Day 279: Running has been a big part of my life – ever since I was selected to run in the 800m in Junior School at the Durham District Sports I’ve kept this sport pretty close to me. In secondary school I was good at distance running (but annoyingly not as good as three lads who consistently beat me year in year out). When I left school I found a love of boozing and sitting around a lot more but when I decided to join the British Army aged 19 the running bug returned and I found myself training several times per week to ensure I could pass the Army entry time needed for 1.5 miles. The entry criteria isn’t that hard to be honest and for the regiment I was joining I think I was inside the time by about 2:30 minutes.
Army discharge and office job followed and for a number of years I retired the trainers until I was encouraged by work colleagues to run the Great North Run in 2012 for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do but the thought of running 13 miles scared me – especially as I set myself high standards, so if I was going to do it I wanted to do it ‘well’.
I think we were all caught up in the ‘London 2012’ bug so it was no surprise we signed up and started training that Spring / Summer in anticipation for the September race. I think back to 2012 and to be honest, that was a pivotal shift for me falling back in love with the sport I had loved so much at school. I’d always had good running form because what my PE teacher told me again and again never left me (running on the front of my feet, good posture, arms high and chin up) – so picking the running back up again was fairly easy and the fact I was training with three other work colleagues gave me extra motivation. What also helped I think, was that in 2012 after just marrying and starting to house hunt – I was keen to do something for me again. I’d pretty much given up most of my hobbies for no particular reason but maybe the working full-time, being in a relationship and organising, saving for a wedding and to buy a house just took over. I got the buzz back in 2012 so I will be forever grateful to my work mates who around the canteen table that day persuaded me to join their running brigade.
For anybody unfamiliar with the Great North Run – It is probably the most famous Half Marathon in the World and certainly one of the biggest (averaging around 57,000 runners each year). The race starts in Newcastle City Centre and you then make the 13 mile journey to the coast and finish at South Shields. It is very well spectated / supported and is live on terrestrial TV in the UK so it is a pretty big deal. I loved every minute of my first taste of racing and whilst I was nowhere near the front finishing times I did achieve my personal target of running under 2 hours. I made it in 01hr 59mins and 42 seconds!
I had the bug and soon as I could I entered the 2013 race. Sadly a training injury and subsequent sickness bug ruled me out but I deferred to 2014 and bettered my time of two years previous with a 01:57:18 time.
I’ve continued to run ever since albeit some years I invest a lot of time and energy into running further and more regularly whereas years like 2020 when the pandemic hit, I didn’t run as much as I could have and my depression meant I chose the bottle over the tarmac.
I’m certainly back in that great positive mindset now though and despite not racing in any events since 2018 I have already started planning a big 2022. I’ve decided to drop back in distance from Half Marathons (My PB was set again at the Great North run in 2017 when I finally got under one hour 50 minutes with a time of 01:49:28).
My 2022 plan is to run in five 10km races at the various big events in the North East where I live (probably Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Redcar) and I have some personal aims for each of the five. Firstly I want to break my 10km PB which is 50mins 22seconds set in my only ever 10km race back in 2016 (the weather that day was atrocious so I’m hopeful I can break the time). Within the five races I also want to achieve a new Sunderland course PB (as mentioned above) because I feel like I have more to offer than I did on that 2016 day. I’m also looking to fund-raise for Prostate Cancer UK next year as it is a charity close to my family’s heart so one of the races will be used to promote PCUK but also highlight the mental health aspect of suffering with cancer for the person in treatment and their family. Mental Health is often forgotten about during those times. I also have a couple of fun, lighthearted ideas across the five runs too which I will share next year but basically I want to dedicate my love for running and other passions to 2022 and really have a memorable year doing the thing that helps me so much… running.
On a side note I just wanted to give a shout out to Running Punks who are a running club based in South Wales but have opened up their running community to anybody anywhere in the world via their Virtual Run Club. Every Sunday we all share our run, experiences, photos, videos and music we listened to. If you can make the physical run club gathering – great but if not you can still share via the beauty of social media. I donned my new running punks kit for the first time on Sunday and I’m loving being in a like-minded community group that all love running regardless of how fast, far or often you go. It is such a positive message and the fact that so many people reach out and engage proves that there is value in what Jimmy & Rhodri do. Check them out on Instagram (@runningpunks) or via their website runningpunks.com