Born in Wolverhampton, England, he moved to Bradford, where he attended Bradford Grammar School. He has a brother and sister. He won the English national cross-country championship three times and twice finished in the top 20 in the World Cross-Country Championships. On the track, he finished fifth in the 10,000 metres in the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, and 17th in the 10,000m final of the 1992 Olympics. He holds the British record for 10 miles of 46:02, set in October 1993. That year he moved up in distance to the marathon.
He won his debut marathon in Hamburg in a time of 2:12:57 and went on to win his second marathon, the World Cup Marathon in San Sebastián, in October 1993. His other marathons included a fifth place in the 1996 Olympics and a personal best time of 2:08:36 in the 1997 London Marathon where he also finished in fifth place. His time was the third fastest of all time by a British athlete.