Posts Tagged ‘hard’


 

After reading my friend Rachel Cullan’s excellent blog about running and injuries I thought I’d share my recent experience.

 

On the Trigger Race (I’m still finding new people to tell my story to!) I tore my right calf. Now 150ft up the side of a cliff isn’t the best place to do it especially when you’ve another 5 miles to run so you can withdraw alive and with honour intact.

 

My right calf ached after but nothing I was worried about. It would of course go away and my leg would feel pain free again and I could continue running. Except it didn’t work out like that.

 

I rested until the Thursday after and I went for a short run. Everything was fine until I got round the corner from my house and my right calf went big time. It not only hurt a lot but nearly caused me to stop and pull up completely.

 

I managed to get home and to my amazement I had knocked 4 minutes off my time running up Blake Hill / Howes Lane but I was in pain. Was it worth it? Of course it was!

 

But the next day my calf didn’t feel any better. Or the day after. So now I know it was serious and I would have to go back to my physio to find out what was wrong and how to fix it and get back running.

 

So off I trotted to Rippendon to see Joe the Physio. The verdict was a Grade 1.5 (quickly upgraded by me to a 2) tear in my right calf and between 4 to 6 weeks with no running.

 

But I could go to the gym and do stuff that people in a gym do without getting cold and wet and lost and sweaty and confused and wondering who they are miles from civilisation.

 

So I went on the spin bike. But how to make it interesting? Firstly see if I could last longer than half an hour before I lost all feeling between my legs. I found out I could and that I could go quite fast, 23.5 miles, avg rpm 101 or go for 1 ½ hours before I needed to stop.

 

Similar on the Cross-Trainer and rope pull thing. Instead of thinking this was something I had to endure I decided to make it a challenge even if some days that challenge was just to go to the gym and do it I did it.

 

And it worked. I was not only pushing myself harder each time as the copious amounts of sweat falling off me testified, but I kept the boredom at bay and found myself looking forward to going to the gym and seeing how hard I could push myself.

 

It kept my fitness up, my interest up and most important for me my flexibility. I have never been the most flexible of people but for some reason over the last 6 months I have become more flexible and bendy than I have ever been and I didn’t want to lose this.

 

But still something was missing and after a couple of weeks it twigged. The gym was keeping me physically at a good level but mentally I was going downhill fast.

 

Until this point I never realised what running does for me in controlling my anxiety and anger and stopping me slipping into depression and just being a dick to everyone I come into contact with.

 

Running it appears does a lot more for me mentally and psychologically than I ever realised. Running allowed me to deal with emotions and feelings at a day to day level without letting them simmer away under the surface until they boiled over into a near uncontrollable explosion which resulted in misunderstandings at the best…

 

Running allows me to gather my thoughts and deal with them in a rational and logical way, letting go of the stupid thoughts and focusing on what really matters.

 

But with that outlet taken away from me how would I cope? Not very for the first few weeks until I realised what was happening and what I felt I was becoming. Then I could deal with it however much it drained the life out of me I could deal with it.

 

And then salvation! Joe the Physio told me I could run again! Only for 5 minutes to start with but it was better than nothing.

 

And so today I drove up to Ogden Water and nervously took my first steps back to full running fitness.

 

I only went down to the reservoir from the car park and back but it was a start. And it felt good. In fact it felt bloody good! The fear has gone about what happens if I fall over. Tough shit that’s life. You either get up or you don’t.

 

But the uphill was even better. Only a slight uphill but it might as well not have been there. Power, power and more power resulted in a PR.

 

All my anxiety, anger and other stuff disappeared in 6 ½ minutes of running. That is what running does to me,

 

What happened most of all on the Trigger Race was I gained self-belief and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m sure my friends will stop me from getting too cocky and maybe one day my new-found self-confidence will result in something I don’t come back from…

 

But in the meantime I’m going to enjoy life and push as much as hard as I can in my running and see where it takes me. Life is for living, live it.

 


Last night I took part in the Helen Windsor 10k race, a local road race round Greetland in Halifax. The race is tough on an undulating course and if I’m being honest was one race too much for me coming after setting a Personal Best (PB) at the Halifax Half Marathon only three days earlier.

