Terry O’Gara – my own personal tribute

I love running, I always have. School sports day was always the highlight of my time at school as I loved to compete against others, pretty much from the age of 5! My brother joined our local running club, Wallsend Harriers, way back in 1984. As soon as he returned from his first training session I wanted to know what he done, who he met, how hard it was, did he enjoy it? The answers were purely for my own benefit as I knew that a year later, as soon as I reached the age of 10, I was going to join as well.

He told me about the lads he ran with, Knoxy, Anth, Barnie. He told me about the coaches, Bill, Dave and Danny. He told me about the lads who were in charge, Terry, Gordon, George. About a year later I turned up and met everyone my brother had talked about. I recognized them all instantly, just from his descriptions. Everyone apart from one. Now I was 10 years old, everyone was big to me, everyone was taller than me. I was the smallest there by some distance, it was quite intimidating. It was obvious who was in charge yet instead of being the tall, powerful, sturdy man I had expected, he was slight, light on his feet and didn’t look tough at all! How wrong could I have been, his name was Terry O’Gara.

From the minute I met Terry it was obvious that he loved running and loved Wallsend Harriers. Even though I was only 10 years old he spoke to me like he spoke to everyone – openly, honestly with a bit of cheek and a firmness that made you realise that this man was not to be crossed. ‘So then kidda, you think you can run? Howay, try to keep up with me for a lap’ I remember him saying one night.

When I watched Terry run I realised that not only was he a natural leader with an infectious personality but he was some runner as well! I’d heard that he had ran 72 minutes for a half marathon at the age of 46, it was a few years later when I realised how good that actually was, I wish I had told him at the time. I think I may have said ‘not bad that like Terry, bet you couldn’t beat me though!’ as the cocky teenager I was.

The years have passed and I have had some great times with Wallsend Harriers. I ran races, got fit, got injured, got fit again, went in the army, got married, made bonds and friendships that would never be broken (Terry’s son, Steve, was best man at my wedding). The years have taken their toll yet one thing always remained the same – Terry was the boss. When I first joined Wallsend Harriers he was Honorary Secretary then moved to Chairman at the turn of the century. I had a few years away from the sport when I was in the army but when I returned Terry was still there, still winning races. Now well into his 60s his enthusiasm was as infectious as ever and everyone at Wallsend Harriers loved him to bits and rightly so.

In November 2011 Terry finally gained International honours. To say it was long overdue would be a massive understatement. Terry had been on the edge of International selection for many years but for one reason or another had never quite made the final cut. At the tender age of 70 years old he was to gain his first England vest at the GB and Ireland Masters Cross Country International at Glasgow and I was not going to miss it for the world.

I travelled to Glasgow on the morning of the race with a friend, both excited about seeing our Chairman, our friend, our hero, compete for England for the first time. It was cold, so cold I could hardly speak. It was windy, so windy that portaloos were being blown over (luckily not while people were in them!). It was raining, raining so hard that no matter how many layers you had on you were soaked to the skin within minutes. Then Terry ran…. He ran like nothing I’ve ever seen before, he paced it perfectly, ran up the hills like they were flat, went over the mud like there was a glass sheet over it, the guy was incredible. I stood about 200 metres from the finish, alongside his doting wife, daughter and grandchildren and I couldn’t actually cheer him on. Not because it was cold and wet, it was because I was so awe struck at what this 70 year old was doing. I tried to shout, try to give that bit of encouragement as he hit the finishing straight but nothing came out, I just stood there aghast at what he had achieved. Terry finished 2nd in the race, I was star struck after the race, this man really WAS a legend, a hero, an inspiration and I stood back and admired as the champagne was cracked open shortly after the finish.

