Thursday, 15 March 2018

Do things!

Lately, I’ve had this annoying, nagging thought in my head.

It’s probably popped in there due to some of the amazing people I have met recently, seeing people push themselves, thinking to myself “I can do more! I can do those sort of things”.

The thought I’ve been having?  I haven’t done anything.  I haven’t achieved anything.

I want to think that it is an intrinsically generated feeling, but it will be a bit of peer pressure that has helped it grow.

It's not like I haven't achieved things!
 I mean I have achieved things, like running increasingly longer distances and improving my career, but it feels like I need to do more.

And on top of this I have a feeling of inadequacy, coupled with frustration.  The feeling of inadequacy isn’t a bad thing, so long as I understand why it’s there.  I need to keep it as a feeling that is driving me and making me realise that I need to push myself further, see what I’m capable of.

The feeling of frustration is probably the main issue.  The frustration of not doing the things that I feel I’m capable of.  The frustration of not having enough hours in a day to do these things that I think I’m capable of.  The frustration of always thinking about the things, of thinking about the things others are doing, of thinking about why am I not doing the things!

 This has been bothering me for a few weeks now, and then I heard someone say something on the radio the other day:
“The difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something”*

I’d probably change it slightly for me to be “The difference between thinking about doing something and doing something is doing something”, but essentially it’s the same thing.

Go do it.

So, I’m going to get started doing something about it.  Stop thinking about the things and coming up with excuses that turn into frustrations. 

Make the time. 

Do the things.

I mean the things may be things that others have done, I’m not that creative to think of new things, but it doesn’t matter.  I want to know if I’m capable of doing them, whatever they are.

No, wait!

I KNOW that I am capable of doing them, I just need know that I can DO them.

And it all starts on April 6th.  I’m going to run the furthest I’ve ever run.  I’m going to push myself further than I have before.  I know I’m capable of it, now I’m going to take the control and show that I can do it. 

I’m going to make sure I know I can do it.  Because it’s not stopping there.  There’s going to be plenty more!

*the quote is from James Corden.  I’m not a fan of his, but this quote made perfect sense and probably explains why he is so successful.

**What’s that?  What am I doing on April 6th?  Well, I thought you’d never ask!  I’ll be completing an Everesting Challenge!  That is running up and down Castle Road, between ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and the Robin Hood Statue, 412 times!  This will equate to 8,848m of elevation, and I’ll be covering 56 miles.  I will be raising money for Maggie’s Nottingham.  I will give more details out soon J

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Lessons Learnt

Lessons learnt
You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting any blogs for a while.  You see, I’ve been a bit busy following an amazing woman around the country as she ran 63 marathons in 63 days!
Llyn Cwm Llwch as we headed up Pen-y-Fan
The return to reality wasn’t quite as smooth as we perhaps thought it might be.  The suddenness of not knowing exactly what was going to happen every day (“What, no marathon??”), the post-adventure hangover (“oh, that thing I’ve been thinking about for the last 7 years is done now?”), the physical recovery, financial issues, they all hit us.  Some became apparent quicker than others, but the 9 weeks after the 63 marathons in 63 days finished were almost as challenging as the 9 weeks of the marathons.

So, now my excuse for not posting blogs has been said, I had a lot of time to think while cycling, running, and driving, with Nikki Love, or sat at my desk trying to work out where she was, and lucky for you I forgot most of it! 

Marathon 1 John o'Groats -
As North as I've ever been!
However, I noted a few of the thoughts down and will try formulate them into posts over the next few weeks.  They may not be in chronological order, and they may be mixed in with other posts, but I’ll try and highlight stuff that came about during the epic 63 marathon in 63 days adventure J

During those 63 days I learnt a few things about myself, what I’m capable of, and about some of the preconceived ideas that I have about things, those things being mainly running.  So, I’ve started changing my attitude to running.

Sharif’s Rules When Running
I used to have some rules for when I ran.  I think I’ve told you them before:

1. Finish
2. Don’t stop
      3. Don’t come last

I made these rules up when I started running.  And I have stuck to them.  But things changed after I met Nikki and started training with her occasionally. 

When I met Nikki and she talked about her marathons, I couldn’t get my head around it.  My idea of a marathon, or any long run, was that you continuously ran.  This is actually why I had never progressed with my running as, I now realise that, I had a huge fear of failure of not being able to continuously run the distance I had planned.  Fear that I wouldn’t be able to run 15 miles, for example.  But when I started training with Nikki I realised it was OK to stop, to eat, to drink, to take a break, and then carry on.  Your long run is all about time on your feet, and this is the important factor, not the continuousness of your running (please note that this is different from other training sessions, such as tempo runs.  I’m only referring to long run type sessions).  She told me about someone she had coached to do a sub 3 hour marathon and he would stop every 10k to stretch!

It’s OK to stop.  Rule 2 got crossed off the list.

I always had a thing that I didn’t want to come last.  In anything.  It wasn’t that I was that competitive, more that I didn’t want that stigma of being last.  Not sure where it stemmed from, and I can’t tell you some horrific story of being picked on or something, just that I don’t want to come last.  So, every race I ran I made sure I wasn’t the slowest.  To be fair, I’m an average runner so this wasn’t really an issue.

That changed in Sheffield, on marathon 21.  We had planned to run the Sheffield Castle parkrun, before continuing on and running along the canal to Rotherham and back (I’ll tell you how wonderful that was another day!!!).  However, as sometimes happens with us, we were running late and turned up at the Parkrun start about 6 or 7 minutes behind everyone.  Now as you’ll all know, Nikki didn’t run her marathons fast (she had 63 to do, what do you expect???), and because of this we didn’t really make any ground on the back markers.  We got passed by most of the runners, mind you, but the hi-vis jackets of the tail runners just wouldn’t come into sight!  That was until the final stretch toward the finish!  There they were, strolling along up the hill with some of the signs! 

“Yes, I won’t come last! “, I thought happily.

And then Nikki said that she needed to “go”. 

You finish, she said.  Don’t wait for me, she said, as she went off into the bushes.  But I couldn’t leave her.  I didn’t want to. 

And in that moment I realised, it really doesn’t matter if I come last or not.  Who cares?  I’ve still completed Rule 1, and no one can take that away from you. 

And so I waited for Nikki to do her thing, watching the Tail runners walk off into the distance (although I think they were wondering what we were doing back there!!).

Nikki finished what she was doing and we jogged to the finish where I slowed my pace so Nikki could finish ahead of me, to some applause from the volunteers and some runners who had hung on (our friend Ruth had been telling everyone what Nikki was doing and so had drummed up some support!).

And that was that.  The first time I can remember coming last in a race.  And you know what?  I smiled.  I smiled when I thought about what I had done, and the change I had made in my thinking to do it.

It’s OK to come last.  Rule 3 got crossed off the list.

And so, Sharif’s Rules When Running are now:

1. Finish 
2. Don’t’ stop
3. Don’t come last

Friday, 16 June 2017

Bagsy being Mark Harber!

Last Bank Holiday Monday I went running in the Brecon Beacons and pretended to be a runner in the Dragon’s Back Race.

Running up a mountain!
You know, when you were a kid, and you pretended to be your favourite football player when you were on the park with your mates kicking a ball about#?  Like that, except I was being one of the runners from this epic endurance race.  Granted it was only a few of the mountains in Brecon, and I only covered what would equate to a fraction of the distance from one stage of the race, but even so, as I ran along the ridges, through fields (chatting to the sheep on the way), up steep paths and then back down them with a map in my hand, I felt epic!  I felt like I was taking part in that race and winning it##!!

OK, so why am I telling you this?

Well, this little run was my first real venture off road on a run by myself.  Normally, I’m a tarmac type runner, at my most adventurous maybe run around a country park on nice, well maintained footpaths, with help a few yards away. 

But lately I’ve started feeling, well, a bit different about myself and my running. 

Some of you may be aware that I picked up an injury last year that prevented me from running.  At the time I had been trying to train for the Robin Hood Marathon (yes, yes it was another stress fracture.  Yes, I know I got a stress fracture the last time I was training for the Robin Hood Marathon.  No, it wasn’t the same leg) and had been increasing my mileage steadily over the weeks.  But it was still a struggle.  All the typical runners thoughts and excuses going through my head all the time, sometimes dreading going out, and skipping the odd session……we’ve all done it, and we all complain about it, so I just accepted it as normal.  And as a result I was still thinking that finally completing a marathon was about the pinnacle of my distance running.  Which had always been the plan.  Run Robin Hood Marathon and then maybe a few others, collect the medals, make a nice display of them, feel good inside!

 I mean why would you want to run any further?  And how would you train to run any further?

I was quite content with this little goal.  I mean not many people run a marathon in their lifetime and it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to keep running afterwards, so it seemed OK.  Then a couple of things happened that made me shift how I think about myself and running.  I know I always go on about how people inspire and motivate me, but it’s pretty hard, and very unfair, not to.  So, I always try to acknowledge that I am who I am because of the people I have met, and interacted with.  Because of how I’ve been brought up, and the experiences I have had. 

And this change is no different.

I’ve never been that adventurous.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to think about going on adventures and doing exciting, daring things.  But the reality is I’d end up thinking about the possible consequences, what people would think, being too worried to take a risk…..basically, anything I did think of would become a pipe dream.  Then someone I know, a lady by the name of Sophie Rooney, said that she had a challenge planned that was pretty big and exciting.  She was going to be the 1st woman to run the length of Scandinavia.  With all her stuff on her back (all the details of her adventure can be found ).  I was in awe.  Not only was she talking about running a huge distance, day after day, but it was carrying all her kit, navigating herself and sourcing anything she needed while she was out there###.  I followed her progress, as many others did, I pledged some money to help support such an amazing adventure (and a bit more when she nearly killed herself without realising it!!) and I felt inspired.  Inspired with a want to be able to do something as awesome as this.  I mean how amazing was what she was doing?  How exhilarating would it be to complete such an amazing feat?

And that’s what sat in my head as I went back to work every day and got on with, well, nothing at the time as I was injured still!  I mean, come on, even if I was able to do something like that, what would I do?

Then the next thing happened (please bear in mind that these things I talk about, in this blog and any other, don’t always happen linearly.  In fact I can’t always remember when things happen in relation to each other because it just becomes one big thing in my head!  And you don’t want to go delving in there!!!).

I went camping in North Wales.  I’d only ever been to North Wales when I was in primary school, and when it was suggested that I go camping there, I thought it was a great idea.  Now, I don’t know if you are aware, but there is an official Welsh Coastal Path.  Now, I used to* rant about how much money the Welsh Assembly had spent on it, so I insisted that, while there, I wanted to walk some of it to at least utilise what the money had been spent on!  It was while walking on some of the paths that I thought “How cool would it be to walk the whole Coastal Path?”. Yes, that would be cool!  Then, out of nowhere, Sophie’s voice pops into my head (to clarify, she wasn’t actually there, it was just her voice in amongst all the other ones in my head!) shouting “Walk?  Walk it?  Suck it up man and Run it!”!  And that was the next thing that happened. 

Why not run the Welsh Coastal Path? 

