On February 24th 2016 I ran my first half marathon, sprained my metatarsal ligament because I was dehydrated and failed to train properly, and spent the following 3 weeks hobbling about like some sort of pathetic invalid. My 40th birthday was just a few days later and instead of enjoying the surprise weekend in Madrid with all my family I mostly stayed in the hotel.
Back then I had already realised that my metabolism could no longer be relied upon to counter whatever I ate and drank with gay abandon, and was running semi-seriously two or three times a week to manage the ever increasing waistline. The once impossible 1k turned into a not impossible 3k turned into the regular 5k, and before I knew it I was actually running 10k every other week. I bought a running watch; a super-geeky looking Garmin 920XT that I thought was red but everybody else knew was actually pink, and started counting calories via My Fitness Pal. Between the exercise and the diet discipline my earthly mass steadily decreased, and I was pleased.
Towards the end of a planned 10k, I think it was the fourth or fifth ever, I decided to keep running just a bit longer, at least until I got too tired. Still good at 13k and beginning to fatigue at 16k I should have stopped there and then, but decided to press on regardless. Darren (him from the Chernobyl adventure) had convinced me to put my name down for the Reading Half Marathon in a couple of weeks’ time, but a business trip looked like it was going to get in the way. How cool then, thought I, if I could casually bang out a half marathon today, and give him my time as reference? I was almost at 17k and knew that a full marathon was twenty six point something miles, so if I can just do another measly 5k we should be golden, right? Like I said, should’ve stopped there.
Once my metatarsal had recovered I resolved to train properly from now on, and not overdo it by running stupid distances with a hangover and no hydration. I added an Ultimate Direction running vest to my ever growing kit bag, and started training seriously by following Bupa’s half marathon running programme (PDF), which consists of 3 different exercises each week, regular rest days, and a gradually increasing long run each Sunday. 12 weeks later I was ready to try again, and smashed my previous half marathon PB by a massive 7 seconds. But – crucially – I wasn’t broken for 3 weeks after the ‘race’, and realised I had crossed the invisible threshold separating exercise-as-a-chore and actually enjoying, even looking forward to a run, something I had always assumed was something made up by fit people to justify all that time, money and sweat.
That was roughly three years ago, and there’s been quite a bit of water under the bridge since. I’ve kept up running on-and-off, and have taken to wearing the heart rate monitor which came with the 920XT whenever I go cycling, adding a fitness angle to something I enjoy anyway. Just over two years ago we cut ties with all our worldly possessions in the UK and moved permanently to the Isle of Man, mainly for the improved quality of life and because I was able to work remotely. It’s truly amazing to be surrounded by so much useable outdoors; with plenty of scope for cycling, running, hiking, mountain biking and kayaking right on our doorstep, naturally my thoughts have returned to fitness-as-a-pastime once again.
The final push was a recent trip to the Caribbean, which, pleasant though it was, left me with 3kg of excess baggage that still needs sorting. Time then for another bout of training, and since I have the time I may as well record the results – look out for the fitness category or browse a selection of posts to the right.