I first got into running 11 years ago when a friend (James Elson) challenged me to run my first marathon, with only 3 months to train for it. At the age of 24 I had run a bit at school; some track and cross-country, but apart from that I hadn’t really run much at all. I took him up on the challenge and trained towards the goal of completing my first marathon- the Halstead & Essex Marathon, which I ran on the 10th May 2009.
Looking back I remember it was a hot day and I ran with James the whole way, he was training for a bigger race so he stuck with me and we crossed the line in 3.44.35. Not bad for a first marathon attempt! After finishing that marathon, I definitely caught the running bug and it became a big part of my life.
I log every race I do and I have run a bunch of short races, as well as 27 x half marathons, 31 x marathons, 8 x 45 milers, 4 x 50 milers and 6 x 100 milers which totals 49 marathons. Manchester and London marathons in April 2020 were going to be my 50th and 51st marathon which I was looking forward to and had trained hard for. I was potentially on for a personal best at Manchester and was hoping to beat last year’s time of 2.56.01. Of course, that’s not going to happen now and there is a bigger pandemic to think about which we need to conquer. London and Manchester have both been postponed until October but right now who knows if they will be on. As Boris says we need to ‘’Stay at Home’’ and beat the virus.
Looking back at all my running achievements I think the races I am most proud of are; breaking 3 hours in the Amsterdam marathon in October 2017 in 2.59.20, running quicker last year in the Manchester marathon (2.56.01) and my quickest 100 mile race in Texas at Rocky Racoon in a time of 17 hours 51 mins. This post isn’t about me talking about running achievements but I wanted to give some substance into what I have achieved over the last 11 years to set the scene. Really I wanted to talk about what does running mean to me and why do I continue to run so much?
Words to describe what running means to me are: being active, outside, routine, endorphins, happiness, camaraderie, people, community, drive, endurance, mental, positivity, appreciation, challenge, courage & satisfaction.
Start the day
I run most mornings or evenings if I can; running in the morning really does set me up for the day. Going out at 5.30 am before work for a few miles, coming home getting showered and ready to go to work really does put me in a positive mindset to attack the day and do my best. I feel good after, I never regret going for a run… only regret not going for a run. I’m sure a lot of regular runners/gym goers will agree if they don’t run for a week they get a little irritable.
I suppose one of the reasons why I like running is it isn’t easy. Some days you really don’t want to go out for a run but I still go and when I finish I feel like I’ve accomplished something particularly if I’m training for a race/bigger goal (this is the leverage to get you out the door).
Some of the races I have done over the years have been huge challenges not just physically but mentally as well. Running is a form of endurance and is an ongoing battle in your head. It’s so easy to give up when your chimp (Chimp paradox - https://chimpmanagement.com/) takes over your brain. Whether it’s to go out and run on your own for a few miles, run a quick 5k against the clock, run your first marathon or complete a 100 mile ultra run. The physical element is really important but how you train yourself mentally is so important as well; how you break down each race into small segments, what are your motivations for the race, reflecting on training, being positive & overcoming challenges. Overcoming running mental battles empowers you in other aspects of your life when challenges are thrown at you.
Running most days feels like a routine and delivers some consistency in my life. It’s just something I do whether it’s for 30 mins, an hour or a longer run on the weekend and it feels good to do it.
Work & Career
Since I’ve been running I’m a lot more driven at work and want to succeed, achieve, progress and like to be challenged. Completing big challenges like 100 mile races gives you the ability to think that you can achieve a lot more in work and no task seems insurmountable. It definitely gives you a positive mindset and a can do attitude. Since running I have chosen the path of 3 x start ups and am currently working in one at the moment (https://www.forisoutdoor.com/). I have enjoyed the challenges of each one and feel like I have definitely grown and improved as a person through these experiences. Running even lead me to launching a side hustle with my wife (https://www.happystride.co.uk/) selling colourful running shorts, after reading Phil Knight’s book Shoe Dog.
Running has made me fitter, healthier and I think more about my diet. I still eat burgers, chocolate and drink beers (sometimes way too much) but running definitely has made me think more about what I am putting in my body. I think as a generation now we are all a lot more health conscious and running has definitely made me think that way.
The running community
I have made a lot of friends through running through running clubs, races, park runs, events and Strava. The whole running community is so friendly and there is so much camaraderie with everyone wanting each other to do well.
Being outside! Running has given me the ability to visit many different places in the UK and countries through entering races. If you love exploring new places running is a great way of doing that.
Once a day!
I wanted to post this as whilst we are in unprecedented (I hear this word 400 times a day at the moment) times and everywhere you look right now the news is dominated by the coronavirus I wanted to share my story and hopefully inspire some of you to run or take up a new hobby to take your mind off what’s going on.
Whilst we are allowed out once a day for exercise and with no access to the gym, it’s a great opportunity to get outside and go for a walk, cycle or run within regulations of course and only if you’re feeling 100% healthy.
I reckon you will definitely feel better for doing it and who knows you may be running your first Park Run in a few months when they are back on. If there are stricter measures put in place you’ll be gagging to get out the door when this is all over.
If anyone wants any help getting into running, I’m happy to help!