However, I choose to run the race and turned up feeling good. Not brilliant but good enough to run the course and enjoy it. My thighs where still aching and it was clear to me I hadn’t fully recovered yet, but I decided to run and see how things went. The last thing on my mind was setting another PB, tonight I would be happy just to finish.

This of course all changed as soon as I started mixing with the other runners and the competitive switch in my mind went on and I began to think about setting a 10k PB. Could I set another PB so soon after setting one at the Halifax Half?

I chose to wear my new running shoes initially but as soon as I started to warm up I felt pain in both my Achilles tendons and decided to change them for an older pair I had brought with me that I knew would be more comfortable on the night and allow me to run in with less pain.

As we made our way to the start I could feel my Achilles pulling and reminding me that they thought I shouldn’t run. Instead I chose to block out the pain and just do my best on the night. I’ve got used to running in pain and now accept that being a runner means I will be carrying some sort of injury whenever I run.

The course itself is deceptively hilly and a lot more demanding than it appears. You start by doing a small loop before heading back up the main road and beginning the long climb to the high point before descending back to the finish. The climbs are a mixture of long steady inclines with some short, sharp ones thrown in for good measure.

At the start I set off far too fast, a habit I am trying to curb. As soon as I became aware of this I reduced my pace and settled down into a steady rhythm. My Achilles and thighs were aching but nothing I couldn’t cope with and I started to get into a pace I felt comfortable with.

After the small loop I was back onto the main road and the start of the larger loop. I found myself passing people which surprised me considering how I felt, but I decided to keep pushing and see what time I could get. Looking at my watch I was on course for a PB, by how much I didn’t know bit my pace was good and I felt fine.

As the course went on so did the incline. Nice and steady at first and then I could see the short but steep climb to the summit. By now I was beginning to feel the aftereffects of running so much this year and especially the Halifax Half in my legs. I could keep going at this pace but it was hurting, my thighs especially were feeling sore and I realised I was running out of energy. My mind took over and I asked myself how much I wanted this, was it worth putting myself through all this pain just to get PB tonight when I could get a PB at another, easier course some other time? The reply came back that I could do this and it was worth it.

I was already in pain so what would more matter? I was still passing people and I had now crested the summit of the hill although it felt like I was running up hill instead of down and the km markers were getting further and further apart. This was the part of the race where everything seemed to take longer to run, every mile or kilometre seemed to have been stretched as far as it could and this 10k race felt more like a 20k.

I was getting desperate now for the final turn and the knowledge that the finish was just around the corner. I was running on autopilot and concentrating on finishing. I could slow down and still get a PB but that’s not me, not when I’m racing. The desire to push myself to my maximum and see what I am capable of once again took over and so I dug deep yet again and carried on pushing myself.

At last the corner was there and I rounded it knowing that the finish wasn’t far away. Except it wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had further to run than I thought I had so onwards I went doing my best to maintain my pace. This was hard work now and I was finding it tough. All of my body was aching and all I wanted to do was finish and collapse in a heap but right now that wasn’t a choice for me. The only choice I had was to finish as strongly as I could.

And there was the finishing line in front of me at last. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do a sprint finish and the woman who had been on my shoulder for much of the race was now in front of me and I had nothing left. But with the support of the other Queensbury runners who were there and shouting for me I manged a sprint and beat her to the line.

All in all it was a good race. The route is tougher than I expected but so am I. Once again I pushed myself harder than I thought I could and I got my 10k PB in a time of 55:40 knocking 2 minutes off my previous time on a much tougher course. This bodes well for seeing how close I can go to 50 minutes with plenty of rest and a flatter, faster course. I’m on the lookout for a race like this already.


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


when i am inside

you are my comfort

my warmth, my softness

changing shape as i move

moulding yourself to my every mood

 

but when i go outside

you come with me in my mind

the thought of you keeps me safe

how you turn cold into warmth

hardness into soft, sad to happy

 

you encompass all my joy

you soak up all my emotions

you bring my dreams to life

you are my best friend

you are my mobile pillow

 


Well reality hit home tonight. I decided to do a steady run down to my writing workshop from my home in Queensbury to Dean Clough Mills, Halifax where the workshop takes place. The route is mainly downhill, nothing too difficult and I managed to get 4.25 miles in by running round the car park.

