Ever since I started exercising, which involved playing football with my brother and his friends, I despised running. Give me a ball or a racket and I was out for hours but ask me to run from A to B, no chance. I got bored and my legs hurt. The bleep test in 6th form was a day of dread for me. I only kept going as I wanted to beat my brother who is one of the few human beings I am truly competitive with. But when he was strolling through level 11 I walked off at level 9 as I didn’t want to go any further. I’d reached my point and there was no convincing me to go any further. Every time I attempted it, level 9 was announced and within a few seconds I would stop.
I tried running again in my early 20’s, me and my sister would have competitions to see who could run the furthest on the treadmill, we both got to 10 minutes and decided this was a stupid game and that cake and cappuccinos where calling our names.
My 29th year proved to be quite significant. This was the start of my self-development journey that is still continuing today, in a very big way. I started taking responsibility for all the events in my life, realising I had a bigger part to play in them and that I actually could have control over my life, if I wanted it. I wanted it.
Amongst all this realisation was also the moment that I become aware that I’d shied away from situations that I wasn’t very good at, just so I didn’t appear silly as I felt the pain of failure by pushing the boundaries of my comfort zones. One of these areas was running. I stayed away from it, instead playing team sports like rugby, which is explosive and based on sprint endurance rather than a slow steady pace, this suited me a lot more.
It was one of my now dear friends that got me into running. Staying at hers one evening we made a deal to get up the next morning and go for a run along the canal. She knew my hatred for the past time and was determined to resolve this. The alarm went at 5am and up we got, running in the dark I was sure I was going to die or at least hopefully break an ankle. To add insult to the early rise she made us do lamppost sprints all the way back to hers in the final mile. But do you know what, I survived and didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. The seed was sown.
I started running home from work occasionally, which was then 3 miles. I then changed jobs and started working for The Lord’s Taverners, who had charity places for the Great North Run. I was in, 13.1 miles, how hard could it be! The same friend ran with me as it was her home town, although she had knee surgery 2 weeks previous and still ended up dragging me round the course! But I finished!!
I started running more regularly, the friends I worked with all had an interest in fitness and we started working out together, this made the running and training a lot easier, and on top of this lasting friendships were built. I entered the Great North Run again through the Taverners and this time ran with a friend who had never competed in sporting activities. She was an inspiration! She trained solidly for the event, I however did not. Again, I was dragged around the course, my friend was amazing, she definitely could have ran faster! This lady is now running the London Marathon in 2015.
Despite not loving the running in the half marathons the feeling of elation when you cross that finish line is irreplaceable. I thought it was time for a marathon. So I secured a place in the London Marathon in 2012, the Olympic year, through the Taverners once again. Why would you not want to raise money for a charity that allows disadvantaged children a sporting chance. Another friend at work was running it with her partner, we motivated each other to do the long runs, announcing our times when we had completed each run, mainly to ensure the other person was on track with their training. I remember doing the last training run which was 20 miles, it was hideous. To train for London you do this through the winter, it’s a cold and solitary time where you learn a certain mental toughness and also how to complain like a bear with a sore head as soon as your partner comes through door!
Race day came and I felt prepared. The first 13 miles I felt like I was flying. I saw my partner and mates from work on Tower Bridge, it boosted me to keep going. I also had a friend I used to play rugby with following me around the course with a big pink ‘3’ balloon. These people kept me going and allowed me the breaks I started desperately craving. By mile 20 I contemplated faking an injury to pull out, then started to walk. A random lady on the side cheered me on by name as it was on my vest and this woke me up, I told myself “you need to keep running” and more importantly “you will finish”! I saw the rest of my friends who I worked with work on Birdcage Walk with only 400 metres to go. I could have burst with happiness at seeing their faces and hearing them give me words of encouragement for the last bit. It worked, I crossed the line and nearly cried. At that point I received a message from my fellow blogger, Winky, saying what an amazing job I had done. She had been following me online and I had no idea. I cried a little more, I had done it. I had ran a marathon, a distance that in the past I was in awe of as I knew deep down I would never attempt that possibility of pain and failure. 4 hours 59 minutes was my time and I was happy just to have crossed the line.
The next two years saw my fitness going from strength to strength, I embraced the new craze, Crossfit. This has become much more than a craze to me, it’s got me in the best shape I’ve ever been in, both physically and mentally. I also changed my position on the rugby pitch to one I enjoyed more, some would disagree, but I love being a lock. I was also starting to surround myself with people who relished physical challenges and possessed the strong mental capacity that I was working on having myself. Along with one of my new sickeningly fit friends, I found myself signing up to a half Ironman (June this year … more about that later) and also the Madrid Marathon.
April 27th 2014 was Sunday just gone, I completed the Madrid Marathon in 4 hours 21 minutes, a whole 38 minutes faster than London. Do you know what the difference was… Mentality. I am definitely the fittest I have ever been, I owe this to crossfit, I also owe the ability to push myself above and beyond to this past time. The WOD’s (workouts of the day) vary so greatly you cannot get set in your ways or your training, you have to be able to take on any challenge that is set and be open minded about the work out as it could range from a small number of reps to anything as high as 100 reps all in one go. And this is how Madrid was attacked. My friend, let’s call her the Captain, is proficient at running and super fit! However both of us had only ran up to 6 miles in training. This didn’t bother us. The Captain had completed the Athens marathon in November 2013 on no training and with an awesome time of 3 hours 54 minutes. Proof it could be done.
We raced around the first 13 miles, I was loving it!! Flying down the hills and overtaking people that we deemed too slow or good competition to gain some ground. The first marker appeared at 28km … I hit the wall, mentally. 28km!!! Surely we were closer than that, self doubt crept in, I allowed my happy place to be invaded by the dark whispering shadows of ‘you can’t do this’ ‘ just walk for a bit’. I gave in, the last 10km were painful for me, everything hurt and I couldn’t breathe, I knew I would finish but I had resorted to walking. The Captain however was not taking this, she knew me well and knew I could do it running. She hounded me to keep going, at first nicely then by trying to make me angry. I didn’t want to let myself down or the Captain, so I shuffled on. I obviously had more in me as I practically sprinted for the finish line! 4 hours 21 minutes, I couldn’t believe it. We’d done it, on no specific marathon training.
From this I have learnt that I need to work on dealing with the negative mentality creeps in, it’s so damaging and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I’m going to need to to quash it as 2015 will see me complete an Ironman. I also took away from this event that whatever you set your mind to, it can be achieved, it all depends on your approach and the visualisation you have already set yourself.
‘Either you run the day or the day runs you’ John Rohn.