So I did a bit of research and found that it is 870 miles.  So a quick calculation, using 20 miles a day as a guide, and I worked out that it would take 44 days.  Oh.  That’s a long time.  OK, OK, how about if I were to do it in week or 2 week chunks over the course of a year or two?  That would be good.  And still have the sense of achievement.  And there it was.  Planted firmly in my head.  A manageable adventure, of sorts.

My left shin after flare up
So I did some research about it, I carried on going to the hospital to see my physio about my leg, I started climbing again, and worked on the bits of me that weren’t broken.  And that’s where it all sat for a while.  Some things happened, I took a few steps back, and the excitement of a potential adventure that I might actually do, started to fade.

I got the all clear to run again in January 2017, and resolved to take my time and ease myself back into it properly.  I had deferred my entry to the Robin Hood Marathon and had that as my goal in September.  Plenty of time.  Then I had a flare up after 3 or 4 weeks of walk/running.  I was gutted.  Really gutted.  Luckily, my physio got me in to see a consultant, I got checked over (seemed to be a soft tissue reaction to me starting training again), he scheduled me for an MRI to finally find out why I have had stress fractures, and I rested for a bit. 

And then the next thing happened.  I had a chance meeting with an amazing woman called Nicola Love.  She ran a lot.  She also knew a lot about running.  She’d also been on quite a few adventures.  And was planning some more.  The things she had done amazed me.  The things she was going to do, amazed me.  The way she spoke about them was in a way that I hadn’t really heard a runner talk about things before.  The more I listened to her the more inspired I was.  And she listened back.  She listened to me when I mentioned, rather coyly, my idea for, what seemed by this time, my rather lame adventure.  And she smiled and told me how awesome that sounded and made me feel excited about it again!  I told her that I was planning on doing it in stages as I couldn’t do it all in one go.

And then she asked me why not?

And that was that.  The change started to happen in full force.  Why not?  Such a simple question and I always had answers for it.  Aside from what I talked about in my last post (100% Midlife Crisis) I could always back it up with reasons.  So while the question itself wasn’t new, it was how I thought about it that changed.  The way Nicola made me feel and think somehow allowed me to still ask myself the questions, but view the answers from a different way!  And it came crashing in on me like an avalanche!

Everything I’d thought about running started to change over the course of a week or so.  I started back walk/running again and felt invigorated.  I thought about how my body felt in a different way.  I addressed any pain differently.  The excuses started to stop.  Every event I saw or read about suddenly looked like something I thought I could eventually do.  I wanted to run.  Wanted to.  Not “oh I’d better go out as I need to run if I want to do <INSERT RUNNING EVENT HERE>”.  Wanted to.  And suddenly I felt I wasn’t training for an event, I was training to run.  Just run.  Nothing specific. 

And I was loving it!

(Can I just spend a second to provide a bit of a “reign it in there Sharif” note here: At this stage I was only just back from injury, and I still am effectively, so please don’t think I’m out running dozens of miles every day!  I’m just trying to explain how the shift in my thought process happened and how big a shift this was for me.  You’ll all find out soon enough if this continues, as I am pretty sure it will, as I have a few things coming up to tell you about!)

I started to listen to my body.  I ran the Spring Wolf Run**.  Then a 5 mile race, with the intention of walking every other mile.  I ran the whole way because I felt great.  I started running regularly with no adverse effect.  I was running with a smile on my face as well.  Then I completed the Dirty Weekend***.  Then another 5 mile race.  Then my 1st real off road run in the Peak District****.  I just kept going.  All the time listening to my body.  Making sure everything was in check, being sensible but pushing myself.  And that is something that is important for me to stress.  I was, and am, being sensible.  I know the issues I have had and I have no intention of rediscovering them, or new ones.  I have things planned (yes, I know I keep saying this, but you will find out, I promise) so do not want to put myself in a position where I can’t do them.

And that brings us nicely back to me pretending to be a Dragons Back Runner on the last Bank Holiday in May.

You see this wasn’t the sort of thing I’d normally do.  And certainly not on my own.  I mean, I was running up and down mountains, breathing hard, sweating, aching, hurting, knowing that I had to finish the whole 11 miles in order to get back to my car, making sure I wasn’t getting lost, avoiding attack sheep and killer cows+, not falling off the edges of mountains….I honestly don’t think I’d have ever done this before++.  I was enjoying myself.  I wasn’t making excuses.  I barely touched the food I’d brought (my backpack was packed very sensibly to cover several eventualities!!).  I wasn’t complaining.  I just kept going.  It felt, well, normal!  Then at some point about 7 miles in, as I ran along a ridge after ascending a stupidly steep slope, I had a moment where I realised everything had changed.  All the stuff I’ve mentioned above?  That’s what I realised.  I was pushing myself further than I had before and not questioning it.  I think I felt, for the first time, that I was leaving everything out there+++.

When I finished I felt pretty awesome.  Sweaty, hot and tired, but fricking awesome!  So, what I’m trying to say, I think (I’ve done that thing again where I can’t remember where I had originally intended going with this post and ended up, well, possibly where I wanted to be but maybe not!!), is that I’m enjoying running.  I would say “again”, but I think this is another level and not the same as when I used to enjoy it.  I’m also thinking differently about what I can do and what I can achieve.  I’m pushing myself, safely, past where I was before.  I feel great.  I feel energised.  And I really hope I can help inspire and motivate others as well J

Oh, wait!  One more thing.  Mark Harber.  You’re probably wondering why I was pretending to be him!  He’s a pretty awesome runner who loves adventure and raises a lot of money for charity.  So, why not have him as my adventure role model!! And, who knows, I may bump into him at the start of a race one day….

#Well, I didn’t really.  I got to be Neville Southall or Bruce Grobbelaar, or some other keeper because I was rubbish at football so always got stuck in goal!!

