,My running blog. 0 - 26 miles in 18 months - by Paul
It was a sunny day sitting on Brean beach with my friends and parents, I had recently been off work with depression / anxiety. It came up in conversation that Cheryl (my friend who was there with us on the beach) was to run the London marathon, the next week. Being me at the time I could not even comprehend that this was even possible and was sort of stunned that someone I knew was going to be doing it.
I did however think it was quite exciting and found out that it was possible to track her progress on the phone. Sun 28th (marathon day) soon came round, we were actually at a van meet that day but I was eager to get the app on (unfortunately due to technical difficulties the chip didn’t work, so I couldn't follow the progress anyway)
I was back to work the next day. Even though I felt well, I didn’t feel the reason I was ill in the first place had been addressed. Because of this I did want to change things to try and reduce the chances of a repeat illness in the future. So with this in mind, I was back home watching clips of the London Marathon, including Cheryl finishing ) and I literally said to myself "this time next year I want to do that" and I entered the ballot as soon as it was open.
This was quite a tall order (no pun intended as I’m only 5ft 3 ) but as I hadn't run for over 20 years and even when I had, it was just because it was PE at school and wasn’t through choice. I was also 13 stone 5. To start with, for a couple of weeks, I did a lot of walking. Even that was energetic for me, but I realised I was enjoying it. A friend of mine agreed to do a couple of short runs with me and even though I was slow (I mean people on zimmers were coming past) I was enjoying it. She also introduced, me to park run which I remember well, it took me 45 mins and I couldn’t run it all (but it was ace!) and the next one I did I remember knocking 3 mins off.
I was enjoying it so much I booked up 3 events (I needed this so I had something to aim for) - 10k March for Men (9th June) - 10k Race for life (14th July) - Cheltenham half marathon (29th Sept)
By now I had managed a couple of 5ks and wondered where to go from there, I wasn't a fan of running alone and remembered that Caitlin ran with a local running club. So on Friday 31st of May I joined Happy Feet, it was the best decision I had made so far (and still is) it’s been brilliant.
Over the next few months I got stronger and got my parkrun time down from 45 mins to 35 mins, all within 4 months of starting. I also got my distance up to 10k to complete both the March for Men and the Race for Life which was my first official run. I was now starting to up my distance to get prepared for the Cheltenham half marathon in September. This soon came round and there I was standing towards the back of the start line thinking it’s better to overtake (like that’s going to happen) than be overtaken. Apart from losing my headphones and being overtaken by a few people, the start went well. I was adamant I wasn’t going to rush at the start and it paid off. Not only was I not being overtaken but I was overtaking those who shot past me at the start, I had met someone to run with and I was having the best Sunday morning ever.
Although my aim was just to finish, I really wanted to come in under 3 hours. All was well until mile 10 I think, when my running buddy wasn't feeling well, I said we would stick together and even though we had to walk a little we both finished at 2hr 57 mins, a bit close for comfort lol.
It was shortly after this that I found out I was unsuccessful in getting a space in the London marathon. I then found out that Stratford marathon was on the same date and it looked like a nice one, so I booked to do that. From then on, I was getting as much training in as I could, trying to get as fit as I could. Ready to start doing longer distances after Christmas, to be prepared for the big day.
Shortly after this I unfortunately picked up an injury, possibly caused from over training but I think if would have happened anyway. I had what I thought was a bad ankle and tried everything to try and sort it.
I didn’t run for at least 4 weeks, possibly longer. Everything I tried just didn’t seem to do anything and it got to the point that it actually hurt to walk, I really thought I had no chance to be ready for the marathon now. Then a glimmer of light. The University of Worcester were advertising that they would be happy to take on case studies for the students to learn and with that I contacted them.
Straight away they pointed out how bad my balance was and quickly diagnosed my problem as peninsula tendonitis. Over the next few weeks, I had exercises and stretches to carry out and I quickly began to see improvements. By early February I was back to it but I had lost about 5 weeks of training. Even though I didn’t think I would be ready for a marathon in April, I restarted training again and within 3 weeks I was back up to half marathon distances and getting more confidence.