Crossing the line at that International race would be Terry’s last competitive steps. Shortly after he returned Doctors found a bloody big tumour in his brain. The response to his illness was incredible. He didn’t moan, he didn’t feel sorry for himself, he simply got on with. People flocked from all over the area to share memories and laughs with the great man. It was a sad time, everyone at Wallsend Harriers were devastated, this was Terry, he had just ran for England, things like this don’t happen to people like him. Unfortunately it was happening and the only thing we could do was to pay our respects and be there for him and his family. Like the fighter he is, he fought off that blasted tumor, surgeons removed it and he had done it, he’d won again! However, there were complications after the operation and Terry passed away peacefully in the company of his family last weekend. I will always remember the last time I seen him, days before the tumour was going to be removed, he was chatty and funny, impressed that I was soon to do a half marathon yet still joked ‘bet you won’t beat my PB though’ with that cheeky smile he added ‘let me know how everyone does will you’.

Terry was a leader, our leader. Never have I come across anyone who was so honest, humble, inspiring and warming. Yes, it’s tragic that he has gone but I, along with numerous others at Wallsend Harriers, the club he led so honourably for so many years, will use his influence to keep going, to keep pushing, never giving up, never giving up on our dreams. Do it for Terry, he was one in a million. I can see Wallsend Harriers becoming stronger than ever…..and we will all know why.

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Marathon Diary (2)

Well it’s been 5 weeks since my last marathon update and quite a bit has happened so I thought it would be a good idea to put it down on paper before I forget it all!  Firstly, I’ve entered a race! Not that I will be racing it, I’m just using it to get used to the competitive side of running again. It’s the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York on 22nd January 2012 and the intention is to get round in one piece in a time of around 1.25 – 1.30. It was a great feeling to be in a position to enter and plan for a race  after my injuries through the summer but I felt that something was missing…..

I must admit, it’s great getting fit after being injured for so long as I have been. I’m not one of those people who keeps themselves in shape when I’m injured. I don’t go out for cycle rides or go to the gym. I eat. I eat pies , I eat chocolate,  have takeaways and I gain weight at an alarming rate.  It is terrible for an athlete to be like this but on the plus side, when I do start running again I start eating more healthy and the weight comes off pretty quickly. We all know how great that feels and in the last 2 weeks I’ve managed to shed almost a stone and I do feel better for it. But still I felt like there was something missing…….

Other things that I’ve enjoyed embracing while my fitness improves are the increased energy I have, I’m less tired at work and the odd late night doesn’t hurt; the better flexibility I have after a new stretching regime; fitting into certain clothes that I couldn’t get on while my weight ballooned. You get the idea. But STILL I thought that there was something missing….

As some will know, I have been a loyal servant to my club Wallsend Harriers for many many years now.  I’m not on the committee, I’m not on the coaching staff, I’m just one of the team who loves being part of something and there is nothing I like better than to cheer on and support my clubmates when they are training and competing. I will go into coaching in due course, I read up on different coaching methods almost on a daily basis and I think it’s where my destiny lies. For the time being though I just love being part of the club that has made me feel so welcome since I was 10 years old. It’s been almost 5 months since I ruptured a thigh muscle and tore a knee ligament and in this time our club has gone from strength to strength. We have a new member, Yared Hagos, an Ethiopian athlete who has started a new life in the North East of England. In his first race in Wallsend colours he won the prestigious Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile Road Race (incorporating the North of England Championships) in a superb time of 47.51. We had a great day as we also had the winner of the female event, Danielle Hodgkinson (pictured right). Stacey Rogers won a bronze and we won the ladies team title. Not a bad day! We also had our first international call up for almost 10 years when our Club Chairman Terry O’Gara was selected to run for England in an International cross county in Glasgow at 70 years young. We’ve also had numerous club records and PBs at our internal Grand Prix event. It was not until I thought about how great it is to be part of a running club when I realised ‘THAT’s the thing that’s been missing’…..

