Monday, 26 January 2015

Back on track

THESE are the darkest weeks. It’s coming up to two years since I lost my beloved Diane and the pain of being without someone so special doesn’t get any easier.
It seems to me the pain doesn’t diminish; it’s just the ability to deal with it and manage it which improves over time. I feel the sense of loss has increased, if anything. Every day that passes just confirms how she’s not coming back, how this is what life is now, a life without Diane to hold and, in a literal sense, lean on. The longer I am without her alongside me, the greater the sadness that this is how it will always be.
Of course, I lean on her still emotionally and she is as much a part of me in my heart and mind as she always was in life. But that warmth of her next to me, that sense of comfort you get from having someone there alongside you, that is still missing and the more it is missing, the more lonely you feel.
I’m lucky that I am surrounded by good people, friends who are supportive and who understand. I’m blessed to have my two beautiful doggies Cassie and Bonny looking after me, caring for me. And I’m extra blessed to have discovered running.
During the months after my first “fun” triathlon in Nantwich in September, I admit I lost my way a bit. It was difficult to get motivated and when I did run, it usually ended up in disappointment, a reminder that if you neglect to train, your body will go backwards. All that progress you made will be at risk. And yet you still can’t seem to convince yourself to knuckle down and get back on track.
The winter will always be difficult for me. November 28 is Diane’s birthday, and every year it marks the first of many sad anniversaries that go through Christmas and finish on Valentine’s Day, the day in 2013 when I said farewell to her at her funeral.
So we are in the thick of this dark period. But hope is never far away. We all need hope. It’s what drives us on and makes us strive to see what tomorrow will bring. No hope means no tomorrows.
Diane has reminded me this week of how much I have to look forward to, how much we have to do together this year. And I have started to get on with it. I have begun to feel re-motivated. The anniversary of her passing on February 6, 2013 is fast approaching and as it nears, in a perverse way, I feel her inspiring me again.
You’d think that would see me at my lowest. But strangely no. Yes, these are dark days filled with sad anniversaries. But they are also the days when I remember how courageous she was in those final weeks. How she fought, the dignity she showed.
I held her hand constantly in those final days and I remember now in the depths of this bleak time of the year, how that felt. And it’s the same feeling I have today. I still feel her hand in mine and always will. She is my inspiration and the power behind everything I do .
I’m writing this just as the sun comes up. Another dawn, another tomorrow filled with hope. And hand in hand, Diane and I will continue to strive to fill it. She is still making memories for me.
Selfishly, I have to now admit something. This blog entry is not for you today. It is for me. It is for me to read to myself over and over during the coming days to remind myself that Diane is still my whole life, my reason to do more today than I did yesterday, to aim higher than ever before. To honour her and do justice to her memory, I need to stop thinking ‘I can’t’ and make damned sure ‘I can’.
So she’s at it again. Inspiring me. I’m back on track, thanks to her. As usual, she is and has always been the force makes everything I do possible.
And in this dark, bleak time of remembrance, that fills me with renewed hope.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Crazy? You ain't seen nothing yet...


I’m in! Who’s with me? Or should I say, who’s bringing up the rear with me and making the marshals curse about how late it’s getting “and there’s still a few out there”?

There are some things in life you just have to face up to and bite the bullet – and the famous hill marathon in my own back yard is one of them. Inspired by watching my fellow Burndeners tackle the gruelling event last year, I pledged to have a crack at it myself. Now I can’t wait.

If Diane thought that after 40 years as an avid couch potato I was mad to take up running at the age of 58, after ditching nine stones in a year, then she ain’t seen nothing yet.

It will certainly be the toughest thing I will have attempted in my brief life as a distance runner – but I’ve news for you, Diane – it’s not the craziest thing I have planned… Watch this space!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why today was a special day

EVERY now and then, people come into your life that make you wonder how you ever managed without them.
There haven’t been that many in my 58 years but that just emphasises how special they are when they do appear.
When they come along, they change your life. They add to it, their friendship enriches it and their guidance helps you make more right decisions than you would otherwise have done. They make you a better person, because you learn from them how to be towards others.
Diane was one. Everyone who knew Diane was the better for it. She had that effect on people. When I lost her, I thought my world had ended. But she soon put me right on that score. She made me turn my life around and in so doing she made me meet some wonderful, new friends.
She’s the driving force behind the posts on this blog. Every now and then I’ll think of her and I’ll find myself suddenly thinking of something I need to put down in writing. It’s happened again tonight.
This post was originally going to be selfishly all about me and what I did today – my first major bike ride in quite a fair bit of traffic plus more lengths of Horwich pool ahead of this impending "fun" triathlon next month.
But that’s not the most important thing that happened to me today. 
The best part of today was to spend time with two of these very special people I’m talking about, to realise just how much they mean to me and how much they have quickly become such a big part of my new life now.
I can do so much more physically now in terms of running, swimming and cycling than I could before and it’s an amazing feeling – but it’s nothing compared to what it means to have discovered friends like these. Like I say, this isn’t the post they were expecting to read after our exploits today. 
But their kindness has made me realise that even if I could bike a thousand miles, swim an ocean and then run across a desert it wouldn’t mean half as much to me as those few (shaky) miles I did today and the joy of just being in their company.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

