Today marks an anniversary…
Today marks an anniversary. On Sunday 27th May 2012 I ran my first race, the BUPA London 10K and it was amazing. Now, BUPA was not the first race I had booked myself on, my wife at the time and several friends were attempting a double header of the Amsterdam Marathon and Dublin Marathon a fortnight apart in October and as a personal challenge I had signed up for the Amsterdam Half. (First funny: When going through passport control of Schiphol the border control officer asked me what I was doing in Amsterdam. I said I was running. He asked me my projected time and I said about two hours. He looked at me with respect and shock until I added that I was just running the half. He then handed back my passport and disappointedly added “oh, the lazy marathon.”)
I look back at that first BUPA race with relief. Why? I honestly became addicted to running then. The atmosphere and the crowd, the excitement in your corral, the timing chip, the bling, and the goody bags all made it amazing. If the race had been disappointing in any way, if it had been bargain bucket bling, or I had injured myself on the course, or if the weather had been bad I may not have continued, but I did. As soon as I got home, with the October date for Amsterdam set in stone I booked myself on the British 10K, the BUPA Great Yorkshire 10K, the Teachfirst 10K and took a sponsored place at the Royal Parks Half for the MS Society. The fire of addiction was being very rapidly fanned thanks to the easy search engine on Runners World.
I did experience my first disappointment at the Teachfirst race, as the course had been measured 400m short and my rejoiced PB was gone. The disappointment was more about the race director, who on Twitter refused to accept that the marshals didn’t do their job and the route was not as advertised, even when sent GPS results from several of us. Still, that did not deter me, nor did finishing arguably one of my favourite races in the world, the Royal Parks Half, and then stepping straight legged off the pavement and injuring my knee with a week to go before Amsterdam.
The Royal Parks Half is wonderful, sort of an extension to the BUPA London 10K, as the routes do match for quite a way. I have run it twice, something that I promised myself I wouldn’t do as there are so many good races out there. (Second funny: when limping home from the Royal Parks Half I was wearing a red K-Swiss hoodie and my medal, my first half medal, proudly around my neck. As I was walking by the Royal Courts of Justice a homeless guy spied me and with a sarcastic tone said “Well, someone’s Canadian.” I wonder what he meant?)
On top of the Royal Parks, Movember has been run three times, twice in Greenwich and once in Battersea and the London Zoo Stampede has been run twice. It is the BUPA London 10K I sign up for every year and this was my 4th running of it. It has not failed to live up to its wonderful reputation ever and I will run it again next year for sure, in fact the email about 2016 signup is in my inbox waiting for me to open it.
It is not that there have not been any lows in my three years of running; indeed I have been injured leading up to big races, most notably the Berlin Marathon in 2013, the Shakespeare Half and there was a period when I had the (actual not man) flu when I missed the beginning of 2013 and half a dozen races then. I do try to go back and complete the races at a later date and am happy to be running the Berlin Marathon this year for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Probably the lowest I have felt is when I have run badly. The Two Oceans Half in Cape Town this year, the International Fun Run before and the North Carolina Half around a Nascar track in Charlotte were terrible races from a personal perspective; painful and slow. Race photos, not that they are ever pin-up material, can be incredibly depressing but my lowest point was the arguments that followed the Twickenham 10K in 2012 where I ashamedly went on the attack about the stolen medals and made a complete fool of myself.
The highs though, there have been so many, too many to name. I have had a wonderful three years. From the BUPA London in May 2012 to the end of that year I ran 10 times and progressed from barely being able to run 200 yards on a treadmill to two halves in two weeks. I ran in London, Sheffield, Kingston, Twickenham, and my first virtual (on a treadmill (never doing that again)) I did do Amsterdam and I LOVED IT.
I ended the year sick though and divorced and missed the first three races of 2013 before picking it up again with four halves in a row at Tunbridge Wells (so cold it froze my Nike+), the Semi De Paris, the North Carolina Half around a Nascar track, New Orleans and then the Rock and Roll Edinburgh Half (After Dublin last year I complete the UK and Ireland RNRs at Liverpool next month. And then it’s Madrid and Lisbon next year). On a side note Nascar arenas do not drain, they just cancel the races when the weather is bad, runners go out in every weather, so we ran in 4 inches of icy water as it hailed. Which does bring up an interesting observation. At school I was one of those kids that started wearing a V-necked sweater at the beginning of the school year and really wouldn’t take it off until late late summer. Now? I have run in snow, hail, wind, rain, humidity, baking sun, at night, in the fog. All weathers, you just need a vest and a pair of shoes.