I love running, I love competing, I love being around runners. Most of all though I love to run with people. There is nothing better than being in the middle of a group of runners when you are out for a run.  I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I went for a jog last Sunday with a friend. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t competitive, it was simply fun and I had to have more. I ran with Wallsend Harriers the following Tuesday and although my fitness still needs a lot of work (I really struggled towards the end as the rest of the gang just sauntered along!) I still enjoyed every step.

We have a great group at Wallsend, it’s a squad of hard-working, committed individuals who want to reach a high level. The training is tough but they all get stuck in and support each other along the way. In recent times, there has always been a thought in my head that if I got myself really fit then I would be the club number one again, not now.  There is no way I could keep up with some of the team and you know what, I’m thrilled about it! Not only does it take the pressure off me but it also gives me huge pleasure watching everyone improve.

Everything that has happened in recent weeks, the improvement of our runners, the team spirit and togetherness that you get in a running club, was summed up at the Home Countries Cross Country yesterday when I went to watch Terry O’Gara run for England for the first time. The weather was awful, I lost the feeling in my fingers within about 5 minutes, the wind was blustery and the sleet was hard to endure. Every step you took seemed to be into a puddle but it was all worth it to see how proud Terry and his family were when he put his England vest on for the first time. There were smiles all round, it was a great atmosphere and there was constant laughing and great camaraderie. To top it off Terry came 2nd! Days like this don’t come along very often and the only reason I could feel part of it was because I’m a member of a running club and a great one at that.

So I’ll finish off by saying that as much as I have been enjoying my slow return to fitness, it’s the support and team spirit that exists among my running club that will keep me going. Anyone out there who reads this who may be feeling stale and bored with running or feel they need something extra, get yourself along to your nearest club, you wont regret it.

 

Own the Streets

I was out on an easy run recently, one of those runs that we all do when our minds wander. I was in a dream-like trance as I plodded along and could not tell you what was going through my mind. As I turned a familiar corner a couple of miles from home I subconsciously chopped my stride, the reason for which, at the time, was unknown to me.  About 30 metres later I noticed a familiar obstruction in the path. It’s nothing too bad, it’s a chunk that has been taken out of pavement but it has to be thought about and if you don’t know it’s there or don’t see it in time you will more than likely take a little stumble. I didn’t break stride as I negotiated the little mini-hazard without any trouble. I thought to myself ‘What a stroke of luck that I didn’t have to change my stride pattern….’

It made me think about how much we, as runners, know our streets. We know how to negotiate all the tight turns; we know where all the raised paving stones are; we know how far it is from the chip shop to the garage. We know how long it takes us to get from certain points on a run to another. It would be safe to say that we own the streets. I didn’t break stride on that occasion because I knew that the hole in the ground was there, without even realising it.  The knowledge that runners build up over years of running around the streets is invaluable. We know where to run, where not to run. We know routes through paths and tracks and shortcuts that would be the envy to any local taxi driver.

Last week I planned to run about 4 miles, I say ‘about’ as it didn’t really matter that much. I’m getting back from injury and am only jogging 2 or 3 times a week at the moment so it didn’t matter that much if it was 3.8 miles or 4.3 miles.  As long as I got around my loop at about 8 minute mile pace I would be satisfied. I thought about where I would run and worked out, what I thought, would be an approximate 4 miles. I wore my Garmin GPS watch but purely for reference and curiosity, as soon as I had started the watch I wouldn’t look at it again until I finished. It wasn’t until about an hour after I finished the run that I checked my Garmin. It was 3.98 miles in 31.57 mins! This wasn’t good fortune, I don’t have an unnatural ability to map out courses in my head and predict how long they are, I don’t have great pace judgment. It’s simply down to the fact that I know my streets, I know how far it is from my house to the local park as I’ve ran up that road a hundred times.  I know how long it takes me to run through the dene and back past the allotments, I know the streets, I own the streets.

The next time you intend to do an easy run where the distance doesn’t really matter, do what I did. Plan the route in your head, wear your GPS watch but don’t look at it while you are running (if you don’t own a Garmin then map your route after your run on one the numerous websites that are available) and see how close you get. I think you will be surprised.

