Hello and welcome to my blog… 9 months ago I decided to enter the London Marathon, I never thought for one second that I’d be successful! This blog is intended to keep my friends, family and anyone remotely interested informed about my Marathon ‘journey’ (very X-Factor I know!)… I hope you enjoy it…
Sunday 24th April- The Marathon
I have tried writing down my experiences from Sunday several times and failed miserably because it’s all such a blur: how can you describe such an emotional, overwhelming and brilliant day? Katie suggested that I write a simple diary detailing how I felt at each point in the race, which seemed the only feasible way of getting across the message, so that is what I’ve done.
I will start by saying that this day was made so special because of the support that I received from so many people and organisations around me. As mentioned before, my wife Katie and my family have been incredible in the last 9 months and have really got on board with the whole spirit of the marathon. They had an absolutely brilliant day cheering runners on and they would highly recommend visiting London on race day.
Also, I cannot over-emphasise the positive influence on the whole marathon experience from the MacMillan Events Team. They were simply tremendous in the build-up (so organised and ran an excellent pasta party), during the race (so supportive at the cheer points) and in the aftermath (recognising all the runners’ achievements at The Recovery Centre). The charity is filled with so many kind and positive people and it made you so proud to represent MacMillan. I would strongly recommend anyone who has aspirations of running for any event to do so with this special charity.
So here goes… The diary… (It was really emotional recalling everything!)
Start- Blackheath 10.00am
Nervous energy tangible as we departed the train from Greenwich and started what seemed like a long uphill journey up to Blackheath. Atmosphere quite muted at this point, punctuated by laughter at some of the participants’ costumes, e.g. the man in the giant pink dress for Breast Cancer, Elvis with a guitar, barefoot Jesus with a cross attached to his back, to name just a few!
Moved to start line and the nerves dissipated, replaced by huge excitement. The positive spirit and the camaraderie between the runners was truly inspiring. The time passed rapidly and the klaxon sounded, away we go… A short walk to the start line under the posts and a gentle running start. Wished the guy next to me all the best- the precursor to one of the amazing stories I experienced on the day.
Mile 3- Greenwich
Downhill into Greenwich through residential areas, lots of hand-slapping with kids. Carnival atmosphere with BBQ’s, amateur DJ’s set up in balconies calling your name and the charity that you’re running for. Conservative start due to the sheer weight of numbers in front of me. Lot’s of jostling from others (this would come back to haunt some people who exhausted themselves in the first six miles).
Mile 6- Cutty Sark
The first experience of enormous crowds chanting and literally screaming your name. A huge spectacle from the runner’s perspective. At this point, felt like I was running on air, absolutely cruising despite having covered 6 miles. Able to interact with the crowd here, with humorous signs (and props) lining the street. Took my mind off the fact that I had 20 miles ahead of me.
Mile 12- Tower Bridge
Further long residential-street running and then… wow! Turned the corner and Tower Bridge comes into view. Such an emotional moment with a few tears. Crowds even bigger, even noisier than before! Banks of people drinking champagne and singing. An immense experience which dragged you out of your “zoning out” from the atmosphere- you simply had to soak it up.
Felt surprisingly fresh and comfortable, but with only a few minutes in the bag to record a sub-four hour time. At this point, I saw my wife and family for the first time… such a relief to actually see them. Big boost. The race really does start from here.
The dreaded mile 18
The legs started to feel heavy here- really lagging. The sunshine came out and it felt like a bit of a pressure cooker in Canary Wharf at this point. My pace improved and I was now eating away at the time I was after. Broke away from the crowd and hand-slapped the entire MacMillan cheerpoint- they were bouncing. Physically exhausting for me but kept my spirits high.
Had a bizarre conversation with a Scotsman (who spotted my Cornish flags) about a referendum whilst going under the Limehouse Tunnel! Helped take my mind off the aches and pains creeping in.
Mile 20-22 Digging deep
Still feeling quite comfortable and making some real headway against the time…then disaster! My right hamstring seized and I came to a crippling stop. Absolute agony as cramp hit me like a train. I moved to the side of the road and tried stretching the affected muscle. Back to square one against the clock and cancelled out all the gains that I had made. It wasn’t working and the guy next to me said “your race is over mate!”
This comment filled me with a huge desire to prove him wrong and I tried one more stretch and finally the muscle eased. In hindsight, I can’t thank him enough for saying what he did… it gave me a second wind.
Mile 22- Shadwell
Spotted my wife and parents in the crowd. Enormous boost. So hard to quantify but I feel this got me through.
Mile 23- Embankment and Big Ben
The crowds around The Tower and Embankment were gigantic and deafening. I had my name shouted from tops of buildings. Absolutely overwhelming, as I continued running in spite of my mind yelling at me to stop. There was no way I could stop now, as the crowd willed us all to keep going.
All of a sudden, Big Ben came into view in the distance. My thought process for the first time, “This is it, I’m going to do it”. So emotional. I still had a couple of miles to go and plenty of time to get there now. All the while my hamstring was on the brink of going again. Eased back a little to ensure that I would finish.
The final mile
If ever a moment captured the whole essence of the marathon, it was when a guy came from nowhere beside me and grabbed my arm to look at my watch. He shouted, “Have you got your time? Under 4 hours?” Me: “Yes, I’m going to do it” He whacked me on the back, “Be so proud mate, you’ve done so well”. He then sprinted ahead, arms aloft screaming “C’mon!” The crowds responded and roared us home, over the finish line. It was a magical moment, which brought tears to my eyes and I was a blubbing wreck as I crossed the line.
