September 2019. I had just reached the pinnacle of my fledgling life as a runner by completing the Berlin Marathon, one of the Marathon Majors. But the real journey and appreciation of running was just beginning.
During the preceding 12 months my wife and I, as running newbies, trained ourselves to complete the Great North Run, run a marathon and reduce my half marathon time down by 35 minutes. But I had started to notice that things weren’t right on the run up to Berlin whilst taking on the Kielder marathon. I was experiencing pains in my chest and abdomen, and they were getting progressively worse. Shortly after Berlin I decided it was time to seek medical advice.
Why I started running
I’d originally started running back in 2018. I’d been having a difficult time of things. My wife and I had been through several unsuccessful rounds of fertility treatment which we’d found incredibly hard. On top of that I’d also lost my job as part of a mass restructure at work. My wife suggested that she needed to throw herself into something to help give her a new focus and motivation so she signed up to do the Great North Run, and she managed to persuade me to do the same.
We weren’t runners, not at all. I hadn’t run since school and I certainly hadn’t ran a half marathon before. The first few weeks of training were difficult to say the least. Looking back, we didn’t have a clue, blind leading the blind comes to mind. However as time went by I started to enjoy our runs together and as I built my confidence and my fitness increased I found it created a real balance in my life.
We completed the Great North Run and raised money for MIND but things really kicked on from there. I decided to enter my first marathon the following April, Kjelder and then began to plan for Berlin.
Over the next 2 to 3 years I had numerous tests and procedures to try and determine what the cause of the pain was. But they were inconclusive. They managed to rule out anything sinister, but the pain remained. This made running difficult and over time I became frustrated and completely lost my mojo. Any attempts at starting to run again were met with similar pain and frustration and I just gave up trying.
This massively impacted me and almost felt like I’d lost a really good friend. Something that was always there, that I could rely on when I wasn’t feeling 100%.
Without any exercise I lost the balance that I’d found in my life and I became massively frustrated. Over the last 12 months my vitality suffered and my mood had been terrible. I kept looking outside at people running, people doing races and as much as I wanted to get back to running I was struggling with the confidence to try again. I found that I was finding excuses not to try, easier to say that work gets in the way, the weather is too hot or too cold, or I’m too tired. Anything that fitted. But I realised that only I had the power to change things!
I’m entirely sure why it happened on that specific day. What flicked that switch on October 7th 2022. But I was sat at my desk at work and I literally just decided to block my calendar out and go out for a run. Almost a Forest Gump type moment. I just decided to run. It was 10am, and for the first time in months I just did it. I needed to. I found my first run back incredibly hard. Really, incredibly hard.
But this is a long journey and you have to start somewhere. The most difficult part is that first time. Physically getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder. Then it starts to get easier. That initial mental battle is tough. It’s different for everybody, but for me it’s a combination of anxiety and a lack of confidence. How’s it going to go? Will I hate it? Will I quit? But once you do it things become easier; the anxiety dissipates and then it’s about maintaining it. I’m a massive creature of habit so I found establishing a routine as quickly as possible very useful.
As I said my first run was tough, but I felt that I needed to push myself. I needed to keep it going so I ran each day for the next 5 days. It’s probably not what anyone would advise but I needed to prove that I could force myself out the door, win the mental battle and make the time when I needed to. So I did!
Finding a routine
After that first week I started to feel like I was winning and was starting to form a routine. One I’ve attempted to keep it going. I’ve still got the pain; it’s every bit as uncomfortable as it has been but my mind is made up. The pain is there whether I exercise or not. But I no longer want to sit around dwelling on what could be. I want to find my balance again and for me this comes through running.
By the end of October 2022 I’m three weeks in and I’m pushing myself every day to be active, whether it’s a short run, a longer walk or somewhere in between. I’m nowhere near my previous levels of fitness, and it’s difficult not to compare. But I don’t really care about times or competing with anyone else anymore. The only competition I have is with myself. The little battles I fight every day to get out the door are making me stronger, and will eventually add up to something much bigger.
This is about the here and now and proving to myself that I can do this. And keeping it going!
You only get one shot at life and I’m determined to push the boundaries and test myself & who knows what the next few months will bring!