Remember, you know your streets better than anyone, runners own the streets…

 

Marathon Diary (1)

I’m still quite new to all this blogging stuff – I mean who reads it? What should I write about? Is it interesting? Why am I actually doing a blog?

The answer to the final question comes in two parts. The first part is because I love writing. I’ve never been a good talker; you will never find me in the middle of a group of people, spinning witty tales and holding everyone’s attention, cracking jokes etc. It’s just not me. I’ve always been the quiet one, ‘never show emotion, never lose your cool’ my brother used to say, I think he got that quote from the Cocktail film. Anyway, it wasn’t until recently that I realised how much I enjoy writing and how much easier I found the process of getting my thoughts down on paper rather than out of my mouth.

The second part of the answer is because I love running. If there is one topic I could write more about than anything else it’s running. I love running and everything about it. I’ve always got my head stuck in the current issue of Runner’s World or Athletics Weekly. It’s given me lots of joy over the years and after I decided to enter a marathon I thought that now would be the best opportunity to write a blog.

So primarily this blog was going to be about my experiences while training for my first marathon. Come on though, that would be far too boring and self-indulgent so I’ll be throwing in the odd story, bit of advice, race report, interview with a top athlete, maybe even a poem or two, in an attempt to keep anyone out there interested in what I have to say. 

However, today is the day when I go back to the original plan and have a quick update on… … … well, me! The self-indulgence had to rear its head at some point and this is marathonmorgan after all.

I ruptured a quadricep back in July and have been rehabilitating ever since. Not being able to run as much as you want to and waiting patiently for your body to repair and strengthen is simply awful. I know I’m stating the obvious to any runners that are reading this but I sometimes forget how frustrating recovering from injury can be. 

At present I’m not actually thinking about my marathon. I’ve set a number of smaller targets instead. I guess that’s what successful running is all about, setting goals and achieving them. You set a realistic target, plan out exactly how you are going to achieve it, execute the plan and bingo! Target achieved. After a period of ego massaging you set another, slightly tougher (but still realistic) target and start the process again.

I’m sure that all runners and coaches work to this theory, it’s not exactly complicated psychology but whether you are a novice or world record holder, the setting and achieving of short terms goals and the positive reinforcement that you receive along the way makes the long term plan that much easier and enjoyable. My first target was to run 4 miles comfortably, simple as that. I set a plan, built up my fitness gradually and on Thursday night I happily plodded around the streets of Wallsend for approximately 32 minutes, covering 4.1 miles according to my Garmin. Job done, now time for the next target…

At present I haven’t thought about the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon a great deal but I know that as I get fitter and stronger my targets will get more challenging with the final task being – Edinburgh Marathon, no slower than 2hrs 59mins 59seconds. Even at this early stage I’ve decided to refuse to comprehend that 3 hours exists, it’s my version of positive thinking.

One of the reasons behind doing a marathon was to experience a different kind of training. I’v had my fair share of the hard, fast intense sessions that have to be done in order to run a fast 5k or 10k. I fully intend to embrace other aspects of running that I may not have done previously. I plan to leisurely do a few Parkruns, something that I would never have considered in the past.

A typical Parkrun

I also intend to do some runs with the ‘development group’ at Wallsend Harriers, it’s not all about the elite runners. Who knows I may even do a cross country race or even fell race as I attempt to focus on enjoyment and endurance rather than intensity and speed. I’ve also started doing pilates and do a weights session once a week. It’s tough, it’s different but I’m starting to feel the benefits already.

I have also introduced a lot more stretching and flexibility exercises to my fledgling marathon training routine. Instead of coming home from work and sitting on my backside, I spend about half an hour most nights, mainly when the soaps are on, stretching and using my foam roller to get rid of any muscle tension I may have. On my run on Thursday I was full of energy and was having to hold myself back, I’m sure it was because I was moving more freely.  Yes, stating the obvious again but as stretching so frequently has never been a part of my training plan, I had to mention how great it’s making me feel.