To the many who are doing it Steve's Way

COMMONWEALTH Games marathon man Steve Way's incredible journey from poor health and bad diet to last Sunday's epic performance around the streets of Glasgow proves just what can be achieved if you are determined to turn your life around.
I know how he must feel even though I know I'll never match his level of performance (after all, I'm old enough to be his dad!) But I know the sense of pride he feels this week will be the same sense of pride that all runners feel when they achieve something which would have been impossible a few years ago.
It's the same feeling you get when you do two minutes on a treadmill after only being able to do one minute the week before. The distance and the scale of the achievement is not what makes us burst with pride - it's the fact that we made a decision to reach for seemingly impossible goals - whether it's over 5K, a marathon or an ultra event.
Steve has inspired me to try harder, aim higher and reach further. But then so have a load of people who do their running well down the pack towards the back of the field, but who are still achieving more than they could ever have dreamt possible.
Inspiration comes from everywhere in a race, often the back of the pack. It's a great feeling to be part of the whole running community which includes Steve and the hundreds of thousands of other inspirational people who strive to improve their lives beyond measure every week and every time they run.

Bolton News, Saturday July 26

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Word gets around!

Coventry Telegraph, Monday July 21

Worcester News website, Sunday July 13

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The awesome Ironmen

It's Ironman weekend in Bolton, when men become supermen. It's a weekend they will never forget, when they rise to be, quite simply, legends. They are doing something beyond the capability of billions of people. They define the word elite and they deserve every accolade they receive. They are simply awesome.
It is their spirit and drive which has inspired me to want to learn to swim and ride a bike so I can compete in a junior triathlon. After that, who knows? One thing I've learnt over the past 18 months is that you should never say never. Never say enough is enough because whatever you have achieved, there's always more.
No-one can ever stop and say they've done it all. No human in the history of mankind has ever been able to. No matter how much they achieved, there was still more to strive for. That's what should drive us on every day. We should always aim high, and then higher and never stop testing ourselves. 
There is no such thing as failure if you try to achieve something. 
The only failure is if you don't try. If you limit yourself to what you think you can do, instead of saying to yourself: 'I wonder how much I can do', then you have let yourself down. 
Realise your full potential.
Don't tell yourself you can't run lose weight and get fit, ask yourself: 'I wonder if I can lose weight and get fit'. Don't shrug your shoulders and say you'll never be able to run a 5K, ask yourself: 'I wonder if I can run a 5K'. Then when you achieve what you didn't think you could, you suddenly wonder just how far you can take all this.
A 10K, a 10-miler, a half, a full marathon... and then, maybe, just maybe, have a crack at even more.
Diane's courage in her six and a half year battle against breast cancer has inspired me to reach for stuff I never dreamed possible. With her to guide me, I went from someone who said ‘I could never do that’ to someone who wondered if he could.
If you’d told me at the start of 2013 when I weighed 24 stone and struggled up a flight of stairs that I could run 50 yards if I put my mind to it, I'd have laughed at you. If I'd had the breath to.
But losing Diane changed everything. I realised how precious every second of life is, how it’s so foolish to waste a single moment wondering.
Better to fill that moment trying.
So my dream to lose weight became my dream to run a 5K and then a 10K. And that became a dream to run a half marathon and then a full one. Now that has become a dream to learn to swim and cycle to have a go at a triathlon. And if that works out, who knows?
Nobody knows. That’s the answer. Nobody knows. Least of all you until you have a go and see for yourself.
Never say never. Always reach for what you think is impossible and even if you come up short you’ll be amazed how far you travelled just attempting it.
That’s what I learned in Rotterdam. I was devastated. I thought I’d failed. Then I realised how far I’d come and that this was just another lesson along the way.
I might never get to a sufficiently high standard to do an Ironman. I still swim like I'm in an invisible diving suit and have yet to summon up the courage to ride a bike in traffic, but I swim better than I did three weeks ago and today I rode a bike for the first time with something bordering on confidence. It’s coming.
So as Ironmen test themselves to their own limit, this weekend has seen me take a giant leap forward too.
I might never be able to attempt an Ironman but don't tell me I can't.
If I am not able to, it will because I tried and didn't make it. That's something entirely different.
The amazing athletes competing in the gruelling event this weekend didn’t get to the start line because they knew they could. They got there because they wouldn’t let anyone tell them they couldn’t.