The feeling of having the medal placed on you followed by the photograph is a moment that will stay with me forever.
Amazingly, I crossed the line with the same guy I had wished all the best to at the start, having not seen him for the entire race!
The Aftermath- The Mall and The Macmillan Recovery Centre
Walking to the end of The Mall and then all the way back down the adjacent road to The Recovery Centre at The Foreign and Commonwealth Office through giant crowds, then traversing steps to get inside was far from enjoyable(!), but at least it kept the body moving which is important. Once there, the atmosphere was electric: all the runners were greeted by cheerleaders and the whole room turned to applaud you. Spine-tingling. It was also lovely to meet Claire, the Head of Events for MacMillan and Rob who organises the running events, as well as all of their fantastic colleagues.
In addition to the London-based MacMillan team, Emma Wright has been hugely supportive of my endeavours here in Cornwall. It was lovely to meet her for a coffee and recount my story from just a few days earlier. I cannot thank Emma enough for everything that she has done for me and it has been an absolute honour to represent The Cove appeal, which we’ve raised almost £8000 for.
A few final comments
Anything is possible. Anyone who has aspirations to do the London Marathon or any other challenge, then go for it and give it your all. It makes the experience even better, knowing that you’ve given it everything and that you’ve achieved your maximum level.
As if to reinforce that point, here is a before and after photo of me (one just before my training started and one of me days after the marathon):
Anything is possible if you put your mind to it…
Respect the challenge. A marathon or endurance event requires a lot of training and you will inevitably encounter some low points, e.g. Injury and self-doubt, but generally it is the most brilliant experience. People are so supportive because it is a big deal to run 26.2 miles. You can see this reflected not only by the sponsorship but by the encouragement that you receive on social media and when you’re out running on the street. It’s a brilliant feeling.
Don’t give up. Especially if you don’t make it through the ballot (not many people do get in!). There are still many charity places available and as I hope I’ve adequately explained, running for MacMillan made it even more worthwhile. Yes, it involves raising a large sum, but if you’re determined then you’ll do it. People are very supportive and generous. Seek advice from a local Fundraising Manager for tips.
Surround yourself with good people. The personal trainer Rob Webb was invaluable for my training, as well as Jeremy Squibb for his invaluable advice and experience around the logistics of the race. When I first met Rob, I was recovering from a serious stress fracture injury in my knee joint- all because I went off like a train and overdid the running, without the right strength and conditioning. As described in great detail in past posts, he helped reign in my tendency to overdo it and made me focus my enthusiasm to build my core strength: this is absolutely essential to be successful when running a marathon.
Have your name printed on your shirt. For obvious reasons really, but amazingly quite a few runners didn’t bother with this -and even worse, they wore headphones throughout the whole race! Why would you want to drown out that magnificent atmosphere?!
I’ve been asked by people if I would consider running another marathon. Well there’s no easy answer to that… The time and dedication required to train for it is huge and it takes a lot of patience from your family and friends. Also, the magnificent crowd around London gives you that extra boost; personally I feel that it would be quite miserable for me to run a marathon without the same enthusiastic support. So in a nutshell, perhaps I will in future, but it’d have to be one of London, New York or Berlin…
For now, I’ll stick with the half marathons, a challenging distance without being humongous!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Hopefully, you’ve found it interesting and informative. Judging by the reading stats, its been well supported.
Sunday 17th April 2016 (1 week to go…!)
It’s the final countdown!
What an amazing couple of weeks since my last blog entry…
On the day that Emma Wright, MacMillan Fundraising Manager for Cornwall, announced on Radio Cornwall that The Cove Appeal has passed the £750,000 mark, I’m pleased to report that my fundraising now stands at £6483.38 (more than 3 times my initial target)- with further donations to follow. The overwhelming support that I’ve received in the past 6 months will spur me on to run every one of those 26.2 miles in London. As things stand, I will be running for £246 per mile for The Cove, which is crazy (and a little daunting!) but also a huge source of motivation.
Meeting with Emma Wright on Thursday was brilliant and it gave us the chance to (finally!) draw the winners of the grand raffle, which I’ve been running since early January. It was a moment that I was really looking forward to, especially with such brilliant prizes at stake. I called the three lucky winners straight afterwards: thankfully, the main prize winner(s), Andy and Tania, were extremely grateful to have won a week in a holiday cottage in Snowdonia. I’m sure it made their week, as it did mine to deliver the news to them! The raffle itself garnered around £800- amazing!
On Thursday, Katie and I attended an award presentation at Haven House, part of the Truro and Penwith College Business School, where she received her NVQ Level 4 Certificate for Business and Administration. It was a fantastic evening, complemented with a meal at The Old Grammer School and with some prosecco from The Wine Barrell (what a find!), both in Truro.
My plans are now firmly in place for race day, as well as for the build-up to it. I’ve actually compiled a comprehensive to-do list, which is very unlike me: I think my wife thinks I’ve been abducted by aliens- or that I’m going soft! Items such as painkillers, energy gels and safety clips seem menial but they are all essential for a successful race-day. Other, more fundamental things like airline check-in times (it’s cheaper and more convenient to fly than to ride by train!) and tube times on race day could also be overlooked with so many things to consider.
Familiarity with the race route is key, and I’ve studied the route map, along with inclines and declines, pub stops (only joking!) and cheers points for family, extensively. A real advantage for me has been to study the ascent chart for Jeremy Squibb, who ran the same marathon last year, using The Runkeeper App. It has given me some valuable insight into what kind of physical challenges the course will throw at me. I really like the ethos, “fail to prepare; prepare to fail”. It was great to visit Jeremy and his family just before the race to thank him for all of his moral support throughout my training. I feel Jeremy should start his own business specialising in Arnica supplies, having given me Arnica salt, gel and tablets over the past months! I can see it now… “Squibby’s Salts”. Ha!