So the countdown to the Edinburgh Marathon 2012 currently stands at 215 days. My first target has been hit and the next one set (it’s nothing more complicated than being able to run 6 miles comfortably at 8 min mile pace, with the emphasis being on comfortably). Overall I’m feeling pretty positive. Whether or not I’ll be feeling like this the day after a 20 odd mile training run (which will be an early 2012 target) remains to be seen but at the time of writing I’m happy and enjoying running.

Now where’s this month’s Runners World….

Spectating is tougher than it looks!

‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this’ I thought, as we sped along a random country lane in my friend’s car somewhere in Northumberland, the sweat pouring out of us both. This was supposed to be a relaxing trip out to watch our County 10 mile Championships (the ‘Jelly Tea’ 10 miler). Relaxing? How wrong could I have been.

As we almost went through a red light my friend Steve cried ‘it was amber, amber!’ I reminisced about the times a mere hour earlier, at the start line, stopwatches ready, giving last minute words of encouragement to the runners. ‘Does that woman in front not realise we only have 7 minutes to get to the finish! He’ll be approaching 9 miles now and I’m still not sure where we are!’ I heard, as I was interrupted from my thoughts.

The race was a point to point course, starting at the market town of Hexham and finishing the picturesque village of Ovingham.  It was our job to collect any ‘last minute kit’ from our club members, drive to the 3 mile point to cheer everyone on before taking a leisurely drive through the gorgeous Northumberland countryside to the finish. Who knows, we could even stop off for tea and scones before they arrived if we got the timing right Just before the start it was smiles all round then…..Bang! They were off.

'Jelly Tea' runners get ready for the start

We arrived at the 3 mile point in relaxed mood. The race was all the more exciting as we have close links to the leader who was on course for a PB and looking to break the course record, there were going to be some celebrations at the finish!

Yared Hagos racing to victory

As we pulled out of our parking space, spirits high, we were approached by a race official with the ominous words ‘sorry mate, you can’t go down there, road’s closed’. Ok, we’ll take the other exit ‘no chance mate, the traffic is blocked up for about a mile’. I noticed the first beads of perspiration on Steve’s forehead as he politely asked the best way to get to the finish. ‘The finish? No chance mate, not in time to see the leaders anyway. Go back the way you came then….’I didn’t listen to the rest. The guy was talking for about 3 minutes which gave the impression that it may take a while.

The next thing I know we were heading off towards ….the start (?). The beads of sweats had increased tenfold as we hurtled back towards Hexham. For the next 10 minutes I was hit with phrases like ‘I’m sure it’s down here, we used to come camping here when I was a kid’ and ‘we need to find the train station, look out for the train station!’. Steve is very passionate and to miss the winner, who just happened to be someone he assists with his training, was unthinkable; this passion can often be seen as aggression though (as with most runners I guess). We stopped to ask for directions but instead of calmly approaching a passer-by, window wound down with a nice smile, Steve  brought the car to a sudden halt, jumped out and, by this time leaking sweat all over the place and ran towards the nearest pedestrian. Of course the nearest pedestrian feared for his life and upon seeing this aggressive, sweaty, 6ft 4 man in a tracksuit running towards him, simply ran off screaming and threw himself into the nearest hedge. ‘What is it with these country folk’ he said when he got back into the car ‘aren’t they supposed to be friendly?’

So there I was, stressed and irritable, thinking of what could have been when I spotted it, the train station. The train station! We cheered and celebrated as if we were escaping a war zone and had spotted the border. The train station!

