After the Ironman 70.3 and my decision that I would like to one day attempt a Full Ironman, it was clear to me that the biggest challenge would be the full marathon distance. In October I did a 100mile cycling sportive in North Yorkshire, which half killed me but made me realise that the cycling part was achievable and I knew I could swim the 2.4miles required but the running was a total unknown. I decided I needed to enter a marathon and then work on training from there.
It was in about summer 2016 when I also started to use Twitter more regularly. It was the only form of social media I had and I found it invaluable the night before I went to Staffs for the Ironman – communicating with other competitors who were already there and getting some insight into what lay in store for me!
It’s fair to say that having spent 10 years as a head of year and head of politics I had spent a great deal of that time preaching about the woes of social media and failing to embrace the huge benefits it holds. I’d seen so much bullying on Facebook and Snapchat etc.. that I was and remain a huge opponent of it. As far as I can tell Snapchat is just for dick pics? I remember when a student in 6th form asked to go to the toilet during a lesson. I agreed and whilst he was out he sent a picture of his ‘member’ to another student in the class!
So arriving late at social media to say the least I have found myself becoming slowly obsessed with Twitter over the past year. I’d always followed the politics on there and had found it invaluable for my job. However, it was stumbling across @UkRunChat that revolutionised my social media experience and in many ways, my running.
Deciding a marathon was the thing I needed to do, I embraced this community with added vigour and found an abundance of support. The wonderful Sherie was busy organising a group for Manchester marathon and although I hadn’t yet signed up I joined the group and through it met some amazing runners. This encouraged me to cough up the dough for the race and having booked Manchester I also won a place at Reading half.
None of this really explains why I run though. We’ll get there – I love the preamble!
Back in August 2015 I noticed a small patch start to appear in my beard. Gradually this grew and I now have several patches and have to remain clean shaven. However, in December 2016 a small patch started to appear on the back of my head. Now I have always been a little obsessed by my hair! I’ve had a myriad of styles, use product, blow dry it, I even went through a period of straightening it! Anyway, this patch was on the back, not where one might go bald though. I was worried. Since then it has grown larger and at time of going to press I have three patches on the back of my head. The Doctor doesn’t know what it is, Google doctor says it is Alopecia Areata – patches of lost hair which should come back, brought on by stress. My patches now have white hair in them – attractive I know! I have one coming in a sideburn so I now look as if I’m lopsided!
The stress angle got me thinking and although I am a calm teacher I have definitely felt the stress the last few years. As a head of year for 300 it is a bit of a constant battle and add to that the usual woes of ‘adulting’ and it all seemed to fit. My mental health has suffered over the last 10 years, no question. Running is my medicine.
So I run as much now to avoid stress as to stay fit. I know that if I haven’t run in 2 days I get stress and annoying to be around! I’ve always hated being indoors too long anyway, getting cabin fever and the running seems to solve a lot of issues.
Add to that the wonderful community I’ve become a part of. It’s like all the good things of Communism! I love it! We communicate, work together, support each other, come from a diverse range of backgrounds and offer something to be a part of (most of it through Twitter). I trained hard for Manchester marathon using @TrainAsOne (joined through Twitter). I PB’ed Reading half running with Martin (1.49 – it’s now 1.48). All supported through the community.
Manchester meant that I got to meet legends at the tweet up afterwards. Daz Staley and Paul Addicott and their wonderful families, the inspiring Garry who I aim to run with at St Illtyds, Sarah Devill, the dashing Matt, Col and Keith (twin power), Brian (whose PBs I chase), Al the Canadian, Emma (fitness god), Kempo, Bill and even she of 53 marathons fame, Amy Hughes (yeah I know – that one!). Since then I’ve seen some again and Col at every race I’ve even breathed near!
For my first marathon I loved it. Stomach cramps from mile 22 ruined what should have been a sub4 tie but 4.11 for my first is fine with me and I loved it (apologies to man I threatened to punch at mile 24 when he encouraged me I had only 2 miles to go!).
The point being, these guys and this community have enhanced my running no end. Running has become about de-stressing and engaging with a wonderful group of people. As I write this on the eve of my challenge of RED (Run Every Day) July, the encouragement I have received staggers me. Thank you guys.