2013 did have a lot of DNSs, it started badly and, even though I ended on a high on my birthday at the Gut Buster with 21 races in my first full year of running, I had 11 DNSs and that really disappointed me. The Gut Buster saved my running year, it was miles away from Reading in the country, I had to stay at a hotel and then take a bus to the start (and on my 40th birthday no less). If I couldn’t be bothered I would have a dozen DNS, if I did it would have been my 21strace of the year, a year that included running in Paris, New Orleans, North Carolina, York, Torbay and Walt Disney World Florida. And I am so glad I took a stand against my own sloth.
2014 was a completely different beast and by now you can start to tell that I am becoming an old pro at this. I decided to race a lot more, after Berlin Marathon (my aim) was taken away from me I did not want to run another marathon until I could run there. But unfortunately in 2014 Berlin started using the ballot so instead of running further I decided to just run more, with the aim of running as many races as the previous two years combined.
This I did, picking up closure for the Standard Chartered City 5K and Luxembourg Night Half Marathon (probably my favourite overseas running trip), and running in Hastings, Bournemouth, Bexhill, Dublin, St Albans and at the inaugural Surrey Half, Reigate Half and Hackney Half. I did miss out on the two races in one day because after Hackney the London City Mile was held, but I couldn’t get there. I do need therefore to do it in 2016 as this year the mile is held the same day as the Rock N Roll Liverpool half.
What I did do last year, having run the BUPA Great Yorkshire run for Help for Heroes, and the Royal Parks for MS Society was choose a charity and set myself a target. In the end, due to family reasons I chose Pancreatic Cancer UK and, as a real challenge decided to run 20 races in 6 months which included 6 in 26 days in May.
Nothing has spurred me on more than the support I had from the charity and seeing the races and the sponsorship money adding up. It meant that I could not drop out and DNS for whatever reason and I have never been so proud to hand over £1500 in my life.
Which brings us onto 2015 and a year with very different goals and a surprise, the surprise being that the Pancreatic Cancer UK team gave me a spot at the Berlin Marathon, and the chance of closure on the biggest race of my life that I didn’t run. The rest is simple, after running 30 races for 32 medals in 2014 (yes I missed out on my idea of running more than 2012 (10) and 2013 (21) put together), this year is the year for personal bests. Sure I am running 17 races and have had a DNS already due to a back injury (Two Tunnels Bath and a 10k through Victorian steam tunnels, the UKs longest underground race), including Cape Town, Lucerne, Berlin and Rock N Roll Liverpool, but I am actually training. I run at weekends at Park Run in Hampstead Heath, something I never thought or wanted to do. I run home from work at least once a week, something twice. And it is paying off. In 2015 I already have set my 1K PB (beating the previous by 57 seconds), my 10K twice! (now 1 minute 33 seconds faster than before) and my half (a whopping 7 minutes and 7 seconds faster).
There are other benefits to running, numerous really including the obvious healthy body and healthy mind. The twitter running community is amazing and I am happy to support and be supported by such a wonderful group of individuals. I met so many great people, ChilternDiva at Gut Buster, greasygringo666 and I missed each other at Tunbridge Wells and Torbay but caught up finally at R N R Dublin, FrankieSaysRun and I finished the BUPA London 10K together this year after meeting up at Hampton Court half, and AdamPrav, Bozenka_m and judie_judie were around both days.
Perks come too. I have some joint gel I am supposed to rub into my RunnersKnees, and an I Am Run Box to try out but my greatest claim to fame was being one of the official global bloggers for the Two Oceans weekend. I spent so much time thinking about the race, and getting lots of cool free things and meeting the wonderful press people, that I didn’t train and ended up screwing both races up. Amazing experience though. It always is. And I will take away from Cape Town the freebies and memories of running with Haile Gebreselassie, as well as being on the same route as Mo Farah, Jo Pavey, Scott Overall, having the race started by Steve Cram, or Disney characters, or standing as the Star Spangled Banner is belted out as hail freezes my jet lagged face. It is all amazing. Roll on the next race.
(Third funny: the day before the Two Oceans Ultra marathon and half marathon the International Friendship run is held. This is for the international runners to run along the Cape Town waterfront carrying their national flag. As the flags were handed out I noticed there was no Union Jack when I asked it turned it had been stolen the year before and they never replaced it, despite Leonie running into a shop to get one for me. In the end, just to have a flag I took one from popular holiday destination Malta and had lots of people cheering me on, and asking me what my flag was. I said Malta and they gave me kudos, perhaps more if I had said I was British)