However the run did seem harder than it should have been. To be honest I think the effects of having too much fun over the Bank Holiday weekend finally caught up with me and even for this run there wasn’t much left in the tank.

But training has to start at some point, putting it off means a day lost when you could have been out there testing yourself, seeing what point you’re at with your running and what you need to do to get to your goal.

Well I need to do quite a lot of hard work to get to my goal starting with being more realistic with my training goals. My next target will be building up to 6 miles on the canal tow path. Nothing too strenuous, just nice and steady and concentrate on doing the mileage first.

Nutrition is very important too and I’m sure a week off the beer will do me the world of good and get me back to my fighting weight and flying up the hills again. 5lbs is a lot to put on over one weekend!

Next training session is on Thursday at my local club Queensbury Running Club. I’m looking forward to it as the running guides always pick some interesting routes and because I live on top of a hill, hill training can’t be avoided. It will be interesting to see how I go compared to tonight.


I enjoy a challenge. The thought of a challenge keeps me going. However yesterday I may have gone a step too far because I entered the Eccup 10 race and when I saw 10 I assumed it was kilometres. However as my friend Nic kindly pointed out to me later on 10 was miles or around 16.5 kilometers, oops.

So what do you do? Back out and say you’re not ready for the race bearing in mind you’ve only been running seriously since March? Or do you admit your mistake and take on the challenge knowing it will be tough and painful but worthwhile at the end?

I decided to take on the challenge.

True I’ve only been running seriously since March and my 5k times have come down from 45+ minutes to 29:26. But 5k is as far as I’ve raced. I’ve entered the Pudsey 10k, another error on my part as for some reason I remember Pudsey being flat as a kid, but in the 40 years since I lived near it Pudsey has developed hills, quite a few by the sound of it.

My weight has come down too from 253lbs to 219lbs, a good weight loss but is it enough to run 10 miles in a decent time? Speaking of which I put in an estimated time of 1 ½ hours when it should be nearer 2 hours.

So I’m a moderately fit, slightly overweight, middle aged man with a poor memory who doesn’t read the large print and underestimates courses whilst over estimating his own abilities!

But I’ve decided to take on this challenge and I am going to do it. the race is on 5th July so I have plenty of time to prepare if I use it right. One thing I’m doing is cutting out alcohol. This will help with my fitness and weight loss goals. And there’s other goals I want to achieve in that time. Some are goals involving only me, others involve other people. But we will see which of these goals happen and which don’t.

But the hard work starts tonight with my writing workshop down in Halifax. Normally I drive but tonight I’m going to run down there and then run back, all the way uphill for around 3 miles. Should be interesting to see how I get on!


I’m starting to write this piece about my experience at the John Carr 5k, the day after the final race, but won’t finish it till later, but it has been such a great experience for me as an introduction to road racing and running competitively that I felt compelled to write about my experience as a first time racer at the age of 47.

I decided to enter the series because my times at the parkruns had started to come down quite dramatically from 45+ minutes to 33 minutes 15 seconds. Spurred on by this improvement I began to think about entering a race and was told about the John Carr 5k series which is held every May on the first three Wednesdays in the month in honour of a runner who died at the age of 30.

The races are held on land owned by Yorkshire Water and the course is fairly flat and fast which makes it appeal to runners of all abilities as the potential is there to set a Personal Best for the 5k and you have three attempts at it too. Add in the reward of a free beer at the end if you enter all three races and you can see the appeal of the series!

Once I had entered the series I decided that I wanted to break the 30 minute barrier at the final race. Whilst for many people 30 minutes is very achievable, for me it was a challenge. In addition to my improvement in running was a massive weight loss going from 18st 3lbs to 15st 10lbs. Whilst this was still quite heavy I was interested to see if my weight loss would also contribute to a new PB and hopefully one under 30 minutes.