I had my final PT session with Rob Webb: as they say, “it was emotional”. A tough session filled with pull ups, elevated push ups, dead lifts and Turkish get-ups. Very sentimental! I say that in jest, as I’ve undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds since I started training with Rob before Christmas. Anyone doubting their ability to achieve their training goals, whether that is running a marathon, swimming a kilometre or simply losing weight should spend some time talking with Rob- it all suddenly becomes a lot clearer and more manageable. He’s been brilliant.
Also taking place this week is a final sports massage just to keep my body ticking over and to release the pent up tightness and tension. It’s fair to say that my overriding emotion(s) at the moment is pure excitement, with a few nerves. My final training runs have been greeted by lots of people on the streets of Helston shouting “not long to go now!” which has really built the excitement levels. Today, I completed a gentle 9 mile run followed by weights training in the gym- one final effort before the big day!
All that remains to be said is a massive thank you for following my blog (so far!), I hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it informative. Clearly, I hope to bring good news in a week or so, but regardless of the outcome, it has been the most memorable and brilliant journey to train for a marathon. I really encourage anyone who has aspirations to run the distance to go for it and to give it your all! Don’t be disappointed if you fail in the first ballot- there is always another opportunity via the charity places, which is how I got in. As I hope that I’ve demonstrated, raising £2000 is relatively straightforward if you’re happy to put the time in…
Sunday 3rd April (3 weeks to go!)
Time to taper my training…
Having spent 9 months dedicating hour upon hour building my fitness, reducing my weight and chipping away at the marathon distance, with just 3 weeks to go I can now begin to taper my training to give my body a rest before the big one. That doesn’t mean that I can stop altogether and become a couch potato for the next 3 weeks but I can now significantly reduce the level of running and stress on my body to ensure that I’m fresh for London.
Owing to the dreadful weather on Saturday and a desire to look after my injured shin I decided to do my final long run on a cross-trainer at The Gym Project in Falmouth: the whole 26.2 miles. Whilst this isn’t the same as running on a track, it was a big relief to complete the marathon in 3 hours 25 minutes with just one stop. Undoubtedly, it is easier to use a cross trainer, as it doesn’t place the same stress on your shins and calfs, but this was still the toughest session that I’ve ever done. The intense burn in my quadriceps was unbelievable and I had to stop with 4 miles to go to massage both quads so that I could keep going.
Running in a stationary position for 3 and a half hours is without a doubt the most mind-numbingly dull thing I can think of. Thankfully, a mixture of music, podcasts and live football commentary saw me through! It also gave me a chance to break in my new running shoes and to test my new running shorts over a long period, and both performed well. Thanks to Lloyd and Kay at At Your Pace in Helston for their excellent advice on this.
I had a tough day on Wednesday this past week as anxiety about my training and conditioning crept in for the first time properly. Bizarrely, it is quite a crippling feeling and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t relax myself. Questions about have I trained enough started ringing around my head even though I’m confident that I couldn’t have done much more. The other significant concern is will my body, particularly my shin, hold out for the entirety of the marathon- what happens if it all goes wrong? I decided to get a very early night and I woke up with a renewed sense of belief on the following morning. Tiredness, (the type that I’ve only experienced through intense training) is a strange thing- it can make your mind play tricks on you. God help me when we have children!
Fortunately, the support of my wife and the people around me has kept up my self-belief and motivation. I’m so lucky to have such a great bunch of people (you know who you all are) spurring me on and helping me to achieve something I would never have thought possible 12 months ago. It means the world to me and I won’t let you down. Anyway, enough of the emotional stuff, I’ve got the end of the An Res Hellys race in Helston to catch!
Sunday 27th March. Happy Easter everyone! 28 days to go!
I received my final London Marathon instructions pack in the post on Thursday and I saw the first BBC advert for the event this weekend…as if to say, there’s really not long to go now so you better be ready! I also received my race number which is 41573 (not exactly memorable I know!)…
Earlier this week, I had a really intense training session with Rob Webb. As usual, the session started with a weigh-in to give me all of my physical stats. The startling statistic is that I have now LOST 5 STONE IN FAT and GAINED 1.5 STONE IN MUSCLE. It’s incredible how your body adapts to its changed circumstances and new environment: from coach potato to athlete within 9 months (not my words, but those of the weighing-scales!). I hope this demonstrates what can be achieved through dedication and consistency. If I could inspire just one individual to start regular exercise then I would be delighted… hint hint Dad!
As an example of how much weight I have lost since June, Rob fitted me with a weight vest (or fat suit as I affectionately named it) and instructed me to do high intensity training: rows, push ups and squats whilst wearing 25 kgs. It was desperately tough: this is what I used to carry around with me every day! No wonder our bodies encounter so many problems when we’re overweight; I don’t think we realise just how much excess “stuff” our skeleton and organs have to deal with. It really is a bit of an eye-opener to carry out this exercise…
On Tuesday, I had an appointment with Lloyd from At Your Pace to review if I needed some new shoes. The truth is that my Saucony running shoes are absolutely battered as I’ve run over 600 miles in them! At this stage, it can be risky to replace your shoes as it can change the mechanics of your running style. Once he carried out a thorough analysis, we agreed that by going for the same shoes again (albeit the latest version) then this should offset the risk of any injuries. I’ll just have to go softly softly in the coming weeks until I’ve broken them in…
Over this weekend, Katie and I hit the gym: what a romantic Easter period for us! I ran a half marathon on a treadmill for the first time and I was really taken aback by just how much more effort it took to match even my slowest half marathon pace- it was my most challenging run to date. Whether you could attribute this to a different running style (i.e. longer strides), poor machine calibration or just pure boredom is up for debate. I absolutely encourage anyone who is thinking about starting to run to get on a track outdoors; it’s so much more enjoyable than slogging your guts in a stationary position for 2 hours! The changing scenery tends to keep your mind occupied and the time appears to pass far more quickly.
