During my school days, I would always be taking part in some form of sport, whether that be football, cricket, swimming or track & field. I would run 100m, 200m & 400m for my school at county level, however, once my PE teacher put me down for the 1,500m and I protested that I couldn't possibly run that far. When I moved to high school I stopped running.
Flash forward 20 years to October 2015, my daughter was just born and I wanted to start running again so that I wouldn't be a sweaty out of breath mess when running around with her. I found those first few months very hard. I would run a 1.2-mile loop which would take me between 18 - 20 minutes having had to stop and walk 3 or 4 times, I would only run at night when it was dark thinking that nobody would be able to see me struggling and having to stop. I stuck at it and signed up to run the Great Manchester 10k in May 2016. I set myself small steps to help get me to that 10k goal. Firstly to run that 1.2-mile loop without stopping, then run 2 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles and so on. No focus on time, just go out and run and keep feeling better during each run. Gradually I gained more confidence, I would be running in the daylight, I even had some "proper" running shoes.
I ran that first 10k without stopping and managed to achieve my personal goal of running under 1 hour. I felt so proud of myself when walking through town with my medal on. I was experiencing that race day high for the first time and wanted more. I soon signed up to run the Great Donington 10 Mile race a month later and then the Cheshire Half Marathon, Great North Run and Birmingham Half Marathon and wait for it!!! the Paris Marathon in April 2017, yep, I had just signed up to run a marathon off the back of one good 10k experience and being that kid who said 1,500m was too far. Once again, I used these races as the motivation to stick at it and keep building the mileage up slowly.
I didn't have any knowledge of training plans or how to structure my running to be ready for race day. I would just do a few runs each week and then show up on race day and hope for the best. Winging it seemed to be getting me through the races but I wasn't finding them easy. The 10-mile race went ok, I ran that non-stop. During my first half marathon, I suffered my first injury set back, halfway around my knee was hurting and I had to run/walk the last 6 miles. This is where that not knowing what I was doing and winging it came back to bite me. I was doing too much too soon. I took a few weeks off to let the knee recover and ran the Great North Run with no training, same for the Birmingham half, it was just a case of getting around so that I haven't lost out on my entry fee. I took two months off running to allow my knee sufficient recovery time.
A month after the Birmingham half, I cycled around Death Valley, raising almost £2,000 for a local MacMillan hospice in memory of my dad. I had such a great time out there, it was such an amazing experience and such an achievement to ride 280-miles in five days. This experience brought back that fire and motivation to start training properly in the New Year for the Paris Marathon.
I spent December researching running, how to train to prevent injury, strength training, and marathon training. I brought a GPS watch to track my runs. It was all getting serious now. I gave myself four months to get marathon ready. My goal was to run a sub-4-hour marathon. I was now running with more structure. Doing things like hill reps, intervals and weekend long runs. I did everything I could to make Paris the best experience I could. On race day, I was woken at 4am by a phone call from my mum's careline company. My mum at the time had a pendent which if she fell, would dial home to the careline call center. This call was to say that they had detected a fall but were not getting a response back from my mum. Being in Paris there was nothing I could do besides calling my brother to send him around to check on her. I ran my first ever marathon not knowing if my mum had just died that morning. Needless to say, my head wasn't in it and I found that race so hard, it is the hottest marathon I have ever run and it felt never ending. I managed 17-miles without stopping, then had to revert back to run/walking the last 9-miles. At 22-miles, the 4-hour pacer came past me and disappeared down the road. I crossed the line in 4:05:06. Missing my goal time but crossing that marathon line, I just carried on running, grabbed a medal and t-shirt without stopping and ran straight to bag drop to check my phone. Mum was ok. What a relief that was, then it sank in that I had just run 26.2-miles.
I followed this up six weeks later running the Rock n Roll Liverpool marathon taking 26 minutes off my Paris time. I then signed up to run marathons in Berlin for Prostate Cancer UK, New York, Las Vegas and got a charity place to run London in 2018 for the British Heart Foundation. I ran Berlin on my mums birthday, flying home straight after the race and showing the medal off to my mum who was really pleased I had done it and was asking me about running London the following year, as she was the main reason I was running for BHF following a decade of heart issues. That was the last time I saw her, she passed away that night after a heart failure.
