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Ten years of running: who’d have thought?!

It started exactly ten years ago. In that strange period between Christmas and New Year. I was unfit and overweight, and a friend was encouraging me to take up running. “Sure, why not. How hard can it be?”, I thought. And so, on 30 December 2009 at the age of 36, I went out for my first ever run. Never could I have imagined what those simple beginnings would lead to. Never would I (or my family and friends) have believed what I would be able to achieve over the next ten years.

I’ve run all distances from 5K to 70+ mile ultras. I’ve run just under 10,000 miles. I’ve run in races (and even won one!). I’ve run on the other side of the world and in some of the most beautiful and fascinating places. I’ve run multiple day events. I’ve run slow, and I’ve run fast. I’ve been a member of two running clubs. I’ve met some amazing and inspiring people and made many friends. I’ve written about some of my running adventures and shared them on a blog. I may even have inspired one or two others along the way.

But I started out like so many others do…unfit, overweight, without a clue. And yet, with plenty of hard work, perseverance, support and advice I’ve achieved things I would never have thought possible. And if I can do it, then anyone can. I’m nothing special. I’m not blessed with great athletic ability, nor freakishly efficient running technique. I’ve just found something I love doing, and found a desire to keep pushing and improving myself. Oh, and it’s good for you too!

A canter through the decade

Of course, it’s not all been easy and there have been plenty of ups and downs. Back to that first run ten years ago – I thought it was going to kill me! It was awful. I felt sick, had to walk, got blisters. I hate to think how long it took me to drag myself round the 2 mile circuit from home or what I must have looked like when I finished. But within two days I’d signed-up for a 10k race so there was no going back. I got myself some proper running shoes and socks and downloaded a Couch to 5K plan. It was a revelation just how quickly the plan built you up from run/walking to being able to run for 15-20 minutes.

My first ever race – Hull 10k 2010

On 23 May 2010 I ran my first ever race – the Hull 10k. I remember it being a hot day and feeling nervous at the whole experience. But I loved every single minute of it. Crossing the finish (in 54:57) I felt a mixture of pride and exhilaration and can still remember that feeling of “I could do that again!”. I didn’t run much more in 2010 but the following year entered three more 10Ks before looking for a new challenge. In October 2011 I ran my first half marathon at Bridlington (1:42:30), and during 2012 was able to improve my 10k and half marathon times. I also had to contend with my first proper running injury in 2012 – a stress fracture that kept me from running for three months.

Although I was really enjoying my running and being part of a club, which helped push me on even further, one big target remained. Like many runners, I wanted to see if I could run a marathon. So I found myself a beginners’ marathon training plan and dedicated the early part of 2013 to marathon training. A month before my 40th birthday, in sunny Blackpool(!) I completed my first ever marathon in a not-too-shabby 3:35:14. I was a marathon runner. Me?! Who’d have thought?! It took some time for it to sink in quite how far I had already come. Only, it seems this was just the beginning. Not content with doing one marathon I knew I had found ‘my distance’ – the marathon would now be the focus for all my running.

Much of my blog is dedicated to my marathon running over the last four years, so I won’t take up too much time describing it in detail here. But it has led to some incredible achievements and memories. In 2015, I decided to take a more serious approach to training, pushing myself harder, incorporating cross-training and thinking about nutrition properly. The results were incredible as I lost weight, toned up and found I could run harder and recover quicker. The result was a superb 3:04:29 run in Manchester in April 2015. I have also really enjoyed travelling to run marathons overseas, including Rome, Florence, Rotterdam, Lisbon and culminating in my 2016 running of all six world major marathons (the Timmyslam). Running 26.2 miles is a great way to see a new city, and I’m already making plans for a couple of overseas marathons in 2020.

My two biggest (and hardest) achievements came in 2017. First, in Rotterdam in April I was able to achieve what is, to many club runners, the holy grail of marathon running – a sub-3 hour marathon (2:57:55). At the age of 44 I actually felt like a proper athlete! And in May 2017 I completed what is regarded as one of the toughest running challenges around – the Brathay 10in10. That’s ten marathons in ten days around Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Not for the faint-hearted.

It’s not all been about marathons. In the summer of 2014, I was introduced to my first 24-hour endurance event – Thunder Run. Along with a number of club mates we had a fantastic weekend running laps through woods and fields in the blistering heat and in the dark of night. It was brilliant. Even a fall in the night and broken ribs didn’t stop me enjoying my 36 miles over 24-hours. A year later I was back as part of a pair, running a staggering 72 miles each (through the rain this time).

I’ve also tested myself over longer distances, running The Wall (69-mile ultra) in June 2016 and a two-day mountain marathon in 2014. And of course, off the back of my marathon training my times at all distances have improved, including a very satisfying sub-85 minute half marathon in 2017. As my recent blogs have shown, the last couple of years have been about recovering from a serious ankle injury that saw me miss running for over a year. So, I might be ten years into my running, but like so many of you, I’m still experiencing the regular up and downs.

Some final thoughts

When I look back at what I’ve been through and achieved, I still find it hard to take it all in. Quite simply, if ten years ago you’d have told me I’d run a marathon I wouldn’t have believed it. And now I’ve run 40! And none of it would be possible without the love, support and encouragement of friends, clubmates and my family. Runners are not the easiest people to get along with (especially when we’re injured) but there’s no doubt I couldn’t have done any of it without you.

More importantly, I believe there is nothing I’ve achieved that is beyond the reach of almost everyone else who takes those first few steps into running. Yes, some of you may be slower than me, but others will find they are much quicker. You don’t have to run marathons; maybe 5Ks and 10Ks will be your thing. Or maybe you’ll just love running on the trails and fells. It doesn’t matter. Just believe that you can do it. Set yourself some goals. And then go out and smash them. And in ten years’ time just think about the experiences and achievements you could be writing about, and how you could be inspiring other people to take those first few steps as we did.

It’s been an incredible ten years. I hope the next are just as good for all of us. Thank you all for your encouragement and support and, as we move into 2020, I’ll see you all at the start.