Growing up I was always sporty. I played football, cricket, cycled, loved sports at school and I was a bundle of energy! But as I got older those things I enjoyed as a kid became less and less until by the time I was in my late 20’s I was only playing football once a week, if I even got in the team. I worked, had a family and as many reading this will know, it can be very tiring. I constantly felt sluggish and very unfit compared to the live wire I used to be as a youth.
A couple of times a year I would meet up with old college mates for a ‘jolly boys weekend’ we called it. It involved curries, takeaways and lots and lots of drinking. We decided we were getting too old for all this and needed to do something different. Someone suggested we signed up for the Great North Run, why not I thought. It would give me a reason to get my butt off the settee and get active. The first month or so of training was hard, I remember thinking how do people enjoy this? But once I started to get fit I’d run the same routes but challenge myself to run it faster than the previous time, if I didn’t beat it I was more determined to beat it next time. I loved it. I think this is what they call catching the running bug! GNR came around and I ran a very respectable 1hr 52. As soon as I received my official time I said to myself I’ll beat that next time and I did the following year by 11 minutes . Shortly after this I read Sunderland were hosting a marathon the following spring, I signed up straight away!
Here’s one of my favourite running quotes:
“Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; JUST NEVER GIVE UP.” – Dean Karnazes
Not really knowing what to expect of a full marathon, at the turn of the year I threw myself into training. I wasn’t sure if I could even complete that distance knowing how tired I was after GNR. I read training plans, runners blogs, expert advice and so on but there was so much information I decided I would just run a little bit further every time until I could manage 18/20 miles. I’d do a long run on a Sunday morning and I really enjoyed the feeling I’d get after I had showered, had lunch, sat down and thought I’ve ran a bloody long way this morning, as sense of achievement I suppose. I had a race plan for the big day but that went out of the window within the first few miles, I was completely swept along – adrenaline was pumping, I felt fit and strong so I just went with it, I got to half way in 1hr 41, smashing my then half marathon PB but I still had the second half to run. It crossed my mind that I was running way too fast but I was in the zone.
I later read many novice runners fall into this trap and boy did I pay for it later! Everything after 20 miles is a bit of a blur but what I will never forget is the pain in my legs as I just felt like I couldn’t run anymore. My confident running from the early miles had now become a slouched shuffle, I had to walk now and again and try to build up to a run. I even had a spell where I felt like I needed to stop but I couldn’t because I would cramp up. It was horrible but I kept going, quitting was never an option. I was about 200 metres from the finish, in desperate pain but my body just started speeding up to almost a sprint, spectators must have thought what is this idiot doing! I think it was my body’s way of getting this over with as soon as possible. I crossed the line and both of my legs from hip to toes cramped up and I suffered the most intense pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I couldn’t move, I just stood and screamed like a mad man. The overwhelming sense of accomplishment through shear determination soon took over and the pain was gone. It was quite emotional. I’m proud to say I still managed a very decent 3hrs 55mins, beating my 4 hour goal.
I think that was a pivotal day in my running life, I don’t think I will beat that and I’m not sure I have the drive to. I have stopped being so competitive with myself and enjoy running.
I still have goals and ambitions but if I don’t achieve them I’ll not be too disappointed. I have been lucky enough to do some really great events and raised some money along the way for some great causes. I have ran 3 Great North Runs, many different parkruns, Sunderland Marathon and Half Marathon, Newcastle Stampede, Rat Race Dirty Weekend which was a 20 mile assault course, crazy I know but it was an amazing challenge. I did London Marathon in 2013 which was also amazing, I would love to do it again. Last but not least the 12 parkruns of Christmas which I did with blog author Paul, what a day that was! I don’t think I’ve been through so many emotions as I did that day, the highs and lows can’t be described in words. I think it will live long in the memory of all involved.
What next? Who knows as far as events go, more of the same I think. I’ll be entering the ballot for London Marathon again, I quite fancy a marathon abroad at some point and I may attempt an ultra marathon… what can I say, I like a challenge!
I think running is primal, it’s inside everyone and it just needs bringing out. I run because I love running, for health, for relieving stress but mostly because I think I have to run because I’m addicted and it’s a habit. I’m not ready to give up yet.