Just a little something to break the monotony…

The bones of this post (and most of the meat actually) appeared as part of a post I wrote for my works blog page for World Mental Health Day in 2018. I thought that as I had a little bit of a mental wobble last week (which resulted in me only running twice and thus not giving me much to write about) I would reproduce that post here so people can get an idea of what got me into running and why it became my passion.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered with mental ill health, probably stemming from the fact that I was mercilessly bullied at school for a number of reasons, chief amongst which was that I was a good all rounder; I was intelligent and I was sporty and some of the Neanderthals that were in my year at school didn’t like that – of course the fact that I weighed about 6 stone wet through and a bit of a soft touch also didn’t really help – it got so bad that at one point I was carrying a knife in my bag just to make me feel safe!! My journey down the path to the dark side really took hold though when I left university, without completing my degree. I was (and still am) completely ashamed of myself for this – it remains my biggest regret – and I felt like I had let everybody down, blown all the hard work I had put in to get to Uni and therefore all of my potential. This started a long, winding road of self destructive behaviour, failed relationships, crippling anxiety issues around inadequacy and a number of other things, total lack of self confidence (which I’d never had much of anyways) and self esteem etc. and culminated in September 2009 with me deciding I wanted to die before realising that I had hit rock bottom and needed to get help.

I went to my GP who diagnosed me with clinical depression, put me on the sick and prescribed me anti depressants.  I was also sent for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) counselling sessions by Occupational Health at work. Gradually as the medication kicked in and my serotonin levels came under control I started to feel better. Eventually I returned to work feeling 100% ok and got on with my life – albeit without any sort of plan in place as to what I would do if the black dog reared its ugly head again.

Fast forward 7 years to 2016 and in that time life had settled – I was married in 2012 and in 2013 welcomed my beautiful little boy into the world. I was happy at work and happy at home – why then was I spiralling and feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders? This time, instead of self destructing I literally ground to a halt. Mentally and physically I was utterly exhausted. Some days I really couldn’t move and the sheer effort it took to engage with people was completely overwhelming. Again, my mask had slipped and I ended up on the sick because of my “feelings”! I realised quite quickly that part of the reason I had relapsed so heavily was because I had begun to bottle everything up – I had no release for my frustrations or my worries. My wife had been quite seriously ill for a number of months at the beginning of 2016 and I was trying to juggle being nurse to her and pretty much mam and dad to my son whilst maintaining my focus at work throughout the most intense period we’d experienced as a team – due to the EU Referendum (fucking Brexit) – and eventually something just had to give. I’ve never ever been ashamed to talk about my mental health but at that time I found I couldn’t really find the words to make anyone understand how I was feeling.

I decided I needed to do something, to find a release, if I was going to pull myself out of depression.  I didn’t want to go down the path of medication again as the side effects, for me, were horrific! I’d always been a big gym goer – I’d enjoyed lifting weights for years but found that my motivation and my enjoyment for this was completely gone (thanks to crippling self confidence issues and the lovely remarks of a few “lads” at my gym – this really bugs me about people in general these days. Why are we so quick to tear others apart? You don’t know anyone’s circumstances so why not just applaud the fact that they’re at the gym or out running?? Why mock and drip poison into their ears / social media feeds, telling them they’re fat or ugly or not good enough in some way? Because a desperately vocal minority of our planet are BASTARDS, that’s why!) so I decided to lace up my trainers and head out for a run. I came back invigorated – I only ran 1.5 miles but the sights, the sounds and the fresh, crisp air helped to clear my head. For the first time in months I felt like I could think, more importantly, that I had the time and the space to think. I was instantly hooked! Of course, at this point, the world was against me and I ended up injured and unable to run for 3 months (my own fault for not stretching properly!!!) but I clung on to the feeling of that first run and promised myself that as soon as I could, I’d be back out there. In 2017, buoyed by my new found enthusiasm, and now injury free, I signed up to run the Great North Run for MIND – a charity very close to my heart. It was whilst training for the Great North Run that I got the idea of starting a running group with a focus on mental wellbeing and promoting all the mental health benefits associated with exercise. As tends to happen though, life got in the way and the idea was pushed to the back of my mind until early 2018 when a group walk on Time to Talk Day at the beginning of February turned into a meeting of minds with some equally enthused colleagues and Mindful Miles was born.