The day of the first race came and I was in a mess to be honest. It was held on the first Monday after the bank holiday and stupidly I had decided to do a 7 mile run on the Sunday to collect my car from a golf club and a 7 mile walk around the hills near me on the Monday. This turned out to be a very bad idea. On the Tuesday my hamstrings were reminding me they were there by aching. This made me worried that my performance would be compromised and I would not be able to run at my best. In addition my left Achilles was aching once again, an old injury from many years back, so I approached the first race poorly prepared and with my legs aching.

As it turned out my fears were unfounded and I plodded round the course with the only memory being when I was told to turn right at the end of a short straight and saw the other runners all going at speed down the other side. I assumed it was a short straight only to turn round the corner and be confronted by a long, long straight! All the other runners where going a lot faster than I realised and I was a lot slower than I thought I was!

Near the end of the race is a 4k marker and a drop back down into Esholt. I decided to put a sprint on and managed it for a short while but then gave up, just stopped going at pace and as a consequence I was passed by at least two other runners from memory if not more. I made a vow there and then never to give up near the end of a race and to give it my all. No more giving up near the end, go for it and give it my absolute best. I finished in a time of 31:37, a new PB for me but it didn’t seem worth celebrating, didn’t feel like an achievement for some reason.

The next day my left Achilles was in pain, a lot of pain and I was having difficulty walking so I decided to give my Thursday night club meeting a miss and see how I was on Saturday for the parkrun. Saturday came and my Achilles was still in agony but I decided to do the parkrun anyway. At the parkrun I tried to warm up but I was in a lot of pain and decided not to risk running 5k that day.

At the parkrun however was a guy called Peter May who I had heard about as he is one of the more elite runners at my club Queensbury Running Club and a sports massager too. I had a word with Peter about my injury and booked an appointment to see him the following week. During this week I did no running or walking and it was a very, very difficult week because of this. I never realised before how much I would miss running and not being able to get out in the fresh air and feel free.

So the following week I went to see Peter and this is very relevant to the rest of my story. Peter asked me what was wrong and I told him, left Achilles, what shoes do you wear, support shoes. Wrong shoes, wrong problem. It turns out my problem was really bad tightness in my right calve and I needed neutral, cushioned shoes. For 20+ years I had believed I had the wrong injury and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

Peter sorted me out and gave me very good advice on how to prevent my injury getting any worse. I immediately went down to town and bought a cheap pair of neutral cushioned shoes for the next race. Wearing them was a revelation. My feet felt lighter and had more movement, I felt like I could run.

On the day of the second race I was looking forward to it excitedly. I decided to wear my old support shoes for the race simply because I had not run yet in my new ones. This time I got there early and proceeded to warm up doing around 1.5 miles. My legs felt good, still aching but a lot more movement and flexibility in them. Off I went at the start and my legs felt like lead. I went 100 yards and wanted to stop. My Achilles was killing me. My legs felt like lead, I didn’t feel like running at all.

But then something in mind clicked and I decided to see how I felt after a mile. The first mile went by and I was running at a good pace so decided to do another mile. After the second mile I was still going at a good pace so decided to keep going. My pace slowed over the last mile but I had enough left to kick for the finishing line and this time I did not give up. I went for it, giving it my all and crossed the line in a breathless and slightly dizzy 31:06. Another PB but still way off my target of sub 30 minutes.

I was in pain though. My neck was aching, I had a headache and I was struggling to catch my breath too. This was all too apparent to a good friend of mine who tried to talk to me but only got a load of incoherent nonsense and after quickly making their excuses I was left to try and work out where I was and how to get home!

But this week was different to the week before. This week I went to my Thursday night running club and I went out on my own. Running felt different, it felt fluid and natural, it felt right. I was doing non-stop runs and most importantly for me running up hills, something I had not done before. Mentally and physically I had changed for the better and my running was proof of this.

On the day of the third and final race I had another session with Peter and my legs felt better than ever. I had been running in the cheap shoes but felt far more comfortable in these than in the expensive support ones which felt like a pair of hiking boots in comparison. I was starting to believe I could go under the magic 30 minute barrier.

