We’re nearing the end of National Blog Post Month for 2019, so my thoughts are inevitably turning to what comes next. Earlier in the month I mentioned an intention to complete some sponsored runs in aid of Alzheimers Research during 2020. To be honest, I’ve become thoroughly lazy in recent months, and the public commitment to get back out and get active is the spur that I need to start putting things right. So today I have entered the Llanelli Half Marathon on 9th February, and the Newport Half Marathon on 1st March. Of course, neither of these can be safely completed unless I do some serious training over the next 10 weeks, and so my new challenge for December is to run at least one mile every day for 31 days (including Christmas Day). This may even be the year that I actually make it to a Christmas Day parkrun! I’ll provide weekly updates on progress through December, and (who knows) I may even combine these with some more general blogging content. It’s weird, but in a strange way I am really looking forward to taking the discipline of daily blogging and applying it to something that will be good for my physical health (and hopefully raise a couple of quid for a cause that has become very important for me in recent years). I won’t publicise the sponsorship arrangements until much nearer the time, so watch this space (please!).
Day 7 : Find a new way to help or support a cause you care about.
Those who may have inadvertently stumbled across this blog in previous years may recall that I have previously chronicled my attempt to complete 200 race miles in my fiftieth birthday year. The deadline was extended slightly, but the challenge was achieved. along the way I was fortunate to complete a half marathon in Marrakech as well as races in Haverhill, Llanelli and Manchester (among others).
My running in recent years has been severely disrupted as a result of a knee injury and subsequent surgery; and then a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get back into running, leading to partial relapses. However, it seems that recently a corner has been turned and I am running pain free and slowly building strength and endurance. It seems like a good time therefore to set myself a new challenge – and to seek to raise some money for a cause that is becoming close to my heart. My aim, therefore, is to run the Llanelli Half Marathon in February, the Newport Half in March, and the Bristol 10k in May next year. That’s a rough total of 50 kilometres in total.
The cause that I will be seeking to raise some money for is the Alzheimer’s Society. My dad is living with a form of vascular dementia probably linked to a stroke getting on for 10 year’s ago now. Thankfully, whilst his speech has been badly affected, he is still able to follow conversation and enjoys a good quality of life. This is in large part due to the indefatigable love and support of my mum. Taking my dad as my inspiration, raising money to support research into the causes of and treatments for dementia disease is the best motivation that I can think of to continue on my own road to running recovery. More details of where you can sponsor me will follow later in the month!
I am pleased to report that my knee is recovering really well from the recent minor operation to tidy up the cartilage. The bag of bolts that had become lodged behind my knee cap has disappeared and I’m completely pain free for the first time in a year. I’m not getting ahead of myself and I know that it will take a while to get back up to full fitness, but I am really optimistic now that I’ll be back at parkrun by Christmas. In fact, such is my confidence, that I’ve just entered four 10k races in South Wales between March and August next year. All things being equal I’ll be pounding the streets of Cardiff in March, and then Newport, Porthcawl and Barry Island as the weather warms up. This will be part of a phased build-up to the half marathon double header of Bristol and Cardiff in late September and early October of 2019.
The race is on!
Having gone through a bit of a lean spell, I am pleased to report that my mojo has returned. With the help and encouragement of you, dear reader, I am running again! A gentle reintroduction in the beauty of Bute Park last Sunday, was followed up with a couple of runs around The Downs in Bristol during the week, and a Blackweir parkrun yesterday. However, the reason why I know I’m back on it is because this morning I set out on what was planned as a gentle 7.5 mile run to Roath Park lake and back. The sun was shining in a sky of unbroken, azure blue, the roads and paths were quiet, Roath Park was its usual jewel-like self, and well – to cut a long story short – I got carried away and ended up running 10 miles at more or less 2.15 half marathon pace. This is the first time that I’ve run more than 6 miles since the Llanelli Half Marathon in March, and whilst I am aching a bit at the moment, it felt good! I am now much more confident that the Bristol : Cardiff half marathon double header in September/October is achievable.
The motivation provided by a number of regular runners who happen to read this stuff occasionally, and who continue to inspire me with their performances in half marathons, marathons and trail runs (thanks Kev, Sarah, Tom, Bob in particular) has been complemented by Vassos Alexander’s book “Don’t Stop me Now!”. It is a fascinating compendium of insights and advice from a whole range of elite athletes, coaches and scientists, woven around an account of the 26.2 miles that Alexander ran as the final leg of an Iron Man event. It’s a highly accessible book and is a great reminder of all the benefits that come from simply putting your trainers on and getting out there. I highly recommend it, and I will be keeping it really close to my bedside to act as a kind of reminder of all the good things about running when I get up occasionally and the rain is falling and my whole being is screaming for me to stay under the duvet!
I’ve fallen off the wagon. I haven’t so much as put my running shoes on for over a month, and my motivation has flat-lined. Coming on the back of a first half of the year that went so well, it’s hard to explain why my running mojo has – well – run off. But it has. So here’s the deal. I’m asking for your help to get me back on track. I’m committing to getting back on the road from tomorrow morning, and I’ll post weekly updates on my progress as I build towards half marathons in Bristol and Cardiff in September and October. If you could help me out by demanding to know how things are going if the updates don’t appear, I’d be really grateful. Shame and embarrassment are great incentivisers for me!
In the meantime, I’ll also try to put into practise the 12 habits of regular runners here.
My 200 mile challenge is complete. I didn’t hit my deadline of 31st December 2016, and an injury in New York meant that I couldn’t do the final miles in Central Park either; but approximately half way up ‘the hill’ at Ashton Court parkrun on Saturday 6th May, the 200th mile was achieved. For good measure, I then completed the Great Bristol 10k in a new PB for the distance on Sunday – but that was just showing off!
Thanks to the incredible generosity of all my sponsors, £632.50 has been raised for the British Heart Foundation. That this great charity, supporting life-saving research into the UK’s biggest killer, has benefited from the challenge, is something that I am particularly pleased about. I am fortunate in my job to work with some of the researchers who receive BHF funding to push back the boundaries of knowledge about how the cardiovascular system works, and how we can better treat people with heart disease. Its a bonus that my own heart health has improved as result of the running. I can now run longer, faster and require less recovery time than at any time in the past 25 years. I have no intention of stopping running any time soon.
As well as the financial and health benefits of the challenge, I’ve also learned something else since starting running regularly. There’s an amazingly supportive community of people out there who are happy to share their time and knowledge to help complete strangers to improve their running. I had feared that entering club 10k runs would be an intimidating experience, with a load of super-fit individuals haring off and looking disdainfully at my plodding efforts. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In essence, most runners are really not that concerned about where they finish vis a vis other runners; instead, they are running against themselves – to improve their PB; or increase their distance; or simply to get to the finish and feel really good about it. If you are thinking about running but are worried that you’ll be sneered at, or won’t look good, or will finish last and be humiliated, then put all those negative thoughts to one side and get out to your local parkrun tomorrow morning. You are guaranteed not to finish last (there’s always a designated tail-runner whose job it is to bring up the rear), and I promise that you will find a community of people who are amongst the most supportive, least judgemental, and frankly happiest, that you could ever wish to meet! And if you are at Ashton Court in Bristol at 9am tomorrow, I’ll see you on ‘the hill’!