Wednesday, 2 July 2014


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?

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