##Just like when “Ian Rush” would step up to take a penalty against me, “Neville Southall”, in the last minute of the “FA Cup final” and I would save it and feel the adoration of the fans and team mates… (OK fact of the matter is I never saved them but that’s what I imagined it would feel like!!!)

### I should add here that Sophie is one of those annoying people who is amazing, like elite amazing, at a particular sport [in this case kayaking], but then is also amazing, like life goal amazing for us normal folk, at any other sport she tries!  I think she still tries to maintain that she isn’t a runner...Twitter: @THEsophierooney Instagram: sophie.rooney

*I say “used to” because I do admit I may have said some derogatory things about the Welsh Assembly with regard to their money spending on the Coastal Path.  However, I now think it may have been pretty good money spent to make it more of a thing.  This does not mean that I am retracting all the other derogatory things I’ve said about the Assembly (or failed MPs and trumped up councillors as I see them)
Spring Wolf Run

** I’d booked this when I thought I’d be fit.  I wasn’t going to miss it!  The Pack put up with me and my walk jogging…and wearing a Baywatch outfit probably helped, as people clearly thought I wasn’t being serious!
Dirty Weekend 2017

***20 miles and 200 obstacles.  Yeah, that’s what I thought when I got duped into signing up to it last year!  I didn’t mention it to my consultant the week before the event.  I don’t think he’d have thought it was “taking it easy”.  I had an amazing time and was very pleased with myself when I finished it.  Can’t wait until bigger things next year J

****I was lucky enough to be taken to the Peak District and run ragged around some fields, and up some hills, in all sorts of weather for about 15 miles.  And then the next day around Carsington Water for 8 miles.  Need to learn to double up my long days, she said.  You’ll be fine, she said.  You’ll love it, she said.  She was right about everything.
Peak District, with Killer Cows in background

+I think I need to explain my reference to killer cows.  Picture the scene.  A beautiful field in the Peak District, some cows lazily chewing the cud.  Two runners and a dog slowly enter the field.  Said cows turn to face the new arrivals and slowly make a move towards them.  The fearless leader of the group insists on going into the next field, running out of their way and trying to jump a barbed wire fence all in order to avoid the killer cows, who got shooed off by a bunch of DofE walkers!!! (FYI – I wasn’t the leader of the group!!)

++ And I am very sure I wouldn’t have ever done this, or thought about doing the things I plan on doing in the future, if I hadn’t met Nicola.  She really is an inspiration.  And not just to me.  It’s what she does, whether she means to or not.  Her attitude, her actions, her enthusiasm, her drive will not fail to motivate you.  She really is an amazing woman and if you want to be inspired by what she does check out her social media outlets.  And keep an eye out for her next adventure #63in63.  And if you want to run a marathon, I suggest you pick up her book, “Chasing Extraordinary” that is being released very soon.
Instagram: nikkilovefitlife
Strava: Nikki Love

+++Also in that moment, I made a voice recording.  I was a bit emotional.  Hey, I was tired and having some sort of epiphany!  Anyway, I haven’t actually listened to it.  And don’t think I will.  Or let anyone else listen to it.  Think there were some words to back up what I’ve said in ++ and don’t want to cause embarrassment to anyone!!

Monday, 29 May 2017

100% midlife crisis

Pre-blog Blurb
This blog spiralled out of control, so apologises for that!  I thought it would be straight forward but then I started writing, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it…well, I’d written more than I had expected and I’m not sure it makes sense or even answers my original reason for the post.  So, hope it’s not too bad and you manage to get through it without drifting off!!  Have a read and, if you feel the need, let me know what you think.
The other day I asked my eldest daughter, who is 18, if she could do me a logo for something I’m planning on doing (she’s an art student.  Well was.  But she is very talented even if she got bored of her course and didn’t finish the whole thing...sorry, digressing…).

“You’re not planning on running through the Himalayas or something are you Dad?” was her reply.  “It is, isn’t it?  You’re running up a mountain?  God Dad, this is so 100% a midlife crisis!”

She wasn’t far off the reason for the logo (but you’ll find out more about that soon, if you are interested!), but that’s not the reason for this post.  What she had said really hit me quite hard.  Probably worse because it came from her, but it sort of reinforced something that has often stopped me doing things.

What other people think.

I’ve always wanted to better myself, improve the things I can do, learn new things, take on personal challenges (total side point, but that phrase “personal challenge” always makes me laugh!  Check out Geraint Pillock and his coracle J), but often I’ve stopped myself because I’ve thought about what other people might say, or think.  You know like “well that’s ridiculous”, or “why would you want to do that?”, or “you’ll never be able to do that!”*.  Don’t’ get me wrong there has also been circumstantial reasons that meant I couldn’t go off running, or learning new stuff, such as having young children and a lack of funds (please do NOT think for a second I’m blaming having kids for stopping me learning and doing stuff!  I’m just putting that there so that some context might be had for later), but even with those I still worried about what people would say.

Let me give you an example.  Since my youngest daughter was about 7 or 8 I’ve been trying to get her to try new things in order for her to see if she liked them and to learn new skills**.  One of them was rollerblading.  I’m not going to lie, I wanted to learn how to rollerblade, not for any particular reason other than to be able to do it.  I’d never done anything like that, such as skateboarding, as a kid because I didn’t want people to see me trying and pointing and saying how stupid I looked or that I’d never be able to do it (this concern about what people think about me doing stuff has always been with me).  But when I would tell people I got reactions that would make me not tell people.  And when I went out with my daughter I was quite shy about it and made sure we were doing it out of the way.  As a result, I only half-heartedly tried it and never really got past having a few goes.