This week, I reached a huge milestone when passing the £5000 mark for The Cove Appeal.
A Facebook appeal when I was just £20 short worked a treat and my neighbours, Tim and Helen, did the business! No doubt there’ll be a lot of banter from Tim about how he bailed me out, when I meet him for a pint after the marathon. It was a massive relief to achieve the big £5k in many ways. Although those around me were confident, I never envisaged reaching this incredible total. I think it goes to show just how generous people in Cornwall are, especially when supporting a local cause like The Cove. A big shout out this week to Be Gorgeous in Helston and Helston/Lizard Rotary Club for their kind donations, and a special thanks to The Gym Project in Falmouth for allowing me to use their facilities free of charge. It’s a fantastic new gym based in Falmouth Business Park, for anyone in the area!
1st January 2016 (First entry)
My name is Jamie Richards and I’m a funeral director working for my family’s business in Helston, Cornwall. An unconventional job for a 28 year old I know, but it’s fair to say that it’s an interesting and rewarding job! In many respects, it’s the reason why I chose to enter the marathon. Whilst I don’t want to dwell on this too much, we do encounter many families affected by cancer and we witness the often tragic effects of this terrible illness on their lives. This is why I’m particularly motivated to represent those families and to make a small contribution to improve the quality of cancer care in Cornwall.
My initial contact with The Cove appeal came when my family decided to mark our 20th year in business in Helston. Clearly, there are many important and worthwhile causes in Cornwall, but we chose The Cove as it represented a chance for the county to catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to cancer care: Cornwall is the only county in the whole country without a facility like The Cove, which is scarcely believable!
As it happened, I took responsibility for planning a 1940s themed charity fundraiser, complete with a swing band, fancy dress, vintage vehicles and an auction. With the support of many local businesses and individuals, we managed to raise a whopping £11,200 for The Cove, which far surpassed our wildest expectations. Once the evening passed, the euphoria waned and I felt compelled to continue to support this cause. At the time of writing, the appeal is only just over halfway towards its total of £1 million- I’m determined to keep this on people’s minds and to publicise the appeal as much as I possibly can.
Therefore, it seemed logical 6 months ago to do something big and to transform my life altogether: enter the London Marathon…
The Story so far…
Starting off weighing 104kg and unable to even run 1 kilometre without stopping, my prospects of ever being able to run 26.2 miles looked pretty bleak on my first run in mid June 2015. The track was Penrose Estate, which is a place that I have become so fond of in the past 6 months- it is absolutely beautiful, especially at sunrise when The Loe (a lagoon) glistens a purple colour reflecting the red morning sky.
Penrose has become my second home, I must have walked and run over 300 miles through its majestic landscape, from the boating lake in St Johns to The Stable and around the hilly Penrose loop, taking in sights of Loe Bar and Porthleven (often with crashing waves).
In September, I had to overcome a pretty nasty injury: a stress fracture to my right tibia in my knee joint. The first consultant ruled me out of the marathon altogether which was absolutely gutting at first. However, the consensus from other experts was that with total rest for around six-eight weeks I would be able to start training tentatively again. In mid October, I began power walking again and made a full recovery from this niggling -and potentially very serious- injury. All the while, I had to maintain a strict diet to keep off the weight that I had shed from June to August.
At the time of writing, I now weigh 83.9kg, meaning that I have lost over 20kg (3.14 stones). Whilst it may seem flippant to say, even if I totally crash and burn at the marathon, I can be proud that I’ve managed to get myself relatively fit and healthy during the training process.
The Good News…
I actually found that I had made the marathon via email in early September- my initial response was one of absolute jubilation! I burst into the next room and gave my wife a big hug and then called anyone who would be remotely interested. Slowly but surely the enormity of it all sunk in, especially as at that time I had just been told that I had a stress fracture and faced at least 6 weeks of no training at all.
Also to consider were the logistics of how to get to London, where we would stay and what I would eat once I was there. Thankfully, my wife stayed calm and took care of all the arrangements, which I’m extremely grateful for. In spite of my job, I’m pretty useless at these things…Katie’s the organised one!
I downloaded a training plan and swotted up on all the literature I could find, especially nutrition and dieting. Then came the realisation that I would have to give up ale, just about my favourite thing in the world! As they say, no pain no gain. In early November came my luckiest moment: I bumped into Rob Webb, a personal trainer based in Helston from Idailyworkout.com- I cannot tell you what a difference he has made to my training. Rob has brought order to chaos, settled me down and given me a real focus on achieving my goals. This chance meeting has helped me enormously and I cannot overstate how brilliant Rob is at his job.
Sunday 3rd January 2016 (111 days to go!)