Our whole ethos with Mindful Miles is that we want to create a supportive environment where you can come and run – as fast or as slow as you like – and just forget about your worries and your strife (yeah man!) for a little bit, or talk them through with someone if you want. I can’t speak for anyone else in the group but I would personally say, running with them has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been amazing that everyone who is a part of Mindful Miles has bought into the idea that we are not just a running group – we are a peer support group and we’re as much about the chat as we are about the exercise! We are there to support eachother and have supported eachother, whether that is with a motivational word whilst we are out running or a kind word of support / advice if one was needed at any other time. We’re all there for the same reasons, we all need a release and we leave our egos at the door and just pound pavement. I’m not daft enough to say Mindful Miles has cured me of my mental ill health, it hasn’t! There are still days when I struggle badly but at least now I feel I have the tools to fight back and Mindful Miles is a huge part of that tool kit. We have runners who previously hadn’t thought they could, entering half marathons (5 of us completed the Great North Run in September 2018), 10k’s, running Parkrun on a Saturday morning and generally just catching the running bug. We may not be the fittest or the fastest but we take something from every Mindful Miles run – whether that is a boost to our confidence by running quicker than previously or without stopping or maybes just the good old feel good factor of having done something – releasing all those glorious endorphins!

Finally, if you are feeling a bit stressed out and maybe exercising for a release isn’t your thing, please don’t bottle it up, talk to someone, you’ll get through it and it’s OK to not be OK!!!!!!

#mentalhealthmatters

 

So my running week this week consisted of the school run on Friday afternoon which was a much needed, anxiety busting, lung busting 1.5 miles. After the day I had on Thursday where I literally couldn’t move from my desk to run because of panic attacks, to get out and run relatively quickly for a short period of time was really invigorating. It’s also, as I have mentioned before, always my favourite run of the week as it ends with the smiley, beautiful face of my son. We have started to have a little race on the way home too – just between a couple of lampposts – where the winner gets a surprise. Needless to say I haven’t won yet but have spent a fortune in sweets and comics!!!! I then went out and did my longest run of the year so far on Sunday morning – 8 miles. It was fresh out of the sun but when the sun hit you it was beautifully warm with not much breeze (a Godsend seeing as Storm Erik had battered us all on Friday)  – best weather to run in. The run itself was split into 3 parts. The first 2 miles were quick (for  me) as I got carried away with Rocky 4 soundtrack emanating from my headphones. The next 4 were nice and steady and the last 2 were slow. My legs were stiffening up really badly by the end and I have a small cut on the sole of my foot which was giving me some grief but after the week I’d had I was just grateful to be out doing anything. This week marks the last week of my base training so, hopefully, I’ll get a good week in and can start to build some sessions in from next week as my first race of the year is rapidly approaching.

Thanks, as always for looking (and hopefully reading) my ramblings.

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An unexpected arrival…

Two posts in a week…aren’t you all lucky!!!! I wanted to write because I said I would share everything with you, warts and all, about how I was feeling leading up to Berlin. The truth is, this week I am not feeling good at all. Anxiety has reared it’s ugly head in a BIG way. I haven’t been able to put my finger on why but it is very definitely there and it is being incredibly intrusive. It’s Thursday today, which ordinarily means Mindful Miles. Mindful Miles is something I look forward to every week as it is the only opportunity I get to run with others. Today though, I’ve been sat, shivering at my desk, heart literally pounding through my chest, panicking about going out before eventually crying in front of my manager and bottling my run. It’s embarrassing and humiliating and makes me feel even worse than I do already! The last time I had an anxiety attack like this was the day of the 2017 General Election but that was easily attributed to the pressures of my job, having to cram 5 years of planning into 6 weeks to organise a snap election. This time, like I say, I can’t put my finger on whatever is triggering it. Could it be I’ve started to subconsciously fret about the marathon – seeing the sort of mileage figures that have been posted by people training for the spring marathons has definitely shook me up, but enough to give me panic attacks????? Could it be that I’ve had a different couple of weeks with a couple of really late nights and a few beers (when I haven’t really been drinking for 7 months) and that has just knocked me off balance???? I genuinely don’t know – I feel really settled in my life and in my work at the moment so to be crippled with anxiety is very definitely a strange feeling. Anyway, the upshot of all this is I haven’t been out for a run since Saturday and that only adds to the sh*t feelings! I know what I need to do, I have the tools to be able to calm my mind so I need to get back to basics and look after myself and get control before I begin to spiral. I know that part of this recovery is running which (panic attacks permitting) I will get back to as soon as humanly possible and I guess I REALLY need to pay no attention at all to what others are doing and just concentrate on what I’m doing, now more than ever! One foot in front of the other, one mile at a time and I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Consistency is key…isn’t it???