My point is, I think, that I’ve always wanted to do stuff.  No matter how old I was.  But always felt people would say something or judge me, or something.  And being told that someone thinks it’s due to a midlife crisis is just another thing.  But I’m not willing to let it stop me do anything.

So why have I seemingly started to do things now? 

Well, firstly, I guess people have noticed me doing more now, so it probably seems like I’m suddenly doing more stuff when in actual fact I’m not really. 
Secondly, there has been a change in the way I think about things, and now I believe in myself and my abilities more than I used to***. 
Thirdly, there are opportunities to do things.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s mainly running around or up things, and jumping over things, and crawling through things, but I have the chance to do things now.  And I know, well I don’t know at all I’m just assuming, that some people will say that it’s because I left my family and so don’t have those responsibilities**** but it’s not.  I think everyone finds that as their kids get older they get more time to themselves, and I found that even before my separation. 
And finally, events and information have become more accessible to do.  Running events are everywhere now, the internet has a wealth of courses and guides for you to learn from, and social and mainstream media has changed so you know what people are doing all over the world as it happens, bringing inspiration and ideas to you in abundance.

So, bringing me back to why the “100% midlife crisis” comment bothered me…nothing has changed in me about wanting to do things, so for people to think that I’m doing these things due to my age does upset me a bit, and makes me question doing them.  However, I could actually deal with people thinking this about me. 

The main reason that the comment really bothered me, and why I wanted to write this and bore you with my thoughts, was because it came from my daughter.  I want my children to be inspired by me and be proud of me.  Proud that I’m their Dad.  That they have a Dad who wants to push himself, who wants to try and inspire them.  A Dad that they can do things with.  A Dad that they talk about the things he’s done with pride.  So it hurt a bit to think that they may think that the things I do are down to a midlife crisis.

So, I just wanted to say that, basically, I do stuff now (or want to do stuff) not because I’m panicking about getting old and having a midlife crisis.  I do it because I can now.  Because I believe I can.  Because I want to.  And in the hope that I can inspire others to push themselves as well, especially my daughters.

*there is another one that I’m already thinking that people will say to me in the near future that goes along the lines of “rather than paying that to do it and raise money for charity, why don’t you just donate the money directly to the charity?”.  It’s something I’m trying not to think about and I’m hoping writing this blog post will help me get past it
**after many years, and quite a few different activities, I finally stumbled on an activity that my youngest daughter enjoys, has thrown herself at, and, whether she will admit it or not, is becoming very good at.  What is it?  Climbing. J
***this has been because of the people I have met over the years, seeing people push themselves, being inspired by people

****I’m not going to lie, I am very conscious of what people may think about what I write here, and  on other social media outlets, because I have separated from my wife.  I don’t want people to think I’m gloating in some way about it, or implying I have a “newfound freedom” or something.  Because I’m not.  I’m just trying to write about how I feel about something at the time, and I certainly do not want to cause anyone to think otherwise

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Me and running (Part 2)

There’s been quite a gap between this post and my last, and there have been a few reasons:
-         I slipped back into my old habit for a while there.  It took re-reading my 1st post to get back on track.  To quote the amazing Joy Formidable, I think "I had a reason but the reason went away".  So I'm back on it now, and you can all benefit from my words of wisdom :-)
-         There’s been a few things going on in my life recently and I was worried how anything I put online would be perceived.  I hope anything I write isn’t taken the wrong way but I can’t stop that, so it isn’t a reason to post anything.
-         This post started off about the reasons why I run and what it does, and has done for me.  But it feels like it’s turning into a big thank you to all the people that I have encountered through running that have helped me in some way to enjoy it more and also who have taught me things that apply outside of running as well.  So I’ve been delaying posting this in case I embarrass anyone or embarrass myself or sound stupid or….. and then I remembered it doesn’t matter.  If people think that then so be it.  I wanted to write this blog for a reason.  For me.  So here I am!
In writing this I may have gone off track but I think I’ll just go with it and apologise now if it goes off on too much of a tangent or gets a bit, I don’t know over the top!  I mean it was never going to be a piece of literary genius, was it!

So, where was I?  Oh yes, the Merrymen of Colwick......

When I started running the Colwick Parkrun there was this pleasant looking, petite lady who shouted a lot at the start and finish each week.  She would welcome everyone to Colwick Parkrun, announce any milestones, ask if there were any tourists and generally make everyone feel, well, welcome!  Granted it would go on a fair bit but it didn’t matter.  It always felt good.  Brought everyone together.  Made it more than just a run.  Its also how my “Why I run Reason #2” came about:
Feeling a sense of community.

I soon found out that this was Mrs Merrymen.  Shortly after this I found out that a quiet bloke that seemed to do what he was told by Mrs Merrymen was her husband, Mr Merrymen.  These two, and their annoyingly quick teenage son, Trainee Merrymen, started having a huge influence on my running.  It's difficult to give exact effects but seeing them week in-week out, oozing enthusiasm, encouraging everybody around them, doing it all for the love of running really inspired me to go further.  It was because of them that I started wanting to help out and so I started volunteering at Parkrun (each Parkrun across the country relies on volunteers to help out each Saturday.  Without them the runs can’t go ahead). 
This was quite a big shift in my thinking as when I started running Parkrun the thought of volunteering never crossed my mind.  I mean, why would you waste one of your Saturday mornings just standing around when you could be running, or even having a lie in???  But now I actually wanted to help.  Wanted to stand around pointing people in the right direction, encouraging them.  Or maybe I’d get to give the finish tokens out or scan the barcodes…..

And that was that.  I volunteered when I could and absolutely loved it!  The atmosphere is amazing; everyone is there for the same reason and gets on so well with each other.  This just solidified Reason #2.