Today I completed my first ever half marathon! Not a bad way to blow off the Christmas and New Year cobwebs…
I chose to celebrate Christmas and New Year in true tradition, with lots of wine, cheese and roast potatoes- awesome! However, I also continued to train hard throughout, including Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve to offset the “gluttony”! I have now started ‘Dry January’ (to abstain from any alcohol for the whole of January) and I intend to continue this through to April. The way I see it is that I have done enough drinking in the last 10 years to fill an entire lifetime, so four months off would probably do me the world of good and totally change my relationship with alcohol.
On arrival to Marazion on Sunday, I looked over to Mousehole and the distance appeared daunting- this was only halfway! I had worked out that I would have to run from the far end of Marazion to just short of Mousehole and back to cover the 13.1miles.
Incidentally, I use the Runkeeper app to track all my running activities and the idailyworkout app to track my core exercises and nutrition- both are easy to use and very consistent. Mounts Bay is a stunning backdrop and the promenade which forms the south west coastal path is a wonderful track for running with varying surfaces throughout, which is a bit gentler on your knees and shins.
I have to say that I felt very relaxed and I managed to complete the half marathon in 1 hour 56 minutes. I’m delighted with this time and encouraged as I feel I could shave off another couple of minutes now that I’m familiar with the route. The steep and seemingly never-ending hill coming back into the far end of Marazion was an absolute killer (I could think of other descriptions!) and the type of which I won’t have to face in the flatter London route, so that is encouraging. That said, I’m not getting carried away: it was a solid start, nothing more. The marathon obviously covers twice this distance and it is a different kettle of fish altogether, where mental toughness and other practical issues such as refuelling my body will play much more of a part than what I achieved on Sunday.
Sunday 10th January 2016 (104 days to go!)
Well what an interesting week. I tapered off my training a little to allow me to recover from the half marathon. On a slightly different subject, my fundraising has really begun to take off… In the weeks prior to Christmas I was 40% achieved for my £2000 target. On Wednesday 6th, I received a phone call from my neighbour, Brian Toney MBE, to see if I needed any help in getting some prizes together for “tomorrow’s pub quiz and raffle to raise funds for your charity”- “oh s**t!” I had forgotten all about it…
What followed was a series of phone calls desperately trying to get prizes and friends and family to attend the evening. I’m delighted to say that I managed to get around 30 people to support me at such short notice -in addition to the regular quizzers- which speaks volumes for how brilliant those people are to me. I won’t forget it! Amazingly, the night was a huge success and I managed to raise £334.24 which far surpassed mine or the landlord’s expectations. Whilst I’m on the subject of the pub and the landlord, I must wholeheartedly thank Alec at the Black Swan for supporting me and others in the village so well. Furthermore, Alec, Lowenna and their team have turned the pub into such a success story. They’re always so welcoming, the atmosphere is brilliant and the food and beer is absolutely wonderful. I thoroughly recommend going there. Sorry to have digressed, but I’m now 57% achieved for my overall total- what a difference Christmas and the pub quiz have made! Dry January continues to go well in spite of the night out in the Black Swan- I won’t lie, I was tempted but pleased that I didn’t cave in.
Sunday 17th January 2016 (97 days to go! (Double figures, argh!))
My latest session earlier this week with Rob Webb, my personal trainer was very valuable. We started with a brief discussion of how Christmas and new year went, then did the weigh in… considering how much wine and cheese I consumed, I didn’t expect a great set of results! Nevertheless, the results were good which I attribute to my consistent training over the festive period: my body fat ratio has reduced from 22% to 17% since our first session and all the other readings including muscle mass, water ratio and bone density have seen a positive increase. The most striking statistic is that my metabolic age started at 36 (in spite of 5 months training beforehand), but has now fallen to 24 in just a couple of months.
Rob has taught me the value of core strength training. He’s even talked me round to doing burpees, which I absolutely hate doing! Prior to this, I falsely assumed that I could complete the marathon by simply running, recovering and running with little or no attention paid to the rest of my body. Exercises such as squats, planks, push ups and dead lifts have transformed my body and paid real dividends when hitting the road. My breathing and posture have improved dramatically which has ultimately improved my running technique -or cadence as the experts would call it. In addition to this, I have built in a lot of hill running and high intensity training which has made running on a flat surface seem like a treat!
When taking on the marathon challenge, I was determined from the off to go about it in the right way. As far as I’m concerned, I’m extraordinarily lucky to have a place for London: the chances are 1 in 12 for the main ballot, so I can’t help but think about the dedicated runners who have missed out not once but two or three times. That is why I feel it is so important not to waste this golden opportunity. I couldn’t think of anything worse than turning up on the start line, knowing that I hadn’t put much effort into training at the expense of others.
Unfortunately, my long run didn’t go to plan this afternoon as I couldn’t overcome a sprained ankle. After two miles, I decided to stop running and walk back as my right ankle was too sore to continue- I really didn’t want to flare things up and jeopardise the next few weeks of training, so took a safety-first approach. As it happens, I have a sports massage booked in for tomorrow evening, so the timing of the injury is okay. I should be fine to resume in a couple of days.
Sunday 24th January (90 days to go!)
