I started running at the age of 35 after the death of a relative; he died in his mid-fifties from a massive heart attack and it was the wake-up call I needed. I’d worked in an office all my life and at that time (2006) I would have to say I was overweight and lived a sedentary lifestyle.
I joined a gym and it had a running club, before I knew it I had joined the beginners group and took to it like a fat duck to shallow water. They were a great bunch of people and one of them is amongst my closest friends still, and she is still running. I completed my first half marathon that year, the Leeds Half and then the following year Blackpool and it wasn’t too long before me and a work colleague had persuaded ourselves to enter the Paris Marathon 2007.
It was an amazing adventure from beginning to end from the preparation: which started on a wet and windy 1 Jan 2007; to the execution, setting off on the Champs Elyse (think about those closing shots of the Tour De France) and being baked in searing heat for the whole event, then walking around Paris like John Wayne with a big grin the next day.
The marathon bug stuck although I was always finishing in the 4:15 to 5hr mark I loved it and in 2009 I persuaded another friend, over a pint or three, to do 3 marathons in 3 days in Cornwall, called the Atlantic Coast Challenge. This was a trail marathon, steep, hilly, sandy and required lots of serious training with back to back running. We loved every minute of it and between us raised £1500 for Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Since that first marathon in 2007 I have completed 20 marathons including two London Marathons, two Edinburgh marathons, four Blackpool marathons and two Shakespeare marathons in Stratford. The furthest northerly marathon was Lochaber (Fort William) and the flattest marathon I have ever done was the Mablethorpe Marathon.
My best running year to date was 2015 when; following some personal issues, I had set myself some stretch targets to challenge and focus me and to reignite my passion for running. So in April 2015 I achieved my fastest ever marathon, Blackpool 3:36:54. Then in May I managed my fastest 40mile ultra (only my second at the time) in 6:51 and then in July my first ever true ultra – 110km of Lakeland trails (Ultimate Trails 110km) in 18hrs 56 minutes, in a 24 hour cut off. The UT110km was a mammoth challenge and all my running that year led up to that one event. I was truly amazed to feel fantastic and energised at the end; even after a midnight start, running over every hill in the lakes, being sick at 5am, being frazzled by the mid-day sun and having half a pint at a checkpoint 57miles in! In fact I was so buzzing at the end that instead of camping as planned I grabbed my tent, threw it in the car and drove home to Otley, near Leeds, as I was worried that if I lied down in a tent I might never get up again.
As always with running it is easy to get carried away and having completed my longest ever ultra I started to feel burned out. I’d agreed to do the Great Langdale marathon, which is extremely hilly, in September and Mablethorpe in October and although I completed both they were less than stellar performances.
I didn’t race again after that but I had signed up to Blackpool marathon in April 2016 and Coniston trail marathon June 2016 but 2016 was not to be my year although I aim to change that. Due to a perfect storm of personal and professional issues coming to a head early 2016 I stood on the start line in April not ready and not mentally focused. This led to my first DNF at mile 20. Then at Coniston I was timed out at mile 23 with what I later believed to be heat exhaustion which took a week to recover from.
I could feel that my running was taking a dive and my motivation was at an all-time low. One of the things that has really helped me to re-focus has been marshalling for races in the Lake District. Getting out on the hills for a full day at a time, being involved with people who are passionate about running and helping motivate others to achieve their own running goals.
I ran the Robin Hood half marathon as one of my first ever races and I have run the Dukeries Ultra40 twice; which takes you through Sherwood Forest by the great oak itself. So for me the chance to do the full Robin Hood marathon is an opportunity to pick up my running again and to counter some of the early negativity that had crept in. I feel my running mojo returning especially after a great 10 mile run on Saturday (23/7/16) and I am helping a friend prepare for her first marathon in New York City and I can’t let her beat me! Let’s hope the weather is perfect, the crowds cheering and I will do my best to deliver a solid marathon performance.
Running has cost me a lot over the years in terms of finances, toe nails and disappointments but it has given me so much more in return. It has improved me as a person both physically and mentally, provided me with good friends and is now a fully integrated part of my life.
If I have learnt one thing from my running experience it is that it ebbs and flows; by understanding what are at the root causes of any poor performance you can find ways to either go with it or row back a little until you are ready to launch yourself back into the water. Oh and maybe the second thing – never underestimate the marathon, regardless of how many you have done!