That shift in my attitude was down to the Merrymen family, and if there is only one thing I can be thankful for from then it is this.  The want to be more than just a participant.  To want to be able to help others to participate.  To want to be part of something.  To be better.

Don’t get me wrong this isn’t the only thing that I have to thank them for.  Free coaching (that has improved my times massively), involvement in other events (that has got me out and about loads!), looking at things more positively… I said earlier it’s difficult to be specific about everything they have done for me and it’s doubtful they have any idea the influence they have had on me but I owe them a huge thank you.  Like a massive thank you J

Now after that grand statement I guess you think that’s it.  What else could he possibly get out of running??  Surely he is now complete and has the attitude of a Sainted elite athlete?

Well unfortunately for you all there is more!!!

You have to understand that there are people I have met through running, and outside of it, who have had some influence on me.  It’s hard not to be motivated and influenced by the many people you meet but many of them are strangers and they just pass you by.  But the people I have mentioned in this post have done something, or I’ve known them better, that has caused them to stand out and stick in my memory.

Oh, one more thing before I carry on.  I’ve tried to write all these things in chronological order but things get mixed up in my memories and events overlap so don’t take everything as one thing following another.  Imagine it more as a series of events over a period of time…..
So this guy started working in our office.  A contractor.  Handsome, oldish bloke, bit posh sounding.  Mr Avenue.  Apart from being a really nice bloke and quite funny, he was also a runner.  Although he was quite a bit better than me he was always happy to talk to me about all things running (and a fair amount of other random stuff!).  As he would stay over in Nottingham one night a week he kept asking me to go on a run with him.  I always refused, coming up with some excuse, worried that I would slow him down or overdo it.  But eventually I went for a run with him.  Now I only went on 2 runs with him, and he was only working in the office for a year, but of all the things he talked about there were a couple of things that have stuck with me and have become part of my running ethos:
-         Just run.  There’s no need to plan a set route with exact mileage and knowing exactly where you are going.  Just run in a general direction, knowing roughly where you’re going and deal with what you find!!  It’s how you get to know places, how you can enjoy the area, enjoy running.  As a result of this practise I’ve seen bits of Nottingham that I’ve never seen before!
-         Have a “finishing” song/jingle.  Stop giggling you smut merchants!!!  A song that you run through your head when you’re flagging toward the end of a run.  Something to inspire you, to give you that final boost you need to finish (stop it!!!).  So simple yet really effective.
I wish I’d run more with Mr Avenue as the couple of times I did were really enjoyable, for conversation and location.  I’ll always have fond memories of the “I’m only doing 4 or 5 miles” run…….

As I started enjoying running more I realised that there was more to it than just pounding the nice, urban tarmac streets of cities.  That’s when I got introduced to something called the Wolf Run.  Basically it’s a cross country run but made harder using muddy fields and putting ridiculous obstacles in the way!!  Someone at work (we’ll call him Hop-along) asked if I wanted to join his “Pack” and take part in one.  Well who was I to turn that down?!!?  I missed the first one due to a torn calf but have since run several Wolf Runs with the Wolfies (as well as a few other obstacle runs) and loved every mud covered, freezing water, A-Frame climbing minute of it!!!  The events themselves are about finishing, not about position or times.  About helping your pack out and others around you.  Everyone is there for the same reason, they’re all in the same boat and as a result always willing to help (reason #2 folks!) and get you to the end.  I recommend you try one!
Because of these events I have made some amazing friends (well I have made some amazing friends, so I’m hoping they have as well or this is going to be really awkward!)  They’ve helped in so many ways, supported me and encouraged me.  They’ve got me wanting to try new events, push my limits, all through how they are, how they act, their attitude to everything they do.  They have been, and are just, amazing.  OK, a bit mental and nuts sometimes, but amazing.  Friends that I would have never made unless I ran (“Why I run Reason #4”: Meeting new people).

I hope by now you can see what I’m trying to get across about me and running.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in what running has done to and for me.  And I’m not saying only running can do this, I think it’s something more than just an activity that does it.

It’s the people.  The community.  The attitudes.

However, sometimes, even with all this positive attitude and people around you, you sometimes need a reminder or a catalyst or something to get you going when things become a bit flat.  I’d fallen off the running wagon this year and wasn’t really enjoying it (yes, amazing considering all I have just written!!).  Lost my running mojo as it were.  Yes, I’d go out for the odd run but it just felt like I was doing it because that’s what I thought I had to do.  I wanted to do a marathon but I just couldn’t be bothered with the mileage (bit of honesty here, I had planned on running my 1st marathon on my birthday this year in Tel Aviv.  I pulled out of it telling everyone that I’d been injured during training and wasn’t ready.  That wasn’t true.  I just hadn’t put the training in.  I just couldn’t be bothered.  I felt really bad about that).  I wanted to improve my technique and pace but just didn’t do the training.  I was in a bit of a slump.