When I first met with Jeremy Squibb (who completed the 2015 London Marathon for Prostate Cancer UK) to discuss my application, he gave me a really sound piece of advice, which was to “surround yourself with a good group of people”. This advice has become more prevalent as time has gone by and it could also be extended to ensuring that you have the right equipment. As Roy Keane said in his autobiography “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”…
I have already mention Rob Webb’s impact on my training, nutrition and outlook, but my first step to ensure that I had the right equipment was to visit ‘At Your Pace’ in Helston. Whilst there, I met with Lloyd who booked me in for a thorough analysis of my gait (running stance). After the session, which included video-analysis, Lloyd suggested a variety of “proper” running shoes to counteract my natural pronation (over extension of the ankle joint). After trying on a few pairs I chose a pair of Saucony Guides…
Initially, it felt really strange to have that level of support under my feet, even when walking and it took me three weeks before I felt comfortable to jog in them. However, as time went by and my running stance changed to accommodate the shoes I become much more comfortable. In fact, I now wear them around work- quite a unique style for a funeral director! Incidentally, when I first met Lloyd, he was gearing up for an Enduroman challenge, I believe around the Brecon Beacons, which is a non-stop 100 mile run! This puts my challenge into perspective a little! A big thank you to Lloyd for his expert advice on this- a fantastic professional and a great example of what can be achieved with real dedication.
As for my training this week, I have made a full recovery from my ankle sprain and recorded two of my best runs so far: a 6.5-miler hill challenge in 53 minutes on Friday, followed this afternoon by a 15 mile long-run in 2 hours 9 minutes. However, it hasn’t all been rosy! Earlier this week I decided to go swimming in Helston to ease the strain on my injured ankle. It turned out to be a pretty humiliating experience! I arrived at 6.30am expecting the pool to be quiet, but it was rammed. I chose to go in the slow lane. After all, this was my fist proper swim in over 10 years. I shared the lane with two lovely ladies, both clearly of pensionable-age, and they kept lapping me! My thought process, as I become more and more frustrated was “I completed a bloody half marathon two weeks ago and now I’m being overtaken by two elderly ladies”! A real leveller if ever I needed one!
On Monday, I received my second sports massage which was quite an eye-watering yet funny experience. I arrived to meet Aimee -an amazing and inspirational lady who has overcome some incredible challenges in life- and was then escorted through a yoga class and into a side-room. Aimee warned me that the sports massage would be painful and that I would have to keep the noise down as we couldn’t disturb the yoga class! All I can say is the massage brought tears to the eyes and hairs to the chest and (a lot of) bad language… The bamboo stick rolling down my hamstring and calf was without a doubt the most painful thing I have ever been through. Worse than severed tendons or broken wrists. At least I didn’t scream, like some have apparently. Despite the ordeal, it really is actually worth it… After two days, I felt like a new one and my muscles felt totally renewed, really incredible. I’m due to book in with Aimee again in a week- I’ll have to prepare myself for it!
A bit longer entry this week, but a lot to cram in!
7th February 2016 (77 days to go!)
I’ve had a few people throughout my training say to me ‘remember that the marathon itself is just the victory lap; most of the hard work is done beforehand and people don’t realise what’s involved with training for it!’ I guess I can echo this sentiment to a degree. In total, (after a bit of rough arithmetic using the Runkeeper app) I’ve covered over 400 miles since starting to train in June 2015, as well as completing thousands of squats, push ups and other core exercises. That’s about 3 days worth of running in total and at least another day’s worth of core exercises.
In spite of all the (very) early mornings and late arrivals back from work after workouts, I’ve had absolute support from my wife, Katie. She has shown such patience with me, especially when being bombarded by discussions about training and nutrition. It must have been so frustrating to live with me over the past six months, in particular! Luckily for me, Katie is also very keen on her fitness and exercise and she regularly attends the gym. So in many respects, we have spurred each other on and we often have lively debates when discussing who has had the toughest workout each day! Nevertheless, her love and understanding has helped to give me a foundation to put so much effort and time into this challenge. I’m sure that I’ll be reminded about her support when she goes clothes shopping in London with my Mum! Always a dangerous combination…
As is a weigh-in and training session with Rob Webb from idailyworkout.com. My body metric results are in and they are quite astonishing really. I have now lost 21.1 kilos (3.3 st) since starting my training in June. My metabolic age has fallen from 36 to 18 which my wife would say is more a reflection of my maturity than my fitness levels! Other key stats, like muscle mass have increased and visceral fat (the fat around my organs) has fallen from 5.5 kilos to 3, which is definitely down to not drinking in January!
I had the pleasure of sending the first round of donations to The Cove Appeal on Monday. Amazingly, after increasing my target from £2000 to £3000 only last weekend, I have now passed the £3000 mark! Katie and I went fundraising at the farmers market at the Old Cattle Market on Saturday; it was such a lovely morning in such a community-spirited atmosphere, in spite of the treacherous weather. The £130 raised through raffle ticket sales managed to take me over the target, which seemed quite fitting.
Today, I ran 14.3 miles through Penrose Estate. I intended to run further and complete 17 miles but I decided to stop early as my right knee joint started to ache to the point where I started to feel shooting pains. I heeded the advice from my personal trainer and listened to my body. There’s no use jeopardising my place in the marathon for the sake of a few extra miles today. It was disappointing but I’ve still got 11 weeks to pass the 15 mile mark. It was a weird morning in many respects: the four seasons of weather struck, warm sunshine, hailstones, wind and then sunshine again in the space of 10 minutes. Also, after 6 miles I stopped to deal with a nosebleed which is bizarre. I haven’t had a nosebleed since my early teens! A nice warm bath and a hot chocolate soon sorted me out…
I had a lovely message from Emma Ferguson, the News Editor for The Packet Newspapers today. She’s very kindly asked if I would like to do an editorial in the paper which we’re going to organise this week. Watch this space…
14th February 2016- Valentine’s Day & 10 weeks to go!
Just a quick entry this week…not because there’s not much to write, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of neglecting my wife on Valentine’s Day!
