Thank you to Alan for sharing his Running Story. Joining in with the Inspirational Runners’ Stories Series; helping to demonstrate that everyone can run and you don’t have to have been fast as a child to start.
In recent years, I seem to have acquired a reputation for being a fairly speedy runner, though this hasn’t always been the case. Throughout my childhood and teens, I was always ‘the skinny kid’ who was never good enough to get picked for the soccer, rugby or athletics teams. In my secondary school years, cross country was probably my favourite sporting activity but I was only ever middle of the pack, never showing any real promise.
Despite my obvious lack of ability, I have always enjoyed running and one of my mum’s often repeated stories is of my dad telling me ‘to slow down and walk’. I never did, of course!! In fact, I continued to run, into and through my adult life, simply because it was the quickest way to get where I wanted to be….and also for my health, fitness and enjoyment.
Apart from a couple of fun-runs, I had never entered a formal race, until in 2004, at the age of 48, I signed up for Tewkesbury Half Marathon, finishing in a reasonably respectable time of 1:41. I continued to run, swim and generally keep myself fit, though I didn’t enter any further races until 2007, when I competed in the Great North Run. Support along the route was brilliant, although it remains my slowest HM to date, simply due to the huge numbers taking part.
Back Issues and Pilates
In 2013, following some back issues, an osteopath suggested that I should take up Pilates to help strengthen my core. I signed up for a regular class in Pershore, with an excellent instructor called Michele and have continued to practice Pilates ever since. Whilst it didn’t entirely resolve my back issues, the effect on my running has been amazing and marked a turning point in my athletic abilities. The improved strength and flexibility offered by Pilates, has perfectly complemented my running and has seen my speed and stamina steadily improve, resulting in PBs I would previously never have thought possible.
A chance conversation in 2014, about the then new Severn Bridge Half Marathon inspired me to sign up once again and I completed only my third half marathon in 2015, at the age of 59.
From 2015 onwards, I entered many races, at distances from 5k through to half marathon but had never considered a full marathon due to the amount of training required. Then, upon my work retirement in 2017, I decided to enter the Great Welsh Marathon in April 2018. For this, I researched numerous online training plans, devised a bespoke 16 week schedule, based around my own routine and got stuck in. Finally, at the age of 62, I completed my first marathon in a time of 3:40:55.
Running at Parkrun
In 2017 I discovered Parkrun. I was a little late to the party but have never looked back. It is such a friendly, inclusive and supportive activity, regardless of ability. My 5k times steadily improved and I also made many new friends. How fortunate we are to have our own event in Tewkesbury.
In 2019 I joined Tewkesbury Running Club; another friendly and supportive organisation. Instead of always running alone, I was now able to run with and learn from other like minded people. Although I am generally self motivated, having various club challenges and virtual races to attempt, was a great fillip through the various lockdowns of 2020/21.
2019 is also the year of which I am most proud, as I was able to achieve several of my personal running goals: sub-20 5k, sub-40 10k and a sub-90 half marathon. I don’t mean these to sound ‘how great am I’ (because I’m not) but they are a part of my running story.
The year 2020 saw my 65th birthday but, due to the various restrictions and social distancing, I wasn’t able to celebrate this milestone in any conventional way, so I decided to organise my own 24 hour marathon, running to 1.1 mile circuit of my estate, every hour, on the hour, for 24 hours. I invited local runners to join me for a lap and was grateful to have company for most of my runs, including through the night. It was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday, which I shall always remember with pride.
In 2021, now at the age of 66, I set myself another tough challenge, as I had entered Manchester Marathon prior to Covid, and wanted to complete the race in under 3 ½ hours. Once again, I formulated a plan and got training. Race day was warm and the support around the course was amazing. All went well for around 22 miles, until a combination of blisters, cramp and general exhaustion caused me to slow during the last few miles. Fortunately, I was still able to achieve my target, finishing in a time of 3:25:38.
I have learnt many things during my running journey so far. I have realised, for example, that I am extremely competitive and will push my body very hard to achieve my goals; even to the point of collapse on one occasion, just a couple of hundred meters from the finish line of a HM.
There are many reasons why I run. Apart from the obvious health and fitness benefits, I love the natural movement and the sense of freedom. I plan to continues running for many more years to come.
This is the first time that I have ever written about my running journey and if it inspires just one person to run a little more, join Parkrun or enter a race, then I shall be happy. Good luck, enjoy your own journey, wherever it takes you and I hope to see you there.