Thank FUCK January is over! How can one little month, just 31 days seem like a millennia??? It’s no wonder people can’t keep their New Year resolutions when the first month of the year lasts longer than the rest of the year combined!!!Actually though, for all it lasted forever, January actually served a purpose for my running this year. Ordinarily January is the month where my dreams are big but my realities are often fractured. I’m someone who picks up niggles very easily – possibly because I’m a fat fucker – and for some reason the 1st month of the year seems to be the time I pick up the majority of niggles which crush my confidence and kill my dreams before they’ve even properly formed. After the first week of this year I was convinced that this was going to be the case again. Even though I’m not starting marathon training until April I still have goals I would like to hit along the way and my stupid ankle looked like it was going to scupper me reaching those goals. Instead of wallowing though, I took the sensible approach – I listened to that tiny part of me that talks some sense instead of the super emotional majority of me and convinced myself that if I took the time to rest and recover properly now, I’d feel the benefit later! So far, that has been very true. The upshot of that enforced break is that I feel fresh and confident in my running and, I’m getting out consistently, hopefully building a base that will benefit me as the months towards Berlin whiz by!

They do say, don’t they, that consistency is key and maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong in the past?! I’ve been too quick to find an excuse not to run (I told you I’m one of life’s great procrastinators if allowed to be) and been happy to just get out as and when I can. SO FAR this year, that hasn’t been the case. By and large I’ve been out 4 or 5 times a week which is great. I may not be doing a huge amount of miles yet – my mileage has steadily increased over every week but they are small increases and when I see people on social media who are logging 250 miles for the month, compared to my 50, it scares the shit out of me that I’m not doing enough – but I am doing something and that’s got to bode well for the future! I honestly don’t know where people find the time to log 250 plus miles a month though. I tend to run in the evening, once my son has gone to bed. This means that if I want to eat and spend time with my wife I can, realistically, give myself an hour – hour and a half tops – in which to run. This equates to between 6 and 10 miles (for me). Thing is, I am nowhere near ready to be doing that sort of distance EVERY time I go out. If I did that I would more than likely a) injure myself and b) very quickly grow sick and tired of the process. I’m genuinely not sure I will ever be ready to be running 40+ mile weeks. I need balance in my life – balance is more key to me than consistency. By that I mean consistency might make me a better runner but the balance makes me a better runner, husband and father. I don’t want to become consumed by running to the point it is all I have. It is important for me to be able to blow a run off in favour of going for a meal with the Mrs and the boyo or just slopping around in PJ’s all day, eating shite and watching movies (as we did this past Sunday)…I don’t want that to change and at the moment, that has me seriously worried that I am not going to be ready to run a marathon in 8 months!

Anyhoo, my running this last week has been decent. As I said earlier, my weekly mileage has increased again which I’m happy with and my running has, once again, been steady but unspectacular. My week started with a 10k on Monday evening – it was slow but I felt easy throughout – mile 4 (previously mentioned as my greatest nemesis) has turned into my favourite mile over the last couple of weeks. Tuesday was a rest day as I had a really poor nights sleep on Monday evening and couldn’t drag my arse out! Wednesday was a FREEZING 4 miles – winter is currently biting North East England right in the bollocks – it was frosty, it was very, very cold but it was a smashing little run – slow and steady once again but there is something fabulous about being out in the cold (in shorts – I’m Northern!), the air literally stinging your lungs with how cold and fresh it is. I love it! Thursday was Mindful Miles. 2 of us went out and just did the most gentle 5k you could imagine – again in the uber frosty conditions. As someone who primarily runs alone I love my Thursday group run. It allows me to pace myself better than I can normally manage, it allows me to sit back and let someone else lead the way if I want and it gives me that all important human interaction. I don’t interact with many people outside of the working environment so to get out and talk to people about whatever is always an important part of my week! Thursday night I was at a gig (Rival Sons) at Northumbria University which meant a few beers and I had the good sense to have pre-booked Friday off work as it was a late night! Great gig but I’m getting too old to be stood on my feet for hours on end in inappropriate footwear haha. Friday was a rest day – I took a complete rest from everything and it was wonderful. I have worked my arse off since going back after Christmas – putting long days in and trying to fit everything else in, as a father, as a husband and as an individual has left me pretty tired so having a day where I had no plans, other than to drink coffee and read my book (the AWESOME ‘Jog On’ by Bella Mackie) was just what the doctor ordered. It started to snow on Friday afternoon too and by Saturday morning there was a couple of inches on the ground. Last years version of me would have chickened out and had another day off, but 2019, trying to be focused me, knew I needed to get out. I did 4.65 miles in beautiful, winter sunshine in a beautiful snowy setting and it was my favourite run of the year so far. Sunday, like I said, was a day in PJ’s with Stacey and Lucas watching movies and eating crap and it was the perfect way to end my week – having carried on with consistently getting out but also having brought a bit of balance too. Onto the next week.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you are enjoying it – I am!