I got to the race in plenty of time and proceeded to warm up. My legs felt good but I was also aware of not overdoing things and leaving something in the tank for the race. And then there I was once again at the start line, ready to go for the third and final time this year. I set off and once again 100 yards in my legs felt like lead and I felt like stopping. I remember wondering to myself whether I should just stop there and then and go home.

But I didn’t. I carried on and my running freed up, I was moving smoothly, I felt good. The first mile went past in under 9 minutes, very fast for me, but I was enjoying myself. I saw people in front of me and I moved out and passed them and they didn’t come back at me. This was a new feeling, I was passing people and moving away from them. This felt good.

And this continued into the second mile too. This feeling of running and not just going through the motions was still here and I was enjoying it. after two miles my watch said just over 18 minutes. It was now I realised that my dream of a sub 30 minute 5k was on. All I had to do was keep going and believe.

Inevitably I slowed up, my watch showing my pace at 10:30 minutes a mile. But I knew I could still do it so I dug deep and kept going. I remember thinking if I didn’t do it today I would have to wait a year and that was something I was not prepared to do.

Back up over the start  line and I could see the village of Esholt coming into view. I knew the finish line wasn’t far away and put a bit more pace into my run. Downhill into the village and seemingly the roads were lined with people cheering for me, ‘keep going’, ‘you’re doing great’, ‘you can do it’, everything just a blur.

And my mind was blank, nothing there at all, no thoughts just a deep intense concentration, focusing on not just finishing but on breaking the 30 minute barrier. And then it was over. I had finished. I ran for the nearest wall in order to try and get some air into my lungs. I was gasping for air but had to queue with everybody else in order to register my time. And I looked at my watch and it said 29:26. According to my watch I had done it, I had broken the 30 minute barrier and achieved my dream. But would the organisers find 30 seconds from somewhere and take everything away from me? I didn’t dare celebrate just yet, although I told friends what my time was. I was sure something would go wrong somewhere and my dream would remain just that.

In the bar I stood with my friends waiting for the official results to come out, still thinking I was dreaming, still trying to get my breath back and return to reality. And then the results were out and I looked for my name and there it was officially in black and white, Andrew Smith 29:26. I had done it, I had done what I set out to achieve and I had proved to myself that I can achieve so much more when I want to.

But I didn’t feel like celebrating. I was so tired, in a sporting sense this was the hardest I had ever worked physically and mentally to achieve a goal, a dream. But I did it and went home to a nice glass of red wine to relax and unwind with feeling satisfied and feeling like a runner for the first time ever in my life.


It’s only recently that the running bug has hot me and I mean really hit me. I joined my local running club last year, July 2014, aged 46, when an old friend of mine who I used to work with set up a beginners group there to generate membership for the club. I went along and for a while I was the only male there which had the added bonus of me being the fastest male in the group every week despite being so much slower than the lasses!

I carried on going and I began to look forward to it and even started to find old friends and make new ones so there was the beginnings of a social side too. I was never the fastest and I was never going to be. As the title says I’m a fat lad from Yorkshire, at this point I weighed around 18 ½ stone I think so I would just plod on in the slowest group but still enjoying myself.

Time moves on and four of us who had got friendly with each other decided to enter our local park run at Bradford. Now 5k isn’t far when all things are considered but it was far enough for me! I plodded round in around 45 minutes on my first park run but I did it and that was the main thing. After two more park runs my time had improved to just over 40 minutes and breaking the 40 minute barrier seemed to be a dream that would never happen.

And then autumn came and I stopped running. My final year at university had begun, the nights were drawing in and the wind and rain came back. Going outside and running didn’t seem so appealing and combined with the fact that my friends from the club had stopped going too there seemed no reason to go out, get soaking wet and run.

Autumn turned into winter and with the snow and ice the group runs were cancelled because of the risks involved with inexperienced runners in poor conditions. I still tried to get out but only for some walks locally nothing too strenuous!

And then this year 2015 something happened, my mind-set changed, a switch was flicked in my mind and a light came on. I can’t say for sure what it was, maybe the realisation that I was finally leaving the protecting cocoon of university and I would be released back into the wild combined with the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do either made me wake up from the slumber I was in and realise I had to do something.

