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. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

THE ACCIDENTAL TRIATHLETE

Can't swim or ride a bike? I know what I'll do...


A FEW weeks ago, I had another of those moments. One very similar to the one that last September after completing (eventually) my first 5K run EVER around Salford’s shiny new Quays. I loved it, and that was when I decided I wanted to go for a marathon.
At the time, as I plodded up the slight rise to the finish line outside the Lowry Theatre, it seemed outrageous to even contemplate the idea of doing 26.2 miles.
Trouble is, I couldn’t see why not. I knew it would be the biggest challenge of my life but I saw no reason why not. If I could do 5K I could do 10, surely. And when I’d done 10, wouldn’t I be able to try that seven-miler at Longridge where you get a Christmas pudding? Why not? Then, after that, why not a half? And so on, and so on, until in April in Rotterdam I found myself lining up for my first marathon attempt.
That day, it wasn’t to be (see earlier posts for the unfortunate reasons) but my weekend’s experience in the city where Diane spent her childhood taught me a valuable lesson – you just don’t turn up and run a marathon. You have to earn every step.
And so at Liverpool six weeks later, after I had knuckled down and put more minutes on my legs, I managed it. So I proved that with the inspiration of someone special, someone who was my whole life for more than 20 years, I wasn’t mad when I dared to dream.
And I’m not mad today when I come out of the triathlon closet and reveal that I am now in training to complete my first three-discipline event as the latest chapter in the Running With Diane story in aid of the support charity Breast Cancer Care.
When I say “in training”, what I really mean is “in learning”. 
Two weeks ago I had never sat on a bike in my life, even as a child. Just never had one. Don’t know why but it never happened – never entered my head to ask for one and never crossed my mum and dad’s minds to get me one. Also, two weeks ago, I swam like a ship’s anchor.
I don’t quite know why I’m doing this, but I am. It’s kind of happened by accident. 
After the marathon, I had to come up with something even more crazy to do for the charity. Then someone happened to say triathlon and I was hooked on the idea.

This was Lesson 1. Lesson 2 seemed a long way off...

Now, after taking my first tentative steps at both swimming and riding a bike, I can report that I can swim half a length of the local pool breaststroke. Well, it’s a start. If this amazing transformation in me has taught me one thing it’s that small steps bring big changes.
For example, I can pedal a bike now. I still look like I’m cycling through an earthquake, but I’m definitely pedalling and definitely improving. Once I feel in control of the damned thing, I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better. So will the bike.
I like to go for things people think I’ve no chance of achieving. Every day, I want to prove someone wrong about me. I want to surprise somebody all the time. Diane is still my driving force and I know she’ll be with me every moment – just like she has been so far. This is for her again, because I know if I promise to do it for her, I won’t allow myself to waver in my efforts.
The target is a “fun” triathlon at Nantwich in September, then a sprint version before the end of the year and a full Olympic one in the new year.
Yes, September. Yes, this year. Now you think I really have lost the plot, I suppose. You could be right. We’ll see.
If I manage to hit that target, it will be just 15 months since I joined the gym at Smithills, 13 months since running for the first time on a road and 10 months since joining the Burnden Road Runners club.
If I complete my first full triathlon early in 2015, it will be less than two years since, with my weight at 24 stones and suffering from diabetes, I struggled to even get up a flight of stairs.
It will also be just under two years since the death of Diane, whose courage and bravery during her battle against breast cancer has been my inspiration for turning my life around.
Breast Cancer Care does incredible work to help families across the UK living every day under the cloud of cancer, just as we did. There are more than 500,000 such families, and more than 50,000 women and men will discover in the next 12 months that they have the disease.
Nothing prepares you for that day when the bombshell diagnosis is given. The fall-out is terrible and your world becomes dark and desolate. But Breast Cancer Care is there to pick you up and help you through. Miracles do happen. For some, the clouds do disappear.
Sadly, too often – as in Diane’s case – they don’t. But the fight goes on and we won’t stop until we beat this terrible disease.
So what’s a bit of swimming, cycling and running – with Diane helping me every inch of the way – compared to what these families are going through every moment of their lives and compared to what Diane had to suffer.
Can’t swim, can’t ride a bike, can’t run too well? Sounds like the perfect challenge for the two of us... How about it, Di?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Now what have we here ..?