March continued with progressively longer runs, but I was thinking that perhaps a run/walk approach to the big day might be safer. I thought it would give me a greater chance of finishing. By the middle of March however the world had different ideas and with Covid taking over, the marathon was postponed. I was gutted as it meant a lot to me to do it on the date, but it was out of my hands and I really didn’t want to do it on my own.
Throughout lockdown I didn’t do the longer runs as I didn’t want to burn out not knowing when the race day would actually be. By July I was itching to get going again, I changed my goal to just doing a marathon sometime in 2020. I then found out that Ian ( a friend from Happy Feet) was training for a marathon, he wasn’t sure when or where but kindly said I could join him and we started training with the idea of running a non-organised marathon at some point in the year. Shortly after this Jenny, another friend from Happy Feet Fitness and Shane a friend from camping, started to join us.
This was great, our own little group for the day. Back in September half marathons were “if I finish it would be great” now they were a regular occurrence! I think it was 5 or 6 , in 3 months and 1 of them even banking a medal, even though it was a training run (always making it more worthwhile ).
Ian found out that the London marathon would now be a virtual event on October 4th, it was great that we had a date to aim for. Time was suddenly going extra fast, juggling life and training was hard work, but I persisted with long runs most Saturday mornings. This meaning being up at 6am on the weekend, but I knew it would be worth it and that it had to be done - even better I was enjoying it.
Before I knew it I was doing half marathon + mileage, and not before time. The big day was just around the corner, plans were being made. I planned our route, which I really enjoyed and thankfully the others were happy for me to do this. Water stops were all organised and it was all becoming very real, I was actually going to do this!
The weekend before, plans were made with fellow runners who said they would join us, which as I found out on the day would be a god send. My friends all teamed up to come out to support me on the route, I felt like everything was falling into place.
After a week where for the first time ever I had the best ever excuse to eat loads, the weekend was finally here. Obviously there had to be one final disappointment (like in the films), my friend Cheryl, who I mentioned at the beginning, was unable to attend due to issues out of her control. I don’t know who was more disappointed me or her. I knew if I was going to succeed, I needed to get myself back onto a high and after talking to a few friends, I was back on form and ready.
6am Race day, up for my normal bowl of granola and a banana and just for good luck a few jelly babies. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great, but at 8.35am we set off for what I kept telling myself was just a long training run.
We set off in great spirits all of us having a big build up to the day, all was going well and we were bang on schedule until mile 19, with the odd struggle mentally, not physically, I gave myself a good talking to and overcame this.
Mile 21 came and unfortunately Ian’s knee started to play up after an injury earlier in the year. I had always said I would possibly have to run/walk the last 5 miles, and so I wasn’t too upset to do this. I'm not sure if I could have run the rest or not, but the aim was to finish.
At the last water stop it felt like we had been going for ever, and now the tables had turned. My head wanted to get finished and was saying push, and my legs felt like they had been attached to lead weights, but I was so close to finishing and this feeling was incredible, so many feelings and emotions!
The final few yards, and apart from accidentally pushing Ian into a puddle, I got the "YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE 26.2 MILES" for the Virtual London Marathon! Giving me a massive boost to put a sprint finish on, and I’ve never, ever, felt so good!
I had finally done it. That night sitting in my recliner I remembered that day 18 months ago when I made the decision to do it, it took 4 days for it to really sink in that I HAD done it!
If you want to do it you can, it just takes persistence, time and patience but it can be done.
Well as proud of my achievements as I am there was a sense of sadness, as I had completed my challenge so what now ? - Well I’ve set myself a goal of doing Stratford marathon in 4 hr 30 next year, but as we all know, plans don’t always go to plan. So, watch this space lol.
Happy Feet Fitness