The watch was on 45 minutes as we manoeuvred our way through Ovingham. As we spotted the finish in the distance we saw the last obstacle, a ‘Road Closed’ sign, arrgghh!! So without thinking, we parked in the nearest resident’s drive ‘it’s ok, those country folk are friendly, they’ll understand’ and sprinted to the finish, complete with three bags each of ‘last minute kit’, 46 minutes….47 minutes…

We positioned ourselves close to the finish …48 minutes… as our runner, Yared Hagos, came into view. As he raced to victory in a PB of 49.32 we could only just muster up the energy to feebly cry ‘well done’.

It was still a great day but made me realise just how hard spectating can be, I will certainly be racing next time, no matter what. Things were summed up by the winner Yared who only just missed out on the course record. ‘you don’t realise how stressful it is when you’re racing along thinking you aren’t going to make it. No offence but you don’t really know what that’s like when you’re spectating….’. Thanks for that Yared.

A chilled out winner of the Jelly Tea 10 mile

 

Here come the girls

I’ve always been a bit of a running geek. Statistics, performances and records have always been at the forefront of my brain, ready to be grabbed at any time in a vain attempt to impress people or correct those who have the bare face cheek to think they know more than me!

‘Steve Ovett? Well even though he was Olympic Champion over 800m, he never ran under 1.44 and is only 8th on the British All Time list’. Or ‘No I think you’ll find it was Eamonn Martin that was the first British athlete to run under 27.30 for 10,000m. Brendan Foster and Dave Bedford ran 27.30.3 and 27.30.8 respectively in the 1970s’.

You get the idea……

Olympic Champion Kelly Holmes

I have always been secretly proud of my thirst for knowledge of British distance running yet ask me about female performances from the past and I soon become stumped. Why? Well before the likes of Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe came along there wasn’t really much to know. Oh how things have changed!

I joined my running club, Wallsend Harriers,  in 1985 and there wasn’t a female in sight. It was wall to wall smelly, sweaty men, breaking wind and talking about beer, football and women. Out on a run, the lads would openly dive into the nearest bush when nature called, not making a great deal of effort to conceal themselves. Upon rejoining the group it was not rare to hear comments such as ‘that was a good’un, I’ve needed to do that for ages!’ There just wasn’t a place for females in a running club in the 80s.

I don’t know when it happened, or indeed how, but my running club now has a huge female contingent. We have a number of County Champions, former bodybuilders, mothers, teachers, accountants, students and even a solider. These women are everywhere! The changing rooms at HQ are a different place. The only bad language and wind breaking now comes from the girls and talk about football and beer has been replaced by the latest gossip from Coronation Street and the X Factor. Mickey taking is still prominent but has been toned down substantially and the calls of nature whilst out on a run are actually done in places that aren’t visible to the public!

So what can we put these changes down to? Where have all these women come from and why do they want to run? Well you would have to put a lot down to the aforementioned Holmes and Radcliffe; their achievements have made women realise that it’s not just men that can do sport. I have huge admiration for anyone that decides to don a pair of running trainers and take to the streets. You can read all the fitness magazines in the world, telling you how beneficial running can be, but until you have a role model you may not get any further than the front door.

There are the obvious fitness and aesthetic benefits to running as well. We all know how much women like to look good for their men (!) and if it means running to try to trim a few pounds off the waistline then so be it.

One thing that it obvious to anyone at my harriers though is how well everyone gets along. We are one big team and everyone is made to feel welcome. Women can come along, safe in the knowledge that they will be looked after and will make friends along the way.

In my eyes, team spirit and camaraderie are hugely important factors in the success of running and fitness and that’s what you get when you join a running club. It’s not like a gym where you pay a large monthly membership fee in order to run on the spot on a treadmill or lift weights a certain amount of times. When you run you are free. You can run where you want, when you want and you can be among friends while you do.

For whatever reason, the female section at Wallsend Harriers is growing and growing and I for one am thrilled about it. Wallsend lasses are cheeky, they are quirky, they are tough and they are friends. Those training nights in the 1980s are now, thankfully, a distant memory. That’s where male orientated running clubs should be, in the past.

Girls really are cool after all!!!