Week Commencing 28 January

Monday – 6.2 miles – 58:25 – 9.25 min/mi pace

Tuesday – rest

Wednesday – 4.04 miles – 38:20 – 9.25 min/mi pace

Thursday – Mindful Miles – 3.1 miles – 31:35 – 10:17 min/mi pace

Friday – Total rest and relaxation

Saturday – Snowy 4.65 miles – 47:54 – 10:18 min/mi pace

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down…

I’m really struggling to find something to talk about this week – running wise it’s been much the same as the previous week. My mileage has increased ever so slightly which is what I wanted and my running has been consistent without being spectacular – no PB’s this week. I guess I could talk about Brexit – JOKE before anyone decides they don’t want my lefty, remainer opinion polluting their eyes! Seriously though…if Tess doesn’t sort this backstop issue…………sorry…I’ll stop!!!!

 

One thing I guess I could waffle about is I have noticed over the last few months the number of runners posting on social media about being body shamed, by the public at large but also by other runners! I’ve been a victim of fat shaming from members of the public before (I know, I know! I can almost feel your shock as you struggle to comprehend how this svelte, lithe, athletic physique could be accused of being fat!) and it was a strange experience on 2 counts. Firstly, the person who fat shamed me was, herself, morbidly obese so how on earth she managed to work up the cajones to shout “run, you fat cu*t” at me I will never know and secondly, whilst it did upset me (I have massive body confidence issues) it actually spurred me on to record one of my fastest times in a training session last year so it ended up being a huge positive. I think that was the point where I decided to take it all on the chin. All the grief I’d gotten over the years, from people who should know better, I decided to use that to push me on. You can hit me with your words and your insults as much as you like but you know what, FUCK YOU! I’m the one out covering mile after mile in all weathers (except wind – I fucking hate wind, OH, and ice…not a fan, yeah, and extreme heat – makes the beard frizzy) trying to better myself and put myself in a position where I’m not going to die of some sort of heart related incident brought about by a naff lifestyle. You just stick to your kebabs and your lager! Not that there’s anything wrong with kebabs and lager of course, if that’s your thing – just not thrice a day!

 

What I find even more incredible though, is other runners shaming you. I’ve never personally experienced this but I have seen it on a couple of occasions and it always leaves me cold. On the whole, the running community is a wonderful, welcoming, supportive community. We are there for each other when it matters – witness the number of people who stop and help a fellow runner cross the finish line at the Great North Run or the London Marathon each year. It’s a selfless act, helping someone who has trained and who has worked hard to achieve something only to fall desperately short at the very end. You see these people struggling and then, out of the corner of your eye or from the top of your screen you see them…those knights in shining armour (or inflatable dinosaur costumes) galloping to the rescue, potentially sacrificing their personal bests to help and your heart just soars and you punch the air and you imaginary high five them and your love for your fellow runners knows no bounds. And then you go to parkrun and you witness some under achieving club runner shoulder charge (literally) an old lady out of the way because they’ve been late arriving and had to start from the back of the pack as opposed to the front and they’ve got the cheek to turn and hurl abuse at said old lady for being slow and you just think “you utter twat”. It’s always parkrun as well. I’ve never seen it happen in a race but it happened regularly at my local parkrun – club lads shaming the slower runners. Yes, the quicker runners are hugely supportive when they’re cheering you over the line, coffee in hand, 20 minutes after they’ve finished but heaven help you should get in ones way or whatever whilst they’re running – it’s like you’ve killed their hamster or something – they go rabid. They snarl at you and look back menacingly at you (slowing themselves down in the process – the knackers) and generally make you feel small and pathetic for daring to be slower than they are. It’s why I stopped going to parkrun. I’m not slow, I’m an average runner but I found my local parkrun was becoming far too competitive and that’s just not for me. Yes, I want to improve and get faster, who doesn’t, but the whole joy of parkrun was the inclusivity; the camaraderie of everyone being there for the love of exercise and fresh air and running and cake (always cake) and once that disappeared it just became a weekly slog to avoid – I’d rather go out on my own and say good morning to the other runners / dog walkers I see on my route (not the cyclists though, damn them).

 

It makes me sad that we live in a society where trying to be healthy and trying to be positive about yourself is frowned upon so much. People are always there to try and drag you down with a snide comment or a withering look. Even if it’s said in jest it can still cause a huge amount of hurt and cause irreparable damage to someone’s confidence when, really, it shouldn’t matter what size you are or how slow you may run, the fact that you’re out there is the ONLY thing that counts! My take home message from this post is good for you!!! If it takes you an hour to do parkrun, FANTASTIC! I will cheer just as loudly for you as I would if it took you 15 minutes. If you’re 18 stone and getting out and getting the runs (or whatever other exercise you might be doing) in, you are as much, if not more of an inspiration to me than the likes of Mo Farah and Eliud Kipchoge and my respect for you cannot be any higher! If you are struggling with your confidence and thinking about chucking it all in, DON’T!!! Trust in the process, trust what you’re doing…it is working and you will see the results you want to see if you stick with it.

