“I had the day off the other day and just went to have a practice run of the first loop which I completed in just under five and half hours. I had run the same loop just before lockdown and ran it in six hours 36 minutes. So it just shows you how the training is paying off. 

“My diet has totally changed, I’ve had one evening drinking alcohol this year. I felt bad and so went out the next day and ran 20 miles to make up for it.” 

Part of the Three Peaks challenge

Lloyd’s dad is is former British Lions rugby union star John Bentley. Lloyd followed his father into the sport and is now Huddersfield YMCA’s fitness and conditioning coach.

Lloyd said: “I got into rugby through my dad who had represented Great Britain in both codes. So really I was always destined to get into the sport because of my dad’s success. 

“I played at Cleckheaton RUFC up until 11 years old. I then moved to Huddersfield YMCA. My dad still coached at Cleckheaton but I think it did me good moving away so I could develop into my own person and style of player. My dad was very physical, whereas I was very agile and fast on the wing. 

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“I left the club for a bit in my late teens but returned in my 20s. Unfortunately I had nine concussion injuries in three years which really affected me. It was becoming apparent it was affecting my health. I couldn’t remember things and I started slurring my words. 

“Since I retired in 2015 things have improved. However I was so in love with the game and missed it so much I couldn’t bear to watch a single game at any level. I had spent over 20 years been involved in the game where it meant so much, going to training every Tuesday and Thursday and playing Saturday. Going from that to absolutely nothing just hurt so much. 

Lloyd training in the snow

“Now though I have learnt to deal with that. I have missed the social side and I am able to be involved in the sport I love, just in a different position. 

“The great thing about my dad is that he never put any pressure on me to follow him. He always said I should be my own player. My dad had a special talent not many have. He also had great drive to get to where he did and had to work hard. I knew I wasn’t good enough to play at that level. However that didn’t matter to my dad and that’s why he’s so brilliant. 

“We played together in an international charity game in Hong Kong back in 2008, it was the only time I shared a pitch with him. That was a great experience which I appreciated.”

To donate to Lloyd’s challenge please visit his page HERE