The Year I Started To Run

December 28, 2010

A few weeks ago I ran a half marathon in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 50 seