It’s only recently that the running bug has hot me and I mean really hit me. I joined my local running club last year, July 2014, aged 46, when an old friend of mine who I used to work with set up a beginners group there to generate membership for the club. I went along and for a while I was the only male there which had the added bonus of me being the fastest male in the group every week despite being so much slower than the lasses!
I carried on going and I began to look forward to it and even started to find old friends and make new ones so there was the beginnings of a social side too. I was never the fastest and I was never going to be. As the title says I’m a fat lad from Yorkshire, at this point I weighed around 18 ½ stone I think so I would just plod on in the slowest group but still enjoying myself.
Time moves on and four of us who had got friendly with each other decided to enter our local park run at Bradford. Now 5k isn’t far when all things are considered but it was far enough for me! I plodded round in around 45 minutes on my first park run but I did it and that was the main thing. After two more park runs my time had improved to just over 40 minutes and breaking the 40 minute barrier seemed to be a dream that would never happen.
And then autumn came and I stopped running. My final year at university had begun, the nights were drawing in and the wind and rain came back. Going outside and running didn’t seem so appealing and combined with the fact that my friends from the club had stopped going too there seemed no reason to go out, get soaking wet and run.
Autumn turned into winter and with the snow and ice the group runs were cancelled because of the risks involved with inexperienced runners in poor conditions. I still tried to get out but only for some walks locally nothing too strenuous!
And then this year 2015 something happened, my mind-set changed, a switch was flicked in my mind and a light came on. I can’t say for sure what it was, maybe the realisation that I was finally leaving the protecting cocoon of university and I would be released back into the wild combined with the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do either made me wake up from the slumber I was in and realise I had to do something.
And one thing I realised I had to do was to get fit. My weight had dropped to 18st and I could walk slowly round the village where I live but I struggled and would soon feel out of breath, stopping for a rest and sometimes wishing I hadn’t come out.
But the friends I had made from the running club kept in contact and we began to talk of a return to the club. All of us had put weight on and needed to shift some fat and with spring fast approaching it meant it would be light at night again when we had all got home and so we could go out and see where we were running!
And so we went back to our running club, together of course because so many new people had joined since we last went we all felt a touch nervous about going on our own. But we needn’t have worried. We were soon all talking to each other and laughing and ready for our first run.
The lad who leads the group as a whole also leads the beginners group. I say beginners because this is the group into which new runners to the club can go if they want to, just to ease themselves into running and see how they do.
Where I live is on top of a hill in West Yorkshire but it is possible to run round it without encountering too many hills if you know what you’re doing! We did this for a few weeks and were soon back into the swing of things. I felt comfortable in this group and did not want to move out of it, mainly I think from a fear of embarrassing myself in the next group up.
And then we heard of a new 5k park run that was being started in Halifax. Now although we are in Bradford we are literally on the outskirts of that city and Halifax is closer to us so we decided to give it a try.
The event is held at Shroggs Park in Halifax and the course is a lot more challenging than the one at Bradford being a loop with two climbs of decent length for a park. I missed the first one, but I made it for the second one and lumbered round in around 45+ minutes. This was due to me familiarising myself with the course and being quite unfit and overweight!
But around this time I also started to eat healthier and go out more on my own. Nothing too hard but just running down one of the longer roads in my village was a major achievement for me and something I was quite proud of at the time. I had to miss the next park run at Shroggs Park but turned up for the next one with a plan in mind.
After giving it some thought I had decided that the best idea for me was to run the downhill parts and walk the uphill parts. I did this and got a new PB for the 5k of 37.25! I felt good and I was happy with this result. My plan had worked and I had no aches and pains from running what I thought was an intelligent race.
But then I thought I can do better. Yes I felt good at the end but I also knew I had plenty left in the tank, I knew I hadn’t given it 100% and I knew if I could conquer the hills my time would come down dramatically. So at the running club I decided to move up a group and start to push myself.
The next group up is run by a young lass and she comes with a reputation for training you hard, but getting the most out of you. I joined her group and she told us that we were doing some hill work. Now although I felt a bit apprehensive I also knew that this was exactly what I needed to improve my times.
And the hard work did pay off. At the next park run I just went for it from the start. It was hard work and didn’t feel very fast although the app on my phone told me otherwise. As I started my last lap I know I had given it my all as my legs were beginning to feel like lead weights and I sensed I was slowing down.
Past the start/finish line for the third and last time and the uphill slope felt like a mountain. However what kept me going was not only my determination to finish but two ladies who kept overtaking me and then running in front of me instead of moving to the side. This really infuriated me because I felt they were being very disrespectful towards me.
On the last uphill section I went flying past them using up my last reserves of energy, but it was enough to pull out a gap which they could not pull back. I did worry though that they would catch me on the finishing straight as I reached the top of the hill. My legs had gone, my whole body had gone, I literally had nothing left, yet somehow I managed to haul 17st+ over the finishing line for a time of 35.50 according to my phone.
I knew I had a new PB and whilst it was in the 35 minute zone I was aiming for I was a little bit disappointed it wasn’t faster as I had put so much effort into the race and literally had nothing left to give at the end.
The results are usually released around 12.30pm – 1.00pm after the race but this time they were released late, very late. I think it was around 3.00pm when they finally dropped into my inbox and to my amazement my official time was 34.55! I could not believe this. How could my phone be nearly a minute out? I looked again and yes the time was still 34.55.
So after all that my efforts had been worth it and I was rewarded with a new PB in a time that, three months previously I would not have dreamed of. I felt so good about it I could have cried. To many people who do not understand running it will have no meaning. The winner was also from the club I run with and he won it in around 17 ½ minutes.
But to me it was more than just a time. It was a vindication of my new diet and the extra training I was putting into running that somehow I was on the right path and that I could do something on my own with help from some amazing people at the club.