Then, quite by chance, I met Johnstone.  Ridiculously lively and motivated, always doing something, fitting things into her day, getting things done without excuse, putting her mind to things and doing them……basically the catalyst I needed!  Finding out she would train at silly hours of the day because that’s when she had time, doing more than one thing in an evening (I always had the mind-set of doing one thing and one thing only!), pushing herself to do the things that needed to be done to succeed at the things she did……just doing things.  It was quite an eye opener.
Then she told me she had started running. 
I knew she hated, but could tell that she enjoyed it despite the hate!  Seeing her fit it in around her hectic lifestyle.  Seeing her take this up and getting on with it pretty much got me back out running.  Inspired me (or is that shamed me, seeing as I had gone on about my running so much yet wasn’t doing it???).  It made me think about why I ran.  Made me remember all the things I have written about here.  I smiled when I ran now!!!  OK, not all the time but you know what I mean!  I started training properly like I hadn’t done before.  I started going to a training session organised by the Merrymen and Super Kev (I’ve not mentioned him too much but the guy is a legend!! Google him! ), Weekly Wednesday Workout, and I had Parkrun PBs coming out of my ears!  I made a renewed push to complete my 50 Parkruns (check out #TourTo50Parkruns on Twitter to see how it went), I felt good, my fitness improved, I was getting back in shape, I started to remember all the good things about running, the benefits, the reasons(“…even a song from the Beatles!!” J).
I even started training for the Robin Hood Marathon without complaint, fitting it into my less than hectic lifestyle.  I ran late in the evening when in the past I would have stopped for the day.  I’d not use another activity as an excuse to skip training.  I just got on with it (it was all going well until a series of minor injuries during training meant that I wasn’t going to be ready and I’ve had to postpone my first marathon again.  But I know the reasons are genuine this time).  She caused me to shift how I look at things, not just training but my attitude to a lot of things.  She rekindled my enthusiasm for running (as well as training in general).  And I owe her a massive thank you for it.  A huge thank you.

So there was a point to all this rambling, honestly, and not just a big thank you blog.  The things I have learnt through running, the changes in attitude, in how I approach things, all of it, don’t just apply to running.  It has affected my “normal” life as well.  The interactions with others, the work ethic, how I look at things, everything.  And I think that sort of sums up why I run, what it is about me and running.  Its part of me at all times now.  It has changed me and made me, in my opinion, a better person.

I am a Runner.  Not a good one, but it doesn’t matter. 

Last bit
People who know me may notice that I go on about exercise and the benefits of it quite a bit.  I like to think that it helps encourage people but I tend to think I’m not that influential to people so I doubt it.  But I wanted to mention Drummer Boy and Little Red.
Drummer Boy ran his first half marathon last year and recently got the running bug again and said he fancied running this year’s Robin Hood half but trying to do a good time.  I sent him a training plan and that was that!  He stuck to it, improved massively and took 30 minutes off last years’ time!!!
Little Red had never run until she started an 8 week training plan to go from sofa to 5k.  I’ve known of a few people who have done this sort of plan but never actually had a friend who’s done it.  She stuck with it, doing everything it said to do and on top of that changed her eating habits, and in 8 weeks’ time she ran 5k!!  She even ran a Parkrun!  Absolutely amazing!!
I did try and encourage them both through the training, so I do hope I helped a bit, but my main point is that I was, and still am, so impressed by them both.  The way they stuck to the plan and nailed their goals exactly as they wanted to.  And its people like this that keep me motivated now, that keep me on track, that keep me running J

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Me and running (Part 1 of....well, I'm not sure!)

I've been writing this blog in my head for ages now, pretty much when I'm running and need to take my mind off the running and remember the reasons that I am running for!  But I hadn't written anything down and so for the last 2 weeks I've been trying to!  This has been a bit of a long process, hence the reason I haven't posted anything since my 1st blog.  Thing is I had to write this for me.  I've been struggling with my training.  I haven't told anyone but I picked up a slight injury at the start of my marathon training and lost all motivation.  It's amazing how much a small injury can hinder you and set you back enough to cause a mild panic and lack of motivation.  Anyway, I needed to write this to remember why I run and where my motivation has been coming from lately.
So in order to get something posted regularly I'm splitting this one into 2 or 3 parts, otherwise I'll never get anything online!!  Hope it's worth the wait, but to be fair, this one is mainly for me!

A few weeks ago I ran my 50th Parkrun*.

Now to some of you who don't know what a Parkrun is this may mean nothing to you (visit to find out more and you never know you might want to start!) and to those of you who do know what one is it still may not mean anything to you!

But to me it meant a lot.

It meant I had persevered at something.  That I had accomplished a goal that I had set for myself.  It allowed me to met new people, make new friends.  It took me to parks and places I would never have gone to otherwise.  It gave me a reason to get off my backside on a Saturday morning and go somewhere!!

And I had a good time!  The planning of my little trips, the anticipation, the anxiety......all the feelings that come with new experiences, of going to new places, meeting new people.  I looked forward to my next Parkrun!

It also meant that I had improved on something.  Quite considerably......

I started running about 7 years ago.  I've always played sport and kept fit (-ish!!) but have never been a runner.  Yes, I've done the odd mile or two as part of team training but that was about it.  Nothing substantial or regular.  I'm not sure of the exact date I started but I do remember, what I class as, my 1st run.

A friend** of mine from work, we'll call him Brian, asked if I wanted to join him for a run after work one day.  I put him off fearing failure and looking like an idiot, until eventually I agreed.  So, one day after work we headed out from the car park for a 2-3 mile jog around Colwick Park.  The main reason I remember this event so well is because of something Brian said when I was huffing and puffing and felt like dying after about a mile and a half.

He told me to not stop.

If I had to walk then walk.  Even better would be to jog really slowly, which he did while I walked and caught my breathe***.  But basically don't stop moving.  And that was that.  We finished the run, this became one of my goals for every run I do and my "love" of running was born :-)

After that I carried on going for the odd run, nothing major, just running.  Brian kept suggesting that I run the Robin Hood Half Marathon sometime.  "Half marathon?", I would say, "are you mad?  That's like a million miles!".  After a while I started to think why not?  I could run 6 miles why not double that?  So I entered the 2011 Robin Hood Half Marathon.

And ran it (please see a previous post about how it went!).

Not long after that, my mate Brian suggested that I sign up for Parkrun.  Which I did (I'm starting to think that I'm a bit too influenced by my mate Brian!).  So I ran my first Parkrun on 26th November 2011.  I came 92 out of 132 in a time of 30:46.  Nothing spectacular but a start.

