Half way to half marathon target
I ran my first half marathon in 2000, as I approached my fortieth birthday. It was as close as I got to a mid-life crisis.
It wasn’t from a standing start, I’d (re)started running a bit at lunchtimes with work colleagues and been part of teams in the Corporate Challenge relay at previous Leeds Half Marathons.
I was impressed with myself for completing the 13.1 miles and inspired by other runners – especially the older runners. I had found something I could do, that I enjoyed and that was good for me. I determined that I would keep it going as long as I could and set the wild target of running the Leeds Half every year until I was 80.
Twelve months later I fell at the first hurdle, I can’t remember why, an injury? But I turned up again in 2002 and achieved my first sub 2 hour time. I completed another four up to 2007 including my PB of 1:49:49 in 2005. Things went awry after 2007, I had a busy job followed by a period of depression.
The 2012 Olympics gave me new inspiration and I did the Couch To 5K to get me going again. I re-did it several times over the next few years in fact. Cross Flatts parkrun came along in 2013 and I dipped in and out. I kept getting injuries that would put me out for a few weeks and sap my enthusiasm and resolve.
I turned a corner in 2015, entering the Bridlington Half with my wife. I really enjoyed the smaller field and countryside route, although the weather in October can be challenging.
I’m afraid I fell out of love with the Leeds Half, which is a shame as it’s my home town half. It’s a great route, but the cost kept rising and I’m not good in big crowds so after 2017 I decided to keep to smaller races. Which brings me to last week and the St Aiden’s Virtually Real Half, on the eve of my 60th birthday.
2020 has been a nightmare in so many ways, but for runners being deprived of races has been tough. Of course you can run on your own, or in small groups, but it’s not the same as a race. Races aren’t about winning (for most of us), but the atmosphere makes you raise your game and helps you push yourself harder – maybe towards a PB.
The last race I entered before lockdown was the St Aiden’s Winter Beast, a 6.66 mile (10k-ish) trail race promising (and delivering) mud, hills and wildlife around the beautiful St Aiden’s Nature Park at Swillington. I entered on a three-for-one basis with a summer 10k and autumn half marathon promised. And then Covid-19 came along.
I am so impressed with the organisers Race Best who devised a way to keep the races going and save important income for the RSPB who manage the park. They marked the route for us and gave us a ten day window to complete the ‘race’, relying on runners honesty and their Strava readouts. I did alright in the 10K and, in the circumstances, am happy with my 2:01:38 for the Half.
So, I’m half way to my target of running a half marathon every year until I’m 80.
I didn’t feel indestructible when I was 40, but all the bits of my body seemed to work OK, so surely it was just a matter of regular exercise and keeping going? What I have discovered is that it’s not that simple, especially as your body gets older (I’m still a teenager in my head). I made a breakthrough a few years ago and took an injury to a physiotherapist instead of resting and hoping it would get better by itself.
I discovered that you need to do all sorts of regular exercise in the gym (eeuchh!) to keep you strong enough to run without injury. And when you do get injured, go and get help and remedial exercises so you can get back out there sooner rather than later.
I’m quite an anti-social runner. I go on my own with the dog. I’m self-employed, working from home and can go when I want. That usually means midweek mornings, in Middleton Woods, as the dog doesn’t like roads. I thought about starting my own running club – South Leeds Loners. Obviously I wouldn’t allow anyone else to join and our motto would be ‘Pro canine et incline’ – for dogs and hills!
However, I do want to credit my local running club, even though I’m not an active member. I finally joined South Leeds Lakers last year so I could wear their colours in the races I enter. The club grew out of Cross Flatts parkrun and is so down to earth and supportive of every member. I don’t join in much, but knowing they are there and seeing members exploits on social media is really important in helping me keep going.