And one thing I realised I had to do was to get fit. My weight had dropped to 18st and I could walk slowly round the village where I live but I struggled and would soon feel out of breath, stopping for a rest and sometimes wishing I hadn’t come out.

But the friends I had made from the running club kept in contact and we began to talk of a return to the club. All of us had put weight on and needed to shift some fat and with spring fast approaching it meant it would be light at night again when we had all got home and so we could go out and see where we were running!

And so we went back to our running club, together of course because so many new people had joined since we last went we all felt a touch nervous about going on our own. But we needn’t have worried. We were soon all talking to each other and laughing and ready for our first run.

The lad who leads the group as a whole also leads the beginners group. I say beginners because this is the group into which new runners to the club can go if they want to, just to ease themselves into running and see how they do.

Where I live is on top of a hill in West Yorkshire but it is possible to run round it without encountering too many hills if you know what you’re doing! We did this for a few weeks and were soon back into the swing of things. I felt comfortable in this group and did not want to move out of it, mainly I think from a fear of embarrassing myself in the next group up.

And then we heard of a new 5k park run that was being started in Halifax. Now although we are in Bradford we are literally on the outskirts of that city and Halifax is closer to us so we decided to give it a try.

The event is held at Shroggs Park in Halifax and the course is a lot more challenging than the one at Bradford being a loop with two climbs of decent length for a park. I missed the first one, but I made it for the second one and lumbered round in around 45+ minutes. This was due to me familiarising myself with the course and being quite unfit and overweight!

But around this time I also started to eat healthier and go out more on my own. Nothing too hard but just running down one of the longer roads in my village was a major achievement for me and something I was quite proud of at the time. I had to miss the next park run at Shroggs Park but turned up for the next one with a plan in mind.

After giving it some thought I had decided that the best idea for me was to run the downhill parts and walk the uphill parts. I did this and got a new PB for the 5k of 37.25! I felt good and I was happy with this result. My plan had worked and I had no aches and pains from running what I thought was an intelligent race.

But then I thought I can do better. Yes I felt good at the end but I also knew I had plenty left in the tank, I knew I hadn’t given it 100% and I knew if I could conquer the hills my time would come down dramatically. So at the running club I decided to move up a group and start to push myself.

The next group up is run by a young lass and she comes with a reputation for training you hard, but getting the most out of you. I joined her group and she told us that we were doing some hill work. Now although I felt a bit apprehensive I also knew that this was exactly what I needed to improve my times.

And the hard work did pay off. At the next park run I just went for it from the start. It was hard work and didn’t feel very fast although the app on my phone told me otherwise. As I started my last lap I know I had given it my all as my legs were beginning to feel like lead weights and I sensed I was slowing down.

Past the start/finish line for the third and last time and the uphill slope felt like a mountain. However what kept me going was not only my determination to finish but two ladies who kept overtaking me and then running in front of me instead of moving to the side. This really infuriated me because I felt they were being very disrespectful towards me.

On the last uphill section I went flying past them using up my last reserves of energy, but it was enough to pull out a gap which they could not pull back. I did worry though that they would catch me on the finishing straight as I reached the top of the hill. My legs had gone, my whole body had gone, I literally had nothing left, yet somehow I managed to haul 17st+ over the finishing line for a time of 35.50 according to my phone.

I knew I had a new PB and whilst it was in the 35 minute zone I was aiming for I was a little bit disappointed it wasn’t faster as I had put so much effort into the race and literally had nothing left to give at the end.

The results are usually released around 12.30pm – 1.00pm after the race but this time they were released late, very late. I think it was around 3.00pm when they finally dropped into my inbox and to my amazement my official time was 34.55! I could not believe this. How could my phone be nearly a minute out? I looked again and yes the time was still 34.55.

So after all that my efforts had been worth it and I was rewarded with a new PB in a time that, three months previously I would not have dreamed of. I felt so good about it I could have cried. To many people who do not understand running it will have no meaning. The winner was also from the club I run with and he won it in around 17 ½ minutes.

But to me it was more than just a time. It was a vindication of my new diet and the extra training I was putting into running that somehow I was on the right path and that I could do something on my own with help from some amazing people at the club.