Lift Heavy, Run fast. The why

My journey to a three hour marathon

Why running.

Right a bit of history. It’s like this, for the past 15 years or so I’ve been interested in exercise and fitness. It started with a failed rugby career where I was no where near good enough to turn it into anything other than amateur Saturday afternoon Rugby and a few beers. I suppose it’s not that bad looking back, after all I do really like beer.

Given my stature it became apparent early on that I needed to get stronger. If you’ve met me you’ll know I’m 5’9” on a good day, and I say that because I know full well I’m actually the smallest smidge under 5’9”. But I’ve said it long enough and even I’ve started to believe it, you can convince yourself of anything if you try hard enough 😊

Anyway back to the topic, getting stronger. I joined the local gym when I was about 18 but a few years before that sporadically I used to do sit ups, press ups and bicep curls in my bedroom so there was always something that interested me in fitness even then. At the gym I went with the intention off getting stronger to perform on the rugby pitch, however it soon became apparent that I liked what was happening to my body and I actually wanted to look better too.

I was lucky, I didn’t walk into the gym naturally strong but I did progress at a pleasing rate. I enjoyed seeing my strength numbers go up and that of course fed my ego and the snowball started. There was another reason too, I was getting stronger on the pitch. It was great. I’ve always punched above my weight from a defensive stand point but I was always weak offensively in contact. I’m the sort of player that likes to run into gaps not straight at someone who’s missing his front teeth, got a beard down to his chest and outweighs me by six stone (this part never truly changed). And why would I run directly into them? I was fast, I could either throw a sidestep or two and break the line or I could get turned over, which would you choose?

At some point I was forced to work at the weekend. So that meant no more rugby for me but I didn’t give up my training. I was still enjoying it, still getting stronger. Fast forward 10 years, two children and a fair few peaks and troughs bodyweight wise later and I don’t possess the same love of lifting I once did. In fact there was a point where I wasn’t sure if I possessed the same love for training at all, but more on that later.

How about we talk a little about why I’m writing this blog shall we?

I want to run a marathon in under three hours.

That’s a bit of a different goal and not one that suits my skillset. I was strong, but I was strong for five seconds or less. I’ll have to perform for three hours to hit my goal.

Now how did this goal come about? I didn’t just pick it randomly, nor did I think about it before I started running. This is a goal that’s emerged along the way somewhere.

There are two people I blame for this, and yes blame is the right word, definitely not thank 😊.
My colleague Sam asked me if I wanted to do a park run, I said yes and after arriving at the wrong side of the park I was told I couldn’t go directly to the start line and “I had to go the long way round, to avoid the runners who will have started by the time I get there”, great start. I arrived at the start line when everyone else had long gone and began my first park run. And great news! I didn’t hate it, so I decided to do another. The second one was where the bug bit me, this is because it was a humbling experience. It was at a different location and I didn’t know the course so I went in with the usual blind optimism we all have trying something new. As I jogged around quite happily we came to a hill, no bother I thought and off I pounced up it. Of course I was out of breath but I knew I could recover as I continued.

However there was a catch, this was a two lap course. You can imagine the dread etched on my face as I realised what was about to happen as I turned the corner to see that bloody hill again. After the second run of the hill I was in pure survival mode to the end. That experience was the catalyst to make me want to improve. I wasn’t chasing a time or racing anyone but it was the feeling within myself that I can do better and I did not like that.

I suppose then I followed the usual process and adding in a few runs so I didn’t embarrass myself further and then my colleague Layla said “why don’t you run the marathon with me?”, “absolutely not” I replied. End of conversation, or so I thought.
After weeks and months of badgering I finally negotiated a half marathon. So earlier when I said there are a couple of people to blame for my running habits it is Sam and Layla, but it’s mostly Layla and I definitely hold a grudge. 😊

And after all of that, a worldwide pandemic, multiple cancelled races, here I sit as a fast approaching middle aged Clydesdale who’s trying his had at running and trying his best not to look like a bullmastiff pulling on the lead while drooling everywhere.  
On my running journey one thing has changed, I think I like it. Sure there are bad days, cold days, windy days, hot days, really really hot days, and cars deliberately drives through a puddle to soak you days.

You also must be a master of many things out on the run. You need at least 300 sets of eyes, one for looking forward, one for looking at road crossings, one for looking at the cars that don’t indicate turning off or on to the road, one for looking at the dog who will either run up to you and want you to play, simply ignore you, or worst of all think you’re a threat to their elderly owner who’s seen me coming 100 foot away but is still somehow startled by me running by causing the dog to go into attack mode. You also need one set of eyes to look, wave and shout at the dogs owner to tell him or her you’re coming which seems like a good idea on the face of it but never seems to work. You need one set of eyes for each cyclist because let's face it they have a mind of their own,  I can confirm they get in the way on the road, off road and on the pavement too.

As a runner you must be a weatherman. A mathematician to work out your splits, make sure your heart rate is correct, work out how long you’ve got left etc. You must be an air traffic controller to signal to passes by where you intend to run (although that never works). You must be a groundkeeper to work out on the move is that patch of dirt firm enough for me to run over or will I be submerged knee deep into a mud bath and lose a shoe forcing me to hop home?

Despite all of this when I’m running I am relaxed, I problem solve, and when i’ve done my run I’m better at everything. I’m much more productive at work, I’m a better parent, I’m not grumpy so I’m just a better person.

I am incredibly lucky to work in a very close knit company where everyone is incredibly supportive and forward thinking. How many other companies can you work with where you can do two hours of work, go for a jog and then continue on your working day? Plus when I see my colleagues and even my CEO the question isn’t “why were you running at 8:30am?”, it’s “good run?, now where are we on the next project”.

I like running, I honestly don’t know if I love it. But it’s here to stay for a while at least, training in general makes me better at everything and at the moment running is at the forefront.

So where do we stand on the three hour marathon? Well it’s a punchy goal, in fact it’s a multi year goal and a goal that requires a lot of work. But I’m ok with that, it’ll just make it all the sweeter when I get there.

You might see me out and about running. Sometimes you won’t miss me with my bright pink race shorts, why pink? Well my four year old daughter loves pink (which four year old girl doesn’t). And why bright? Well she needs to see Daddy when he runs past acting like he’s enjoying himself while quietly dying inside.


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