And so I kept jogging, doing Parkruns, another Half Marathon, jogging......just plodding along.  I started getting a bit disheartened by the fact I wasn't improving in anyway.

Then I attended a talk by Dave Sunderland+,a GB running coach, in February 2013 and my whole outlook on running and training changed.  I realise that this is quite a grand statement but it really was true.  What he spoke about, from diet to running style, made me open my eyes to what I had been doing up to that point and how I could progress going forward.  It was the reason I changed how I approached training, about what I ate before runs and, most dramatically, my running style(there's a whole blog post to be written about that and the initial, disastrous results of that!  For a brief insight check out the blog I started writing while training for 2013 marathon, especially the post from the day I got a stress fracture but didn't realise!).  

This may sound strange after the last paragraph, but things went horribly wrong after this!  I picked up injury after injury, continued to run through them , got disheartened again (even more so now as I knew what I needed to do to improve) and eventually decided I needed to rest (turns out over the course of 18 months I had 2 separate stress fractures in my right tibia which weren't diagnosed until they had nearly healed!).

So, because I wasn't running, I decided I should still try and be involved in running and so I volunteered as much as I could at Parkrun.  And I had a great time!

And because I volunteered a bit more it meant I got to meet, and get to know better, the amazing family that I will call the Merrymen.........but more about them in Part 2 :-)

Quick note: I'm going to try and not use real names in my blogs.  It makes it more fun for people to try and recognise themselves and also saves their embarrassment!  Also I think I may add an intro from time to time after I've completed writing the post.  A postscript I guess but at the start (prologue? Who knows, I never got my head around English stuff!!)

*I tried to comment on the last 15 or so runs on Twitter and Facebook using the #TourTo50Parkruns hashtag
**I say friend but there are times that I curse the bastard for getting me into this running thing ;-)
***I was a smoker then.  I ran out of breathe a lot!  I stopped smoking about a year later.  It meant I didn't have to train harder just because I smoked!!!
+ This is the only real name I'm using in this post.  A year after this talk Dave unfortunately passed away.  I only met him once, and that was in a crowd, and had one email in reply to my thank you email to him, but he had a massive influence on how I look at running.  I know I'm no elite athlete but it mattered to me.  I was very sorry to here of his passing.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Let's try this again, shall we.....

Some of you may have noticed that I used to try and write a blog.  If you did then you'll also know that it was a very stop start affair.  I'm pretty sure, that every so often, there would be a "Right I'm going to start writing regular blogs now...." type post and then nothing after it!

Well, it's that time again.

But why will this time be any different?  Well I'm not saying that it will be but I'll certainly be trying to post to this blog regularly because of a couple of reasons.

The main one being that I promised my daughter.  Well I say “promised”, perhaps it’s more “proving a point”!!  I’ve been talking to her a lot lately about being bothered to do things.  


From cleaning her room to doing homework to going for a run.  And something that always comes up in these conversations (normally over coffee and £4 milkshake at Nero!!) is what would she like to do.  Is there anything that interests her that she can focus on and “be bothered” to do?  And something that always gets mentioned is writing a blog or recording a vlog. 
The reason for this is because she is obsessed with some Youtubers (such as and ) and always talks about emulating them with her own Youtube channel and blog.  However when I try to encourage her to write or record something, after an initial positive reaction, she falls back into “can’t be bothered” mode. 

Now you may think that:
a)     I am being a pushy Dad about it
3)     I am not being encouraging to her
iv)     I am not offering my help and support

But none of those are true (perhaps I am wrong and I should be pushier or less encouraging or not offer to help, I don’t know, but I feel I’m doing the right amount of each!) **Note-while reviewing this before posing I've thought "perhaps I am some or all of the above?".  Now I'm not sure!  I'll have a chat and see what she thinks**

So I challenged her.  I said that if she didn’t write a blog each week, no matter how small or on what topic, then I would.  Maybe even progress to publishing a vlog, with a potential for it to be cringe worthy enough for her to do her own to stop me doing anymore!! 

She didn’t believe me……so here I am!

I did say a couple of reasons.  The other is down to personal development.  “Personal Development?”, I hear you say, “At your age???”.  Quite.  But over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to make an effort to learn new things, complete things I start, stop avoiding things, apply myself to things better.  While I’ve been mindful of this and have sort of made a change, it’s not been fully committed.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s like I knew what I had to do but couldn’t quite get my head around it. 

But recently something clicked. 

And it clicked due to seeing the attitude of someone I know.  They didn’t say or do anything, but seeing how they act, how they deal with things, how they train, how they apply themselves to anything they want to achieve, how they utilise the day, it just opened my eyes and got me thinking that there isn’t a reason to make an excuse to not do something!

So here I am, writing a blog that I always made excuses not to write (“don’t want to offend or upset anyone”, “I haven’t got time”, “who would want to read my thoughts?”, “I can’t write”, “no one will read it anyway so what’s the point?”) and posting it online for all you lucky people to read!  I’ll warn you now that there is a fair amount of stuff that I have stored up to write about, some of which are part written blogs that I never finished (see what I mean?) that I will revisit and complete, so apologies now if it’s badly written, boring, offensive or of no interest to you!  But having said that, you don’t have to read it!  I’m doing this for me, and while you are more than welcome on the ride, I’m not making you join me J

I hope I do keep this up and my old attitude doesn’t creep back because writing this blog isn’t just about writing this blog.  It’s a reflection on my attitude to everything I do.  Learning new skills, training, my career.  Everything.

And of course, if doing this inspires (or shames!!) my daughter in any way to do anything then that will mean more to me than any personal development that might come out of this.

See you all next week!