We had a lovely time at Bustophers’ in Truro last night, Katie particularly enjoyed the Passionfruit Daiquiri(s)! Naturally, I was on driving duty so stuck to the lemonade- the joys of marathon training… although, it was lovely to wake up with a clear head this morning, unlike my dear wife!
My knee is feeling good at the moment after a bit of a scare last weekend. I reduced the running mileage significantly and took up swimming whilst increasing my core workouts, which has paid dividends: I’ve had no swelling or after effects from the injury. Nevertheless, I won’t be doing any long runs this weekend and instead I will take on another tough-as-hell hill run in Dartmoor when we visit next weekend. Gently does it…
The article in the Helston Packet proved successful in raising awareness of my challenge, but more importantly of The Cove Appeal and my reasons as to why I’m supporting it. The tag line ‘Funeral Director goes on the run’ gave me images of being a fugitive in Marbella! Here’s the full article: http://www.falmouthpacket.co.uk/news/helstonandporthleven/14270150.Helston_funeral_director_to_run_marathon_for_cancer_charity/
As a result of the article, I’ve had quite a number of people donate on Just Giving and stop me in the street to sign a sponsorship form. I’m very grateful to Emma Ferguson, the News Editor, for contacting me in the first place. Subsequently, at the time of writing, total fundraising stands at £3511.00- a staggering total which has far surpassed my wildest expectations. So much to be thankful for.
I have an interesting week ahead planned. Another midweek training session with Rob Webb and a trip to Devon to see our friends and our gorgeous goddaughter, Florence. Really looking forward to that!
21st February 2016 (9 weeks to go!)
Well this has certainly been the toughest week of my training so far: on Monday I had a really dark few hours after a disastrous run. I started the session with great enthusiasm and I intended to run 7 miles around Penrose. After 3 miles I could feel the muscles around my right knee tightening and I knew what was coming next… The same sharp and agonising pain in and around the lateral ligament in my right knee that I had experienced in my previous 3 runs. I stopped and plodded back to my car, really downtrodden. Thoughts were “I’m 2 months away and I should be ramping up my mileage, instead I can’t even do 4 miles”! This may seem trivial, but when you’ve invested 7 months of training and dedication into this challenge, it can seem shattering at the time.
Fortunately, I had a training session with Rob Webb on the following day. I also sought advice from my Physio and between them various potential causes were raised: e.g. The significant and repetitive camber of the Penrose Estate track, poor running technique, muscle tightness and overuse, dietary issues and the fact that I may need new running shoes as my feet and ankles may no longer need as much support, due to my improved strength and flexibility. This demonstrates how much of a science running actually is- so many factors have to be taken into account.
The session with Rob orientated entirely around muscle recovery, stretching and flexibility, which was so useful. We established that I need to devote more time to rolling my muscles with a foam roller to release tension in the leg muscles in particular- it’s worse than it sounds, trust me! I have three people to thank for keeping my spirits high this week: obviously Rob; my wife Katie who has been an angel; and Emma Wright from MacMillan who has really celebrated my fundraising efforts this week.
Rob very kindly offered to do an extra session early Wednesday morning which involved a lot of weight training, including deadlifts and kettle bell swings amongst others. All in all, I lost another half kilo in weight this week, whilst retaining my muscle mass. It is at this point, now that I have reached 82kg, where I will be starting to introduce carbohydrates back into my diet, having lived on a high protein and (very) low carb diet for the past 2 months. I don’t really want to start wasting away! We did an interesting exercise at the end of the session when Rob made me walk around with a 20 kg bag on my shoulders: this really put into perspective how far I’ve come since June- it was seriously heavy and I found it unbelievable that my body was carrying this extra mass for so long.
Left: Rob holding the equivalent kettle-bell weight that I have lost since June
Right: A bit bleary-eyed for a 7am workout! Dedicated and a little insane…
After a roller coaster start to the week, I came away from my training session feeling really positive and with a clear plan of how to overcome the niggling injury. This weekend I managed to complete a 9 mile run around hilly Teignmouth which was a spectacular landscape to run around. What’s more, I finished with a real flourish when climbing Exeter hill which is not for the faint of heart… A real challenge, probably my biggest so far all things considered! A few photos that I took along the way (and to prove to my friends that I had actually completed the distance that I was claiming to have run! Such is the banter…
The highlight was crossing Shaldon Bridge shortly after sunrise. I always enjoyed driving across when I lived in Torquay as it has such lovely views of the sea and towards Newton Abbot:
About two miles further…
The reason for visiting Teignmouth in the first place was to see our friends, Beth and Neil and their daughter -our gorgeous goddaughter- Florence, as well as other great friends (‘The Devon Crew’?). We had such a wonderful time with so many life-affirming memories and it was difficult for both Katie and I to say goodbye to them on Sunday. Luckily, we’ll be seeing them shortly after the marathon for a bit of a do- their Wedding in Bournemouth! What an exciting -and emotional- time we’ve got in the next couple of months…
28th February 2016 (8 weeks to go!)
There’s been a real sense of “not long now!” this week, it really is beginning to sink in…
My parents, Tony and Dee, returned from Antigua after three weeks on holiday and promptly booked their flights to London for the marathon weekend- must be getting close now then! Ironically, my dad -who used to be in the Coldstream Guards- has his reunion on the following weekend, so he will be returning to London straight afterwards. He’s ducking out on spending the whole week there- perhaps wisely as he’d need to take out a mortgage!