I ran New York and had the best running experience ever, no race matched up to that one, the crowd support was unbelievable and so vast, following that experience up with running the Las Vegas marathon a week later. That was the end of my second year of running. I was now training for the London marathon and running in memory of mum. I decided to run in fancy dress as a Love Heart and to attempt to beat the World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a Love Heart. I didn't end up beating the record, in fact another person was also attempting the same record and he beat me to it. I did, however, raise more than £2,700 in memory of mum.
In 2018 I ran four marathons in Manchester and London in spring then Chicago, and New York for a second time in the autumn. After completing the spring marathons I decided to seek the help of a running coach. By that time I had run 7 marathons but I hadn't actually ran a marathon without stopping to walk and I wasn't happy with my marathon times, I knew I could do much better than my 3:35 PB. Having the structure and expertise of a coach really helped me, it felt like I was getting good quality sessions done and my mileage quickly ramped up. I had that comfort zone of running a certain amount of miles per week and a certain pace. Having a coach pushed me way outside of that comfort zone. I had someone holding me to account, making sure that I showed up and gave my best effort on that day.
Chicago didn't go to plan, my calf cramped up halfway around and once again I was run/walking the final 13 miles. I was so disappointed in myself, I had put so much work into getting ready for this race and then on the day I had failed to execute the plan. I had NYC coming up in 4 weeks and used that failed to motivate me and push myself harder than ever before. I ran the New York marathon without stopping and smashed my marathon PB by running 3:17.
Following on from the success in New York I had swapped from a running coach to a triathlon coach so that I could focus on triathlon, I ran the Tokyo marathon in 2019 but wasn't aiming to run any set time, my training focus was on Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 7 weeks later, Tokyo was just a good training run and to tick off World Marathon Major number 5 in the process. As a result, my weekly run mileage had dropped to 25 - 30 miles and 30% of my weekly training was running. Race day was cold, windy and raining. I had felt ill for the past 24hrs and was running in three layers, hat, and gloves. I just went out there and ran the whole race to feel at a pace that felt fairly easy. To my surprise, I crossed the finish line is 3:01, taking another 16 minutes off my PB time.
The month following Tokyo, I set new my 5k and 10k PB's. Then came Ironman 70.3 Mallorca, my big A race for the year. This was where I sustained my first proper serious injury just 10 meters into the race. I ran into the sea and felt something snap in my lower right leg and just collapsed into the sea. I had suffered a grade 2 calf strain which put me out of for the whole triathlon session. This was when I contacted Purdue Performance and started the run coaching with them. I wanted to get back to the same level of running as I had been in the early part of 2019 but also, I knew that I needed someone to guide me through the injury recovery and to hold me back from doing too much too soon. We are now working towards running the New York Marathon in November 2019, which the goal of running that sub-3-hour marathon at the Boston Marathon in April 2020 and completing the 6 World Marathon Majors. So far, have been with Purdue Performance for two months and already back running strong, enjoying that structure and accountability of having a coach. I have already set a new 5k PB and half marathon PB so it looks like I am on the right track once again with Purdue Performance.
In the space of three & a half years, I have gone from taking 18-20 minutes to run/walk 1.2-miles to running a marathon in 3:01 and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Completing 7 5k's 16 10k's, 11 half marathons, 7 marathons, 8 OCR events, 2 half Ironman and 1 Ironman. Through hard work and staying consistent with training, I have improved year on year. If you keep showing up and give the best you can on that given day, you can achieve anything.
Quick Fire Questions:
· Favourite Race? New York City Marathon is by far the best race I have run. Running the five boroughs is just a non-stop 26.2 mile block party with 3 million people cheering you on.
· Favourite Post Race Food? Shake Shack, double shack burger, fries & shake… living the dream right there.
· Hardest Thing About Running? Fitting the training into & around family and work life is a constant challenge.
· Favourite Film? Dantes Peak.
· Pre Race Song? I don’t listen to music whilst running so I haven’t really got one, but there is a video on Youtube from 2014 called “Ironman – Anything is Possible” which I watch the night before any race, this gets me pumped and motivated to give it everything.