F*ck This

Right. 
F*ck this.

F*ck that.

F*ck the lot.

Though it’s only a few days since this injury made itself known, I’ve been wallowing in utter pity. Been eating fatty foods, in huge quantities, been in a foul mood and wallowing in self pity.

So, you know what, f*ck that.

Whether it is a good idea or not, sheer pig-headed single-mindedness will get me to the Belfast marathon start line. And if it takes me six hours or six days, it’ll get me to the finish line too.

From this moment I’ll be eating like a legend, spending all of my time on my exercise bike, swinging kettlebells and hitting the gym.

No more moaning, sulking, comfort eating, cryarseing or more.

Fuck that. 

Belfast marathon, I’m coming for you.

Running out of fight…

Though this whole experience hasn’t always been easy, especially through a difficult December and then January’s shin splints, I’ve tried to stay positive. I attacked the gym throughout that month, worked on making my legs strong and did all that I could to solve the issues that my shins were creating.

When things got tough at the Manchester marathon, i gritted my teeth, forced a smile to the people offering supportive comments from the side of the road, and visualised the finish line. Staying positive when my knees were burning helped me finish the race at a decent pace, and filled me with renewed confidence for the remainder of the challenge.

There were plenty of positives the few days after Manchester. After easing back into things with a slow and steady 5k on the treadmill, I went out for two runs, both of decent length, and felt good keeping a pace I’ve not run at for a good while. To be honest, at that stage, Belfast marathon (May 2nd) couldn’t come quickly enough. I felt strong and was still riding a high from finishing my first ever marathon just a few days earlier.

Then, out of the blue, following a couple of rest days, I got a small, niggling pain across the front of my foot. Right on the ‘crease’ between leg and foot. It didn’t feel like anything particularly serious, and I presumed I’d just been sat funny.

I was wrong. The next day it felt much worse, and although I tried to go out for a little run, it quickly became clear something was actually properly wrong. Running was absolutely off the cards, and walking was becoming a struggle. The steps I was taking were now marred by a limp. *sigh*

arrows indicate pain

So, a trip to the doctor later and I’m on double strength naproxen for tendonitis in my foot. I’m not to run for at least a week, preferably 10 days, and fuck me it’s a kick in the swingers…

There’s no guarantee that the 10 days will sort the issue, and with Belfast marathon only 13 days away, even if I can run by then, I’ll have done none in two and a half weeks prior to the start line at City Hall.

I don’t know what to do with myself now. I’ve been struck down with the incredible disappointment that I may no longer be able to run the second marathon of the challenge. I’ve built it up for so long and raised so much money that it’s hit me harder than it really should have.

Honestly, feels like I’ve just got the worst luck in the world. Should have forwarded that chain email all those years ago…

Maybe it will all turn out okay. I’ll recover faster than expected and be okay to do the marathon.

Or maybe I won’t. And then the search will commence for a new part three to the challenge, and Derry will have to become part two.

Basically, things aren’t going great. Not great at all. More soon…

Becoming part of the 1%

April 10. Manchester. Marathon one. Done.
 So I did it. My first marathon. 26.2 miles in the bag.

I got up early on what was a bright and crisp morning before driving over to Manchester with my parents and little boy. Although we got there in plenty of time, the road to our car park seemed to have been closed, and after being sent around in circles at least twice, we had to leave the car in a pub car park and hot foot it to the start line, only really making it there with about 15 minutes to spare. Though it wasn’t the stress-free morning that is hoped for, we got there in enough time to take in the scene before I got going from starting gate F.

The start of the race was a little odd actually, there was no arch to cross under, and just a timing mat on the floor, but I quickly hit my stride and let my worries fade away.

I had a plan to use my watch to keep my pace throughout. I was hoping to run at 10:35 throughout the whole race – which would hopefully see me home in about 4 hours 37, though, as anyone who has been keeping up with this blog will know, I’ve struggled with injury and was happy with any time at all.

