It all started with me being a horrible fisherman.
I spent 3 months trekking around both islands of New Zealand without being able to land a single fish. I fished as a kid and had even caught a few whoppers (honest) but never before had I experienced such terrible luck. At one point I could even see the fish in the water, yet nothing would bite.
Toward the end of my trip in late February 2019, I went to stay with a good friend Kieron and his family.
Much mockery, teasing and laughter was dished out about my woeful fishing experiences.
A couple of weekends later, we all spent an afternoon fishing and I was the only person who caught anything! (I actually caught five fish but that’s not the point…)
I’m proud to say that I enjoyed every minute of giving the mockery, teasing and laughter back!
At this point I think that a little spark of competitiveness between Kieron and I was borne.
The following weekend his wife and son were running in a round of the Albany Lakes summer series – 5km and 10km respectively. I mentioned that I could be interested in doing the 5k and boom. It suddenly became a new competition between he and I.
I’d previously only done two Parkruns (5km) before at I think 26 minutes or something, but since moving to New Zealand, Kieron had gotten slim and in shape – so I knew it was not going to be a cakewalk.
On the Sunday of the race we were a bit late so it was a rush to get parked, have pre-race pees and find the sign on tent. We literally lined up as the starting buzzer fired. I hadn’t even sorted out my music or started my watch.
Being on a 3 month exploring and mountain biking holiday and not owning any real running kit, I was wearing mountain bike baggies and lightweight hiking shoes. Perfect for running on the roads…
Initially I had gone ahead but about half way around Kieron took the lead. Using what I know now as a “Seabiscuit” moment (a magic kick that helps you find another gear) I managed to take back the lead and eventually finish in a few minutes ahead of him clocking a time of 24:15.
There was a tiny bit of teasing and laughter which followed. At least until the next day when neither of us could manage to walk down the very shallow set of stairs at his house. Although if I am honest, the next few days after that were hard too.
When I came back to the UK I decided to carry on running as i secretly had enjoyed it and I don’t think I have had a week off since.
I set myself a couple of goals:
- Run a sub-20 minute Parkrun
- Run a properly organised 10k event
Over the following months, I bought myself some proper running shoes and could see my times coming down each week at Parkrun. I got to 21 minutes quite comfortably but that next push to get under 20 minutes was ridiculously hard.
Through the power of mountain bikes and friends I managed to catch up with an old friend – a strong runner herself now – who introduced me to her local running group, The Ghost Hill Runners, organised by local running legend Neil Featherby.
Each week we would meet at the lovingly titled “Field Of Pain” or “FOP” for short, for an hour of hurt and running drills. This took my fitness and understanding of running to a new level.
On the 14th September, I managed to finally complete my goal of a sub-20 minute Parkrun. I’ve done it three times now in fact! The first one was at Gorleston Cliffs, which is an officially timed Parkrun, and then twice at my local in Catton Park. I did actually get a little bit emotional when I did it – I cant think of many things I have worked so hard to be able to do and actually manage to do it when it comes to sports. The irony being that I never saw any of it as training – it’s just “going out for a run” to me and to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I like it because I just put my shoes and music on and away I go – off into the woods. Rain or shine it makes no real odds.
I entered two 10k events – completing my second goal. They were back to back weekends just about too if I recall correctly.
The first one was the Marriott’s way 10k. A trail run along a disused railway line starting in Alysham and finishing in Reepham. To say the weather was inclement would be a horrible lie. It was biblical big cold driving rain – it didn’t stop. I was soaked to the skin before I’d even got to the start line. I was in the 3rd of 4 waves of 100 runners to set off.
Somehow I managed to not get overtaken at all and finish 15th out of 369 runners with a chip time of 42.44. Not a bad effort! It was brilliant and muddy and just ridiculous.
The second event was the East Coast 10k (basically just up and down Great Yarmouth seafront). Following my previous result I may have felt a little bit confident so lined up nearer the front with the faster guys. I heard a bloke saying that his personal best was 43 minutes. I thought that if I can stay with him then I would be ok and if I could stay in front of him then I might get a PB too.
It went off at a ridiculous pace. I’m very glad I didn’t have pace set up on my watch (I’m a mountain biker not a runner, remember) or I’d have shat a brick that we were doing a 6:23 minute mile pace for the first mile. It was with a tailwind, but that’s not the point. As soon as we turned 180 degrees to come back up the promenade and we hit the headwind – it got a lot harder. My times did slow down over the 10k to 7 minute miles and I finished up 68th out of 882 runners with a time of 41:57.
So, overall in my first year of running I hit my goals of running a sub-20 parkrun and completing a proper 10k event. At the time of writing this I have also managed to run three half-marathon distance runs too. Once was on the beach with my global marathon running friend Adam and the other two times I just wanted to go out for a bit of a longer run. I had some good music on and boom! Before I knew it, I was at 12 miles and only had one to go.
What else has running brought me?
Firstly it has helped keep my mental health in check – I would have never thought it but going out for a run is the perfect tonic to clear your head. I remember one run in the woods and I had gotten to about 7 miles and my mind just hit a plateau of clarity. I wish I could remember all the amazing thoughts and ideas I was having.
It’s also kept me thin. In 2018 I was a lot bigger and pretty unhappy about it too. I weighed somewhere just over 81kg – which is a lot for someone of my frame. I’m currently residing at about 67kg and feel so much more confident with my body.
I usually play the running stuff down a bit as my true love is cycling, but I can really recommend getting out there and giving it a go. It’s very addictive and you will meet some amazing folks.