By Hannah Phillips
Three overweight black cab drivers have gone from fat to fit – shedding a combined 15 stone – to climb Africa’s highest mountain.
Brian Heffernan, 54, Daren Parr, 52, and John Dillane, 54, dubbed the ‘fat cabbies’, began their weight loss journey one year ago when they signed up for the mammoth charity challenge.
After a gruelling workout and diet plan, which saw them shed 5st each dropping from 20st to 15st, the newly slim trio, all from London, took on the brutal climb on September 26, returning to base camp on 4th October.
To date, the fundraisers have racked up almost £15k for The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans – and gone down seven clothes sizes to boot.
Cabbie of 14 years Daren said: “I have been eating, breathing and sleeping the challenge ever since I signed up.
“For me it ticked all the boxes. I was hook, line and sinker for it.
“I’ve tried to lose weight before, unsuccessfully. Having a goal and a reason like the charity has really focused me.
“It’s completely changed my life, my wife Jackie is so happy.
“I see people I haven’t seen for a while and they barely recognise me.
“It’s lovely but it’s just a by-product of what we’re doing.”
In September 2018, overweight cabbie, Roshan Varma, recruited nine fellow black cab drivers on Twitter to lose weight and raise money for
One year later, and just three of the are left standing – not including Roshan, who was forced to drop out for medical reasons.
The men undertook a vigorous exercise regime to prepare themselves for the climb, which featured spin classes, weight training and hill walking in between shifts and at weekends.
John said before signing up for the stunt, he couldn’t even climb two flights of stairs without running out of breath.
The cabbies transformed their diets by cutting down portion sizes and ditching alcohol and sweet treats.
It took the group six days to reach the summit where their friendship was put to their test and one day to climb back down to the bottom, where they were greeted by their wives.
In preparation for the climb, the trio tackled the three-peak challenge, made up of the UK’s highest peaks – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – but said they were unprepared for the debilitating altitude sickness of Kilimanjaro.
Dad-of-one Daren said reaching the summit of the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres above sea level, was the proudest moment of his life.
He added: “The three of us have got a good relationship but when it was four in the morning, we were cold, the wind was gusting, our lips were hurting and we were on a steep rocky hill that changed.
“Getting through that was one of the best parts.
“It was emotional, it hasn’t been easy for any of us.
“There was nothing we could take or do to get through altitude sickness – it was seven days of constant battling.
“But we’ve helped military veterans, made my family and friends proud and put black taxis where they belong – on top of the world.
“We left our heart and souls on top of that mountain and showed we are proud black taxi drivers who, if we put our minds to it, will remain the best taxi drivers in the world.
“I was stoked to see Jackie when we got to the bottom – I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s helped me with anything.”
After shedding the weight, the newly transformed trio are now able to run around and play with their combined 10 grandchildren.
And while they will be going back to their cabs full time, they insist they’ll continue to keep fit and are already planning their next climb to keep the motivated.
Daren said: “We were trying to repair a lifetime of bad habits in one year.
“We are all in our fifties, we get aches, pains and ailments.
“So just climbing hills, we felt like we’ve been in a car crash – bits of our bodies were hurting that we didn’t know could.
“During the training, we couldn’t afford to say ‘I’m not going to the gym today’ – we had to keep doing it.
“We didn’t have time to heal, we just had to get up and keep going.
“Sleeping in a tent on the floor took its toll.
“But now, everyone knows the ultimate goal is to live longer.”
The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans supports those who have served in the armed forces, and the cabbies chose it because it was a cause close to their hearts.
So far, the trio have raised almost £15,000 of their £20k target.
John, who also shed five stone before the big climb said: “Middle aged men can do amazing things.
“We’ve gone from being out of breath climbing two flights of stairs to climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world.
“If we can change, anyone can change.
“We’ve had so many people in the taxi trade and all over the world giving us support.”
Brian added: “JFK once said ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.
“We took this momentous task to raise money for our veteran’s past and present.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro seemed a fitting way to earn their respect.”
To donate: go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cabbiesdokilimanjaro