Things started really well. I was enjoying running in a crowd, with spectators cheering from both sides of the road. We passed the Coronation Street studios and I got a huge boost when I saw my parents and little boy at the side of the road around three miles in, before we headed up towards Old Trafford.


Although I had my plan, I really found a rhythm and was going along nicely at around 10:26 per mile. I now know, for the next run, that with a little more preparation, that I can probably keep that throughout.

There was a lot of great support around the course. Choirs, bands, a care home’s residents all out on the pavements cheering runners, and it was great to see considering that we would have been so far behind those at the front. At one stage I ran under a bridge, and a huge group, having seen my name on my vest, chanted “Dan, Dan, Dan”. It echoed all around the bridge, and was amazing to hear the whole section of the run filled with my name.

I reached the half marathon point feeling pretty good. And it wasn’t until shortly after that the 4:30 pacer overtook me. However, doing well, I kept up with or ran slightly in front of the group for the next six miles or so.


I really surprised myself as, even in my training runs, I can’t run that far without having a break. I’ll often be forced to have a walk break after 5 miles or so, but, buoyed on by the crowd and the runners around me, I managed to do a full 22 miles of running.

Things were, of course, by then becoming a little difficult. Although until that stage I’d done well with water, making a bottle last exactly from one water point to the next, it was getting hot and everything was becoming a struggle. While most of me was happy to continue running, and I didn’t feel conventionally drained, my legs didn’t get the memo, and it felt as though I had a ring of pure fire surrounding both knees. With my left calf doing its best to cramp at the same time, I had to take a walk break, and that’s probably what killed the rest of the run as a spectacle.

From there on in a walked, limped and shuffled as fast as I possibly could, thinking of nothing other than seeing my little boy, my fiancée and my parents at the finish line. Impressed comments from supporters morphed into “it’s nearly over, you’ll definitely make it to the end” and “keep pushing, you’re almost there”. I was offered more jelly babies than I even knew existed. Bassetts must have done a roaring trade in Manchester over the weekend.

  
I must admit to feeling a little emotional as I passed the 25-mile marker. I was telling myself from 23 miles onwards that it was ‘only a parkrun’ and that I could do it. And, sure enough, as soon as I could see the finish line, way, way off in the distance, I got a little boost of energy, as did many round me, as we all pushed to finish strong (and look good on the official photos, no doubt).

I walked through the post-race village in a bit of a daze, collecting my medal and goodie bag, and have to admit to letting a few tears escape as my parents, fianceé and little boy met me outside Old Trafford cricket ground. Whether it was the relief or elation of finishing, I don’t know, but it felt good, and it felt good to just let it go.

 
Overall I really enjoyed the experience, and am delighted to now be able to call myself a marathon runner. Joining the 1% of the population who have gone the distance and run 26.2 miles. While 4 hours 44 certainly isn’t the quickest marathon time, it’s my quickest marathon time.

  
There are lessons to be learned for mission two: Belfast. I shouldn’t let myself get carried away in the middle of the race, and should instead try to keep my pace consistent throughout the run. I think, if I can do that, it will keep the legs a little stronger in the final stretch. But, at the end of the day, this was my first marathon. It’s there to teach me things, and no matter how long it took me, it was always going to be a personal best.

  
A big thanks goes out to everyone who supported me. From donations to Clic Sargent to encouraging messages on the day, before, during and after my run. And, of course, anyone reading this who lined the streets of Manchester to cheer me on. Each and every one of you got me over that line and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Onwards and upwards now. It’s only 20 days until the Belfast marathon, and I’m going to train hard now in the hope of beating my Manchester time. Please, if you can, continue to support the charity, and I’ll keep up my end of the bargain by pushing myself harder and harder each day.