Countdown Clocks

A dream finish

I had crossed that finish line a thousand times. Maybe more. First of all in the weeks leading up to my first marathon attempt in Rotterdam, then, over the last month, I dreamed about the final few strides of the Liverpool Rock N Roll Marathon instead.
This time it happened for real. I crossed it with my head filled with thoughts of Diane. I could feel her hand in mine and hear her voice in my ear, encouraging me and giving me a reason to believe I could do it.
She was there the whole 26.2 miles of the city where I spent my teenage years. I recognised many places I had not been to for decades and on this special day they became unforgettable landmarks on the route of a journey which began just over a year ago.
A journey that started with a promise Diane made me make. During the years of her battle against breast cancer, she would occasionally speak about how I would cope without her. It was never a conversation that lasted very long as I refused to even contemplate such an empty world and talk of death was off the table.
She was worried about my health. Typical of her spirit of generosity. She was fighting cancer and she was worried about me. But I couldn’t talk about it. I might have been 24 stone, suffering mobility problems with my weight and having Type 2 diabetes, but I didn’t have cancer. How could I harp on about my health while she was courageously fighting her life-or-death battle. What I was suffering paled into insignificance next to her struggle.
Yet still she worried about me.
I would be fine, we would be fine, everything would be fine, I said, once this terrible disease was driven out of our lives. Everything would be all right, just wait and see. Then we can worry about me. Not before.
There was no need for her to worry, I told her, no need to discuss it. She was not dying. She was not going anywhere. There would never be a time when I was without her. There would never be a time when I had to go to bed alone, to wake alone, to live life alone.
At least, that’s what I told myself. It’s called hope, and it is the bedrock of the human spirit. It lives in all of us and it’s what drives us on when times are tough.
If Diane thought I could calmly sit there and rationally, logically, almost coldly, plan a life without her, she was wrong. I couldn’t even imagine such an existence, a life without the woman with whom I had shared the happiest 21 years of my life, so no, no, no. No need to discuss this because we will be fine.
For her to be brave enough even to mention what would happen if cancer took her life shows the kind of selfless person she was. And why she was such an inspiration to me from the moment I first met her.
Then, in February 2013, cancer consumed her body and our lives changed forever. But wait. Cancer didn’t win. It didn’t take her from me. There hasn’t been a moment since then when we haven’t been together. Our relationship is simply different now, but not less strong. She is still always here. Just not in the way she used to be.
It was her idea for me to look up and not down, ahead and not behind. She didn’t tell me this during those conversations about life without her. Like I said, I couldn’t, wouldn’t sit and talk about losing her like that. No, she told me later, after cancer thought it had won.
She told me in the unspoken way soul-mates instinctively know what the other is thinking or wants. She didn’t tell me to go to the gym. I just one day got the notion to. A notion she put there without me realising at the time. From there she kept prompting me further.
Why else would I take up running after 40 years of not doing a tap, decades of being the poster boy for couch potatoes everywhere? Why else would I take up running when the furthest I ever ran was for a bus?
Not only that, but why, after years of being the least driven and competitive person you could wish to meet, did I suddenly become energised with some steely determination to do anything that people told me I couldn’t
Because Diane wanted me to. She did it as her side of The Promise. So she was the one who got me to the start line in Liverpool last week and she was the one who held me tight as I crossed the finish line.
And she wants me to do it all over again. And soon. And more besides. She hasn’t finished on her promise to me yet.


One special member of the Running With Diane story


There are many people to whom I owe a great debt to for getting me to that finish line. I’m not going to fall into the trap of naming them all individually – partly because I might accidentally forget to include someone and partly because there isn’t enough room on this computer’s memory to list them all anyway.
But I cannot go without mentioning Bev Walker. She has asked to stay in the background in all this, but I can’t allow that. She was the person who got me round on the day in under five-and-a-half hours, that magical target which was the Rotterdam cutoff time.
Maybe I could have dragged myself round but not in that time. She was simply awesome.
Her offer to run in Liverpool with me lifted my spirits enormously at a time when the doubts were creeping in and with her managing my race, I knew my chances of success had suddenly shot up.
She has a special place in the Running With Diane story now. And she has my undying thanks for making it happen the way it did.




And to see my running pals Dave Pearson and Lesley Fisher at the finish line – as well as my closest and most treasured friend in the world Pam McVitie - to cheer me home was the icing on a very wonderful cake.

Hang on. Did I say cake, Maria?