With the marathon just around the corner, I’ve really stepped up the intensity of my training, which culminated in a 17 mile run around Helston, Water-ma-Trout (I’ve always wondered how that name originated!), Culdrose and Penrose Estate today. When route-planning at this distance, you have to spread the route across a number of large areas, otherwise it could be a bit repetitive! As lovely as it is, 100 laps of Gweek could get a bit boring…
Conditions for the run were perfect and I really stepped up my performance, knocking 2 minutes off my personal best for the half marathon, which now stands at 1 hour 50 minutes. The really encouraging aspect about this run was that I completed it over a far hillier terrain than before and I felt really strong along the way: most importantly, I didn’t experience any injury or subsequent discomfort.
Earlier this week, I incorporated lots of yoga into my training which is fantastic for muscle strength and flexibility. On Thursday, Katie and I met after work and completed 45 minutes of intermediate level yoga- it was genuinely difficult so I’m terrified to even watch the advanced level moves! Some of the positions are outrageous so you can only do your best: naturally, doing yoga with your spouse causes a lot of laughter, particularly when you fall on your arse! Which I do, a lot…
I received an email from the Macmillan Running Team midweek inviting me to the pasta party at Loose Cannon, a pub converted from a disused underground station near the Bank of England, the night before the marathon. It looks like a fantastic evening and it will give us (my family included) the chance to meet many of the other runners and special guest speakers. In addition to this, MacMillan have hired out a room at Horse Guards Parade for the post-race reception, complete with lots of masseurs(!). I’ve been so impressed with the charity’s organisation throughout and this has reaffirmed my choice to represent them in spite of all the other terrific causes available.
It will be a refreshing change to actually enjoy watching my beloved Man United on Match of the Day this evening, after their solitary decent result of the season against Arsenal this afternoon. This came after a lovely morning spent visiting the Cornish Seal Sanctuary which is just around the corner from our house. One of the highlights was watching the seals at feeding time, especially when they chased away the poaching seagulls- does anyone actually like seagulls?! Katie had a huge fright when a Californian Sea Lion jumped out of the water suddenly towards her (there was a large Perspex glass barrier between them) and it’s now unlikely that we’ll ever be visiting California as a result!
The week ahead promises to be another gruelling one training-wise… Another session with Rob on Tuesday, followed by a sports massage with Aimee. After this double whammy, I might really need my mummy on Mother’s Day next weekend…!
Sunday 6th March 2016 (Mother’s Day)
It seems that after my longest -and most successful- run last weekend that I’ve picked up a bout of “shin splints” or Medial Tibia Stress Syndrome to give it its correct moniker. This is frustrating but not unusual for a marathon runner, after a significant increase in mileage. Consequently, each time that I run, I can now feel a deep discomfort in my inner right leg to the point where I have to stop after a short stint- in spite of extensive icing and massage therapy. The only antidote for this: rest from running (a dreaded term for anyone involved with running, particularly when this close to the marathon). Whilst writing this blog, I’m sat on my sofa with an ice pack over my extended leg with accompanying olive oil for a deep massage, whilst watching House of Cards in the background- quite a combination!
Over the weekend, Kate and I went for a bit of a bike ride as a break: 25 miles along the Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Padstow and back, then along to Bodmin and the return to Wadebridge in mid-afternoon, via The Burroughs Arms where we had a fantastic lunch in front of an open fire. The Camel Trail is a magnificent backdrop and it will be ideal for my final long run of around 22 miles in a month’s time. It was a brilliant day together, which I thoroughly recommend to others (you don’t have to cycle 25 miles!).
We had a superb carvery on Mother’s Day at a restaurant called Wheal Dream in Helston. Considering that they were so busy, the quality of food and the service was outstanding. A big thank you to Barry, Naomi and their team. We’re very fortunate to have The Black Swan in Gweek and Wheal Dream on our doorstep. What’s more, both businesses have been hugely supportive of my fundraising efforts for The Cove. I have now passed the £4250 mark with further donations to follow- a quite astounding total which I can barely comprehend. Naturally, the target is now £5000 which would be incredible…
Sunday 20th March 2016… 35 days to go!
It’s been all quiet on the western front for the past two weeks as I’ve had to overcome a pretty nasty chest infection which was quite incapacitating. In a strange sort of way, the timing couldn’t have been better as it coincided with a shin splints injury, which meant that I couldn’t have run in any case. The week or so rest with six weeks to go allowed me to recharge the batteries a little and to refocus the mind.
A week without any training was deeply frustrating nevertheless. Exercise is such a potent drug and I’m a big advocate for the NHS recommending regular exercise as an antidote to all sorts of ailments. For such a simple thing, exercise has so many positive side effects that are difficult to quantify, as well as the obvious weight loss and fitness gains.
Throughout my time off I felt so determined to come back stronger and to redouble my efforts. Subsequently, this afternoon I ran 23 miles -albeit on a cross trainer- in just over three hours. It was a gruelling experience and not the most stimulating thing to be running in a stationary position for such a long time! I go in to the next few weeks confident that I can run a good time in London, provided that my legs, ankles anf knees hold out. At this stage, the cardio work is in place, it’s more a case of pain management.
I had a very successful afternoon fundraising at Helston Methodist Church: £252 raised from visitors to the craft fair. A massive thank you to Reverend Danny Reed for inviting me along, it was certainly very worthwhile, in spite of missing the first half of England v Wales in the Six Nations!
Today, Eddie Izzard completed the most amazing challenge: 27 marathons in 27 in South Africa, a country that I love so much having visited 8 years ago. I cannot put into words how much I admire Eddie for his determination to overcome the biggest mountain possible- and to raise such a phenomenal total for Sport Relief. It’s a huge challenge to run one marathon, so what he has achieved -under a lot of pressure- is truly remarkable.