 

To go back to my title and to close the waffle; “when the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, I’m gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me! Look out coz here I come. And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies. THIS IS ME!”

 

Stay positive folks.

 

Last weeks running:

 

Monday – rest

Tuesday – a steady 4 miles – 9:37 av pace

Wedensday – rest

Thursday – after work 3.14 miles – 8:53 av pace

Friday – school run 1.51 miles – 8:36 av pace

Saturday – heavy legged 4.02 miles – 9:12 av pace

Sunday – rest

Expect the unexpected…

One of the things I have learned most from running is to expect the unexpected. No run is ever the same, therefore no training week is ever the same. Yes, you might run the same routes and the same distances but there are so many different variables in play, in your body, in your mind, with the conditions etc that nothing is ever exactly the same. After a couple of weeks of struggle, the last thing I expected to do on a beautiful, sunny, crisp, winter’s Sunday morning was to go out and smash 20 seconds off my 10k personal best – but that is what I did! I don’t know how, I honestly don’t know how! I haven’t covered the distance since 9 December, I have been struggling with injury and illness for a few weeks, my legs have felt heavy and slow when I have made it out and I’ve generally just felt a little bit below par – but that’s the beauty of running. Out of adversity comes triumph! I won’t lie, I was that pleased with myself I let out a loud roar of relief / joy / realisation that I was going to collapse when I checked my watch – the poor dog walker just ahead of me on the waggonway must have feared for her life when she turned around at the sound and saw a big, bearded mess thundering towards her pumping his arms in delight and shouting at himself. Strange how I always tend to produce my best times when I have been struggling or when my body really shouldn’t be able to pull quicker times out of the hat. My current 5k PB was achieved 3 days after last years Great North Run when my legs were screaming at me to rest and recover. Expect the unexpected!!

 

Apart from Sunday’s glorious triumph, the rest of my running week was a bit of a non starter. As I mentioned in last weeks blog my costochondritis flared up on Monday so that was an unintended and unwanted rest day. As quickly as it came it went though so I was able to get out and do a very slow 4 miles on Tuesday. It was great to be out and it’s always a boost to my general mood when I run but it was a hard run. My legs just wouldn’t respond in the way I wanted them to. I felt like I weighed about 20 stone (rather than the trim 16st 11 that I am HAHA) and really struggled to get around the route. My breathing was ragged, my stride pattern was all over the place and I was very glad to finish. Wednesday was a rest day and on Thursday we had the first significant snowfall of the winter so my usual Thursday Mindful Miles session was called off ( although in reality I was the only one going out anyway so I essentially bottled it lol). Rather than not do anything again though, I decided to do a little bit of cross training on the elliptical trainer at home. I’m going to put this out there now – I fucking hate cross training, especially in the house. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the back room on my own, staring at the walls (and thinking they need a lick of paint) and grinding away on an elliptical for a half an hour that feels like an eternity! I feel the same way about treadmill running and indoor cycling as well – hate them! The only thing I can put it down to is that I must get my biggest kick from being outdoors exercising – it’s not the endorphin boost from the exercise itself, it’s the fresh air, the sounds of the birds (or the cars) that do it for me. Anyways, the icy conditions had thawed enough on Friday that I was able to run the school run and pick my son up. A nice and easy 1.5 miles made all the more pleasurable by the company on the way home and hearing about his day. What I love about the school run is the looks I get off a fair few of the other parents in the school yard – it’s a mixture of confusion, fear and disgust – don’t worry love, I’m not going to try and corrupt you or your children into running with me – I’m fine on my own thanks, so you can stick your judgemental looks up your large backside and go back to Jeremy Kyle! That’s not to say that all the parents are like that. Far from it. Some of them are lovely and make an effort to talk to me about how it’s going etc. They still think I’m mad but I think that might be the shorts in -3 degree temperatures. I had thought, very briefly, about getting up early and doing parkrun on Saturday morning but once home and settled on Friday evening I thought better of it (luckily as it happens as my local parkrun was cancelled). Saturday therefore was a rest day but, more importantly, it was a family day. Running and training is great and I can’t imagine my life without strava, Garmin and my Nike’s now, but, they are nothing without the love and support of my family. When I feel low I know going for a run will always lift me but getting out the door and going for that run wouldn’t be possible without everything I get from my wife and my son – they are why I do everything. They are why I am striving to be the best I can be, why I am training for the marathon and why I have trained for everything else I’ve done over the last few years. I want them to be proud of me. I want my son to look at me and think to himself that his dad isn’t just a super cool playmate, he’s someone to look up to. He’s someone who achieves things. I want my son to see my struggles with training, to see the highs and the lows because I want him to grow up with a never say die attitude. He’ll never see me give up and hopefully that will stay with him. I want my wife to look at me and see someone who sticks at things when times are tough – marriage is a wonderful thing but it is fucking hard work and I’m sure there are people who turn and flee when the going gets tough but that’s not me and maybe, subconsciously, my wife will see me refusing to throw the towel in and be reassured that if things ever got really tough, I’d be there to ride it out with her! I also want my wife to look at me and think PHWOAR – he’s fit J