Anyone interested in joining Wallsend Harriers or seeing what we are all about then visit www.wallsendharriers.com

Why Run a Marathon

Most people see a marathon as the ultimate test of physical endurance. If they can complete a marathon then they can accomplish anything. Others watch the London Marathon on television and think ‘yeah that looks good, I could do that’, not realising that (in my view) a half marathon or 10k can be just as tough and rewarding. Others are badly advised. Others want to raise money for a good cause.

I’ll be honest, from a performance point of view, I’ve never been a massive fan of marathons. I’m of the opinion that the human body was not built to race 26 miles and in order to complete one successfully you have to put your body through so much stress that there is a risk it may never fully recover. When people have asked me whether they should run a marathon I’ve always advised them that they should only attempt one once they feel they have given everything they have at other distances.

So why does a marathon cynic like me decide to enter the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon at the tender age of 37? Well in a nutshell I’ve decided to take my own advice. I don’t feel like I have anything more to give at the shorter distances, the younger athletes in my club, Wallsend Harriers, have caught me up and well and truly ran away from me and I know I will never run a PB over 5k, 10k or 10 miles again. I have gained as much as I can and now it’s now it’s time for a new challenge. This challenge is very different to anything I would have experienced before though…..

The bit of success I gained as an athlete was achieved when I was younger. Just to paint the picture, not to be self-indulgent, I am a former winner of the Junior Great North Run, I represented North East Counties at the Inter Counties X Country Champs 8 years in a row (from U13 to Senior), I won the North Eastern Senior 5k and 10k Championships at 20 years old, represented the North of England 4 times and have a 10k PB of 30.04 which I am very proud of. The reason I mention this is not to boast, I promise, I just wanted to highlight the fact that I very rarely raced more than 6 miles. All my training was done at a very high intensity. There were no such things as slow runs when I was younger. My weekly mileage was very rarely more than 60 miles and most of those miles were done under 6min/miles. Even my long Sunday runs were done at quite a high tempo – I usually ran 14 miles at about 6.30 miling. Looking back now it is no wonder that I done most of my Sunday runs by myself, I was just too intense!

This kind of training enabled me to be very quick over 10k as running fast for that distance was 2nd nature. It meant I was fit, healthy and constantly aggressive but it also meant that once I reached 22 years old I suffered from a lot of injuries and now, as I approach 40, my body is incredibly fragile. My point is that training for this marathon is going to be a lot different from anything I have experienced before. I will have to teach my body new things (the art of long, slow running for starters), I will have to supplement training with core work, stretching and massage and most of all I will have to be patient, something I never was in the past. Indeed, just making it through the training will be achievement in itself.

I have chosen to run the Edinburgh Marathon on 27th May 2012 mainly because there are a few other members of Wallsend Harriers who are also taking part. Wallsend Harriers has a team spirit that is second to none; a few done it this year and by all accounts had a great time. The phrase ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner’ is often bandied around. It’s true; long distance running can be lonely, but not as much when you are a member of Wallsend. It doesn’t matter who you are, how fast you run, what you look like or anything else, the Wallsend crew will always make you feel welcome and make sure everyone has a laugh along the way. Yes, it would be an adventure to go off and do a marathon elsewhere and have to fend for myself but the lure of the company of my Wallsend Harriers teammates was too hard to resist.

So here we are, my first blog post and 242 days to my marathon. I don’t have a target time in mind, I’m currently recovering from a bad injury so I’m pretty much starting from scratch but I would like to think I could knock out 7 minute miles for the duration which would give me just outside 3 hours. I will have to build up training gradually but in all honesty…I can’t wait!

At the time of writing I still consider myself to be a marathon cynic. I know that my perceptions will change over the coming months and I am very interested in seeing how my thoughts change and hope I can share that with anyone reading this…..

Anyone interested in joining Wallsend Harriers or simply seeing what we are all about then visit www.wallsendharriers.com