‘Just put one foot in front of the other, remember the finish, you’re past half way now’
‘Past half way?! That means there’s 13miles still to go, what have I done’. No matter how much I tried to reassure myself there was no getting around the fact that this marathon wasn’t going as planned. Blistered feet, blood running down my legs and 20 degree heat after I had trained all through an Irish winter. No amount of visualisation was making me feel better, if I was in Dublin I would have hailed a cab and scarpered home with my tail between my battered legs.
But I wasn’t in Dublin, I was in Paris running my 5th marathon. Never before had I not finished any race I had entered, I had considered it many times but the stubborn old goat inside me always won out and brought me to the finish. Past the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, running down the Champs Elysees and along the river Seine. ‘The family will be around the corner, time to get back on the toes, I’ll decide what to do after I see them’. Past Roland Garros, the scene of many epic Grand Slam tennis finals and sure look it, I’m actually passing people now, 5miles to go, even if I crawl it I’ll finish. ‘Just keep going, one foot in front of the other’ there it is, the Arc de Triomphe, the finish line and my medal, hard won but always enjoyable.
My 5th marathon finish, who would have thought? Just 5 years ago I was on television battling a weight problem that could very well have seen me to an early grave but now I was running with 55,000 people in one of the largest marathons in the world, battered and teary eyed but loving it. How on earth did I get here?
I’ll not go through my time on Operation Transformation in too much detail, that part is well documented but that’s where it all started. January 2012, I was unfit, overweight and standing in my shorts on national television. After 7 weeks in the public eye I had lost 3.5stone and started a love affair with running that was to transform not just me but my family’s life. My plan for running after OT was to be able to run 5k a couple of times a week to keep me fit and to keep my weight under control, but 5k soon became 10k. I’m a determined character and once I reached my initial goal I was always thinking about what lay ahead. I had the time to train, I live close to Marlay Pk, a wonderful arena in which to run and I was willing to give it a go.
Could I run a marathon? It seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier, but not now, Now I was used to running a couple of times a week I knew that by building the mileage slowly, then running 26.2 miles all in one go was very achievable. Most of all though I had a supportive family who began to learn the benefits that exercise brought to not only me but to our family as a whole. Running soon became a vital part of my daily routine. The time alone allowed me to manage daily chores I traditionally let build up, shopping lists, insurance, client reports you name it, it all gets sorted while out on a run – that leaves time for me to concentrate on the others in the house. Soon Maureen, my wife began to run during her own free time and it wasn’t long before the kids asked could they come out too.
They took to running like ducks to water. I now find that running with the kids is one of the most enjoyable things I can do. Where possible we take in parkrun together, a weekly 5k timed run in Marlay Pk. Run by volunteers, parkrun is free for everyone and is a growing worldwide phenomenon. Run, jog or walk, everyone is welcome at parkrun and we became regulars. Now, when away we look to see if there is a parkrun close by to where we end up and with over 100 runs in Ireland now there invariably is.
With a 10yr old girl and 12yr old boy my childrens motivations to run are different, one is all about clocking up the miles and collecting t-shirts. For the other, fitting in his 5k between football matches and breaking his impressive 25minute PB is what it is all about. But as a parent, seeing your children comfortably run 5k is a joy to behold. They don’t always run every week, but with a Mum training for an ironman and a marathon running Dad, they might follow us on their bikes while we train or come swimming with us when we are in recovery mode. They understand that running goes a long way to improving their participation in other sports, they sleep better, they perform better in school but most of all they enjoy it. But whatever they do themselves, they understand that health & fitness is part of daily life and that going to work with a laptop in one hand and a gym bag in the other is just what we do.
I’m not always motivated to run marathons! Dragging myself out of bed or away from the television is not something that comes easily but understanding why I run goes a long way to keeping me on track. That is all the motivation I need to keep going. My specific ‘why’ can change from day to day but as a motivating factor it remains the strongest reason to pull on the runners. It might be to balance a diet, to lose weight, to clear the mind or just to escape into your own thoughts. Whatever you identify as your ‘why’ should be your motivation, your reason to exercise. I can honestly say that I am a better person for running, I could never have predicted how my life has been transformed because of that first 5k. Personally, physically and mentally I am a better person for the time I spend pounding the park and the pavements. If you are thinking of running then give it a try, you never know where it could take you…