   
 A sentimental note to finish. Four words have made this whole experience worthwhile. I’ve been a bit of a fuck up for big parts of my life. I’ve messed things up, given up easily and generally been a bit of a bum. But the words that I’ve had in messages from friends and been told in person by the people there in Manchester really meant the world to me. They simply said “I’m proud of you”.

  

It’s almost here

At this moment in a week’s time, I’ll be somewhere in Manchester, dragging myself around the streets, trying not to cry or be sick.

That’s right. It’s less than seven days until the Manchester marathon. It’s gone quickly.

Am I ready? Am I bollocks. A combination of Christmas, injury and illness has obliterated my training schedule to the extent that any run I do at the moment is still being classed as a ‘recovery’ run.

It’s almost here…

Good news first. It feels like all injuries, niggling or substantial, have now been and gone. As long as I can stay healthy (and for me, that’s quite the relative term) between now and next Sunday, I reckon I’ll be about okay. If anyone has a cold, flu, TB, bubonic plague or anything else even remotely contagious, feel free to stay the hell away from me for at least another week or so. Strike me down now, and, unlike some people in popular culture, I almost certainly won’t be more powerful than ever.

So that’s the good news.

The bad? Well, it’s all self-inflicted.

I’ve been really struggling recently – not with motivation, but with the literal act of getting my shit together.

Too many mornings I’ve turned off my alarm, more than half asleep, and before I know what’s happened the opportunity to run has gone. 

Nutrition wise, I’ve been a nightmare. Each passing day has me swearing that ‘today’s the day’ – no more sandwiches, treats, fizzy drinks and such. Last week I had a dominos pizza, today a creme egg and a can of pop. Chocolate bars, crisps, scotch eggs, milkshakes… I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know where a Ginsters’ Cornish pastie lays on the lean protein scale, but I imagine it’s somewhere between turkey breast and sea bass. Fuck sake. s soon as I tell myself I’m determined to get my shit together I end up eating anything and everything I can get my hands on. It feels like I’m subconsciously hitting some kind of self-destruct button. Some twisted, dick part of my brain keeps saying ‘you’ll have it sorted by the Belfast marathon – you get yourself that Twix mate’ and I happily listen, squeezing said Twix into my face, if it can get past the crisps that are blocking its route.

So, no more of that please. Tomorrow is another day, and another opportunity to knock silly vices on the head with such little time to go. If you know me and see me in a shop in the sweets aisle, you have my permission to punt me out of the front door. Honest.
Infact, I read a story about a lad who lost a load of weight as his friend text him calling him a fat mess every day for two and a half years. If anyone would like to volunteer for that role with me, that’d be great. All the chocolate recently has left me wondering whether I should be buying a sports bra ahead of Manchester.

Just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind donations. I set myself a target of raising £250 for the wonderful people at Clic Sergant and with your wonderful support I’ve reached £300, with another £200 promised if I complete all three marathons. I’m blown away by your kindness – and it will go a long way to helping people who need the kind of support I can only imagine.

Got a few more runs planned before the big day. Nothing too fast or strenuous, would be devastated to get injured at this point, just slow and steady to get the legs up to speed and try to nail my proposed race pace, make sure I know what running at that pace feels like. 

I’m pretty confident in my ability to get around the course, despite everything written above, and have decided that I’ll be starting slow. Pretty slow. Slow enough for it to be borderline boring slow. I’d much rather run the last six miles quickly than the first six. Hopefully, as long as I don’t allow myself to get carried away at the start, I’ll be able to retain something in the tank for the end.

No more negativity from here on in. It really serves no purpose. If you know me and we are talking about the marathons, keep it motivational eh? I’ve heard enough of: “oh god it’s such a long way” – “it’s going to hurt so much ” and “you must be mad. It’ll be horrible” for a lifetime. A simple “good luck” would be far more appreciated.

With two of the three race numbers having arrived, everything is getting very real, it’s just up to me now to justify your support, get myself over those finish lines and make the people who matter to me most proud.