Monday, 9 March 2015

The start line

Nice people need more encouragement. Modest, reserved folk who live their lives respecting others have a tendency to undervalue themselves in the process. How many times have you watched someone achieve something in their life and thought to yourself, ‘I could never do that’.
Well, stop. Consciously make yourself stop thinking that way. We are always underestimating what we are capable of and it’s the reason many of us never have the courage to get started in the first place. Banish those modest thoughts and when you see someone achieve something in their lives, say to yourself, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ Tell yourself, ‘I could do that’ and ask yourself, ‘If they can do that, why can’t I?’
I used to sit in awe of runners when I watched them competing. ‘I could never do that’ I used to say to myself. Then after discovering the joy of running my mind started to challenge my own preconceptions of what I was capable of. 
Now my target is a first Olympic distance triathlon. I stopped thinking ‘I can’t do that’ a long time ago. I watch the Brownlee brothers and I’m inspired. It doesn’t matter that I’ll never be in their league. That’s not the point. What matters is me having a go. 
Despite at the time not being able to swim a stroke or sit on a bike without falling off, I started to ask myself, ‘Why can’t I do that?’
I know I’ll be lucky to finish at all, never mind worry about what time I do it in but that doesn’t stop me being inspired by them to follow what they are doing. I’ll never be able to do it the way they do or as fast as they do it, but that’s missing the point. You’re not in it to win it, you’re in it because it’s a way of challenging yourself. Your competition is with yourself, not others.
Change your mindset and suddenly what you are capable of becomes an unknown. And that’s the exciting bit. When you stop saying ‘I can’t’ and start asking, ‘I wonder if...’ that’s the adventure there, in a nutshell. The shackles come off, your self-deprecation evaporates and you start to think of what might be.
Look up and not down, ahead and not behind. Don’t let how you are determine how you will be. You have no idea how far, how long or how high you can reach because you haven’t tried  to find out yet.
When you start to dream, simply start to imagine how much better you could be than you are today, that’s when you feel the irresistible urge to get off the sofa. And that’s when you know you’ve conquered the most difficult part of all. 
Reaching the start line.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dark days and brighter tomorrows

THIS blog is about lots of things – loss, grief, rebirth, life-changing transformations, breaking boundaries, refusing to settle for less.
Hopefully, everyone will find some common ground, something that mirrors their experiences. If I can inspire one person to change their life for the better, convince one person all is not lost or show one person how to believe in a brighter future, I’ll be a very happy man.
This page is all about striving to make the most of every second of this precious life we’ve been blessed with. To fill each minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run.
It’s about challenging yourself to go places nobody thought you were capable of.
It’s about doing all this to honour a loved one. This Friday is the second anniversary of Diane’s passing and as you might expect, it’s a pretty dark time.
I still sit and talk to her in my head but when I look across at where she always sat, she’s still not there. I keep thinking she might suddenly reappear and everything will be OK again, but I know that’s not going to happen. Pain and grief aren’t the main emotions anymore, those are the shock reactions to loss which are the first to fade. I just feel sad, that’s all. There’s no better way to describe it. A little three-letter word which manages to sum up the mad whirl of emotions that are racing around my head in this, the most awful week of the year.
But with that sadness comes a determination to never let her go. She is still very much with me and she still guides me. Towards the end of last year, she went away for a while but in the last couple of weeks she has returned to steer me back on course. It shows how much I relied on her in life and how much I still depend on her to help me make the right choices.
She fills my heart and mind and I talk to her every day. So I’m lucky. Two years ago next week, we gathered to celebrate her life as we said our last goodbyes to her as we had known her. That’s what must be my focus now. Celebration. 20 glorious years with one of the kindest, most generous people you could ever meet. And that 20 years is hers and mine forever. I cherish every moment I spent with her and I continue to cherish every moment still. Even after all that has happened, we are still together.
She is running with me again, and when the days threaten to get scarily dark, she is there to light the way. Running With Diane – look up and not down, ahead and not behind. That’s what I promised her two years ago. And that’s what I must continue to do, for her.
We have such happy memories. But the miracle is that every day she creates new ones for me. What I have done so far in turning my life around has been done with her – we’ve created these moments together. I couldn't have done it without her guiding me. And whatever I achieve in the future, that will be us doing it, not just me.
So I promise you, Diane, that this year will be bigger and better than last year. And every year that follows will outdo the last. That’s my pledge. My way of honouring you.

Thanks for sticking with me still, and not giving up on me. Cancer tried to separate us. But it failed.   

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