 

Anyways, Saturday was a rest day and that meant out for a big old, delicious breakfast and a wander through Whitley Bay before a nice chilled out afternoon for me and the boy whilst Stacey went for lunch with her friend followed by a lovely evening with relatives. Oh, and NUFC won convincingly which always makes the day better. A perfect day all round really!!

 

So yeah, Sunday was mint – it was a glorious morning and I went out expecting to just shuffle around my usual 10k route. HOWEVER, I settled into my rhythm really quickly (unusual) and managed to avoid going off too quickly (highly unusual). This all meant that that I wasn’t blowing out of my arse by mile 4. Mile 4 is traditionally my biggest struggle during a 10k – a look at my splits will normally tell you that I’ve invariably gone off too quickly, slowed to a nice steady pace and then ran out of puff by mile 4 before slowly rallying again for miles 5 and 6. This didn’t happen on Sunday – my splits were super consistent, mile 4 came and went and I felt like I still had quite a bit in the tank. I still wasn’t thinking of a PB though, just getting around and getting the miles under my belt and the time on my feet was the aim and I would have been delighted with that but then something strange happened. Something that hasn’t happened to me since Kevin Keegan was appointed manager of Newcastle United the first time round! The stars aligned for me…my legs all of a sudden felt loose and fresh, I had a good, long section of (empty) waggonway to run along and ‘Mein herz brennt’ by Rammstein started up on my headphones…I could feel my legs ramping themselves up for a finish; I could feel my lungs expanding to take in more of that delicious, crisp winter air; I could hear the little voice in my head whispering “go on, do it” – it may have been shouting but it sounded like a whisper next to the industrial metal of Rammstein and I just thought fuck it and I ran, I ran fast (for me)! God only knows what I looked like – a whale on legs possibly, anything but graceful but fuck grace…I ran, no, I sprinted and when I looked at my watch and saw my time I let out a primal, guttural noise that, as I’ve already mentioned, probably terrified the poor dog walker who I’d just about caught up to. Chuffed. To. Bits!!!!! I walked home from the point I finished – takes about 15 minutes and serves as my cool down – foam rolled and stretched (highly, HIGHLY unusual) and took a bit of time just to reflect on how far I’ve come since this point last year where I never thought I’d dip under an hour for a 10k again to now where I’m confidently thinking I could break 55 minutes this year if I approach things correctly. I won’t get carried away though, disaster is never far away but as long as I embrace that, roll with it and expect the unexpected I know I’ll achieve what I want to.

 

My weeks training:

Monday – ill

Tuesday – 4 miles easy (not easy at all, bloody hard) – 9:32 pace

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – 35 minutes (1000 years) elliptical training

Friday – 1.55 miles easy – 8:51 pace

Saturday – rest

Sunday – 6.2 miles steady – 9:17 pace

 

Thanks again for reading if you are. I hope I’m not boring you to death 🙂

Sunday – 6.2 miles steady – 9:17 pace

It’s the hope that kills you…

Before I begin this weeks stunning blog (rant / bitch / waffle on – whatever you want to call it) I need to address the big white elephant in the room – the title of said stunning blog!!! You may recall in last weeks fabulous first entry that I made a list of words I would not use (I will not repeat them out of principal but they are all God awful and unforgiveable). Only after I published did I realise that, to the uninitiated, I could be accused of hypocrisy by including the word ‘Runderwear’ in my title. Runderwear is actually a brand of running underwear – seamless so reduces chafing and is apparently very nice to wear (not that I’m touting for freebies or owt lol) – if only they made bras for men, my nipples would be EXTREMELY grateful.

Anyway…after the crushing disappointment of injury in my first run of the New Year the beginning of last week was spent in an almighty huff. I could feel my mental health suffering because I couldn’t get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air. This huff probably wasn’t helped by my return to work after the Christmas break – guaranteed to piss off even the most positive of people (of which I am most certainly one) – and a little bit of anxiety creeping in as it slowly dawned that my monthly mileage for December will need to become my weekly mileage as the year progresses. For now though, it’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, no treble!

Being injured sucks. I find myself thinking about all the reasons I hate running (it hurts / you get injured / foam rolling / it hurts) and I often find myself looking at the running accounts I follow on social media and comparing myself to them – why can’t I run that fast or far? why do they not suffer injuries like me? I wish I wasn’t as heavy as I am…the list goes on and on and I end up really down on myself. I fully recognise that this is more down to my own confidence issues and that the people I follow (and admire) the most on social media (Project Marathon Girl, Paul Addicott (Pick up the pace Paul), Richard Johnson (I’m a runner now you see)) probably go through stages where they think exactly the same things about the people they admire – that’s the nature of the game – one of the things humans are best at is comparing ourselves to others when really we should just concentrate on being ourselves. Soon as I get out and run though, those feelings disappear and I do focus on myself and what I can achieve. Brains, they’re fucking complex things!

By Thursday, my foot felt sufficiently better that I was able to consider going out for a short “test” to see how it would hold up. I’m not sure if I mentioned but I run with a group on a Thursday lunchtime consisting of colleagues from work. We are called Mindful Miles. We set the group up last February to promote the connection between good mental health and exercise. I love it! We are the most supportive group of people and we all run for the same reason – to feel good about ourselves. Anyhoo…my intention was to just run a mile or so with Mindful Miles and see how I felt afterwards. I have made the mistake in the past of trying to do too much too soon after injury and suffered because of it and I am absolutely determined that injury will not hold me back this year so I am taking recovery incredibly seriously. Well, one mile turned into 3.1 and all was good – it was slow, painfully slow (luckily for me there were a couple of other injuries around the group plus a pregnancy so slow was fine with everyone) but it felt soooo good to be out in the air, exercising and also chatting away with people. The comeback was on!!!

Friday ticked around and I was going to go out and do another 5k but sensible head took over and said that might be pushing it. Instead, I arranged to finish work early so I could run and pick my son up from school – it’s only 1.5 miles – as he was going for tea and to see a pantomime with my uncle and his family and I wanted to spend a bit of time with him before he left. With it being a shorter distance I felt able to push the pace up a little and really enjoyed the run…so much so that I think I might make it a regular Friday thing. The little fella loves it when I pick him up from school as well so I get the added bonus of the runners high coupled with the beaming face of a beautiful 5 year old happy to see his daddy.

Saturday and I’m really cooking on gas now! I hardly ever manage more than a 2 day streak – usually because I’ll talk myself out of a run to purposefully destroy any momentum. I suffered for years with chronic shin splints and I’m always scared of getting a flare up if I do too much so I tend to space my runs out. I felt so good after Thursday and Friday’s efforts though (and because I got to spend some wonderful quality time with the wife whilst little man was at panto) that I thought bugger it. I needed to go to the post office anyways to pick up a parcel so I thought I would run there and back. It’s about 4 miles, so further than I’d been since boxing day but I just planned on taking it nice and easy. Getting there felt great, no pain and just a really nice easy pace. Of course, the world and his dog goes to collect their parcels on a Saturday so I spent 20 minutes freezing my bollocks off in an fucking queue which meant the journey home was a little less jolly as I’d stiffened up a touch. Still – 4 miles in the bank, 8 for the week overall and a general feeling that the injury was on the mend. Saturday was to be my last action of the week as Wifey was sleeping out on Saturday night so it was boy’s night for me and my son (flatbread pizzas and Greatest Showman is how we roll) and therefore no Sunday long run (we had plans for the afternoon which meant if I couldn’t get out in the morning I wouldn’t get out at all). To be honest though, even if I could have gotten out I don’t think I would have. Like I say, I’m taking recovery very seriously this year as I don’t want any daft little niggles preventing me from completing Berlin so the next few weeks are just going to be a steady build up of miles before I start a bit more serious training ahead of my first races of the year.

Monday – AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…it’s the hope that kills you! I’ve heard that phrase so many times over the years – usually in connection to Newcastle United’s wonderful efforts to fuck up your weekend – and it is so true. It’s almost as if God was looking down at me and thinking to himself “you’re a little bit too confident that you’re ok Sonny Jim– here’s a kick in the ‘nads!” The kick in question is a condition call costochondritis – an inflammation of the cartilage between your ribs which causes general pain breathing. I’ve had this condition for a few years now and it’s only reared it’s ugly head once or twice so why, oh why did it have to happen now. I WANT SOME FUCKING CONSISTENCY IN MY RUNNING, NOT MY INJURIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hopefully it clears quickly (it usually does) and I can be out this week as the wife will almost certainly kill me if I’m huffy again.

In other news, I invested my Christmas money in a pair of Aftershokz titanium, bone conducting headphones! I’ve never ran with music or podcasts playing as I really like to take in my surroundings but I thought that if I’m going to be heading out on training runs of 15 plus miles alone, I’m probably going to want to escape out my head for a bit. Anyway, I picked them up on Saturday (the post office run) and Oooooooooo…they’re dead sexy. Really sleek to look at and actually they’re pretty good. They are super comfy to wear and yes, it feels very weird when the volume is turned up quite loud and you can feel them vibrating against your cheekbones but I’m sure I’ll quickly get used to that. The sound quality is decent and the Bluetooth connectivity is excellent. All in all a decent purchase that I think will come in really handy once I start building big miles into my training.

For recording purposes – my week consisted of:

· Monday – injured

· Tuesday – injured

· Wednesday – not as injured

· Thursday – 3.1m with Mindful Miles – 10:20 m/mile

· Friday – 1.5m school run – 8:25 m/mile

· Saturday – 4.01m post office dash – 9:30 m/mile

· Sunday – rest

· Monday – ill

Thanks for reading / skimming / laughing at how poor this really is!

Where to begin…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

NOPE!

Once Upon a Time…

NOPE!!

TWO HOUSEHOLDS, BOTH ALIKE IN DIGNITY…

NOPE, NOPE, NOPE!!!

Fuck…writing a blog isn’t as easy as I thought it would be! How do you start these things without sounding like a pretentious twat??? OK, I’ll try again:

This is a blog about running, hopefully! “BORING!” I hear you cry and you know what, you’re probably on to something. I’ve never written anything like this before and, if I’m completely honest with you, I’m not really writing this for likes or follows or comments or whatever the fuck you do on a blog. I wanted a memoir of  my journey in running this year, where it takes me and where I end up, both physically and mentally as I embark on my first sojourn into the world of the marathon. “STILL BORING!” came the cry. Look, I get it! I really do. There are probably a million different blogs out there about running and mine is not going to be the one that keeps you entertained or on edge or inspires you. What it will do, I hope, is give the readers (probably only me and my Mrs) an honest insight into my mind as I give this marathon thing a blast and provide me with something I can look back on afterwards and say “fuck, what a bastard I turned into” to!

With all that in mind, here are some ground rules I am setting myself:

  • I will not use the following words because I am not a twat: Runger, Rungry, Runderful.
  • I will never do Runch (running lunch) or bRUNch. I’m from the North East of England – it’s dinner and brunch is just a made up word for snack time!
  • I will take any negativity on the chin. If anyone does end up reading this and has something they disagree with or something negative they want to say – be my guest. Constructive criticism helps us grow!

I should also add:

  • I will swear – probably an awful lot – I do not subscribe to the theory that people who frequently use bad language have nothing interesting to say – swearing merely allows me an instant release!
  • I will be COMPLETELY honest within this blog at all times – I want this to be an accurate telling of my story and how I feel during the process so there is no point in leaving stuff out of sugar coating things…this is a balls out blog!!!

Now, for introductions. Please allow myself to introduce…myself! My name is Michael, I’m nearly 38 years old, I’m married with a 5 year old son and I love to run. I also love to procrastinate and spend much of my time trying to talk myself out of running because, lets be brutally honest, running is fucking awful! It hurts, it’s (mostly) lonely and unless it’s your job, it is very, very difficult to find the time to do it regularly. And yet millions of us do find the time. On Saturday 5th January 2019 340,000 across the world got up, went to their nearest parkrun and ran 5k and millions more probably got up a bit later and just went out on their own or with a friend and ran. Barmy!!!

Anyway, I digress. So yeah, I love running and procrastinating. I also love food, I enjoy a drink every now and then and at 16st 11lbs I am definitely not an elite athlete. I run for fun and for a bit of a challenge but mostly, I run for my mental health. I’ve suffered with mental health problems for a number of years now and running is the only effective way I’ve found of keeping myself balanced and mentally well! I’ve ran 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons and each time I’ve started out with no idea what the fuck I’m doing but each time I have learned along the way – about the mechanics of running yes, but mostly about myself and what I can achieve and how far I can go! I have no interest in ultra’s so I see the marathon as the last challenge for me and it’s one I’m completely prepared to embrace. With that in mind, late last year I signed up to run the Berlin Marathon in September – because, if you’re going to run a marathon it really should be one of the majors, shouldn’t it?

My intention will be to write something each week, just laying out briefly what training I have done and how I feel about it all in general. Like I said earlier, I will be completely honest about everything and hopefully, being serious for a moment, this will be something I can look back on with pride.

So for week one (wk beg 31/12/18) my training was as follows:

  • 1 5km run on 1/1/19

There followed one week of being an annoying, miserable shit because I got injured! WHO THE FUCK GET’S INJURED IN THEIR FIRST RUN OF THE NEW YEAR???????????? Hopefully I’ll get out at some point this week and I can start sorting my shit out because if I don’t I fear divorce could be on the cards as I’m sure I’m bugging the shit out of the Mrs!!

See you soon (or not, in which case, thanks for reaching the bottom of this post) 🙂