With Kevin Costner it was a case of “if you build it, they will come”. Back in the August of 2010 I wondered if the same can be true of “if you blog it, you will run”.
I had been meaning to get fitter for some time but never quite got into the groove. From a flirtation with jogging at the end of the previous year to periodic spells at the gym; all seem to fizzle out after a while. After six-months of sloth I needed to get the spatula out and give myself a slap on the arse: it was time to set a target.
The statement I made in my blog was a simple one: “By this time next year I intend to have run a marathon”.
I had first started running while working away for six months back in 2009. Facing long nights in Norwich with nothing to do when a colleague, Eugene, asked if anyone wanted to join him as a jogging buddy to help him prepare for a 10k run he was doing. My response was:
Mate if you’d like someone to make sure you don’t overdo it I’d be up for a small jog some time… keep in mind I don’t think I’ve ever done more than a mile on the treadmill, I’m overweight and unfit…. and you might have to carry me back! That said if you’d like to take pity on an old man who needs some exercise and see just how far he can get then I’ll get me some shorts… (I’ll bring my phone in case I need an ambulance 😉 )
The first quarter of a mile felt great. A nice loping stride, I was running! Then my body got wind of what I was doing. After so long without any proper exercise I think I caught it by surprise but it caught on and quickly threw out the anchors. The second quarter of a mile was more of a struggle.
I think I might have gotten to about half a mile or so before I first dropped down to a walk but it soon became very clear there was no way I was going to make it to 5k. Eugene soon started to open up a bit of a lead and his glances back to see where I was became more frequent. He was doing a there-and-back route: he wisely let me know which way to go and told me he’d see me on his way back. I struggled on until he came back the other way at which point I turned around and plodded back – run some, walk some, run some, walk some, try not to die…
Luckily no ambulance was needed, but there were times when I almost reached for that phone… if only for a taxi back! I wasn’t a great colour by the time I got back. I now know what people mean when they say “you look like death warmed-up”, I seemed to be grey with hot-pink highlights. My body had taken it as the cue to rid itself of whatever crap had accumulated on my lungs. And did I ache the next day? Hell yeah! In fact I think I ached every day for a week… until the next time.
The second time was much easier. Maybe my body had conceded defeat and was resigned to the fact that I was going to keep doing it, and keep doing it I did. Gilles joined us and became my new mentor. With no race to train for and an enourmous supply of patience he was happy to plod along with me as I slowly improved.
I’m not sure my pleas of “if we see any attractive women, make me look good” ever worked – when you’re the fat bloke puffing along between a couple of fit blokes who have yet to break a sweat it’s hard to look impressive. My wheezing might have attracted a few looks though.
The pinnacle of that episode was completing the Swindon Santa Dash. As it happens “Dash” was appropriate as it was probably the fastest 5k I’d ever done.
Fast forward to July and, having run only once or twice in January, I once more found myself pounding the streets, alone. I still always tried to put on that extra burst of speed when an attractive woman passed by, but mainly it was a case of trying to motivate each foot to keep passing the other. To try to keep going had replaced the imperative to try not to die.
Thus was born the decision to set myself the target of running a marathon. There was another, more personal, reason for wanting to do it, but more of that later.
I knew that I’d probably need to drop about 20 or 30 lbs to do it, but my first target had to be to actually run non-stop for 5km; something I couldn’t then manage.
And of course, now I’d let all my Facebook friends know what I was up to, and my hope was that if I kept writing this stuff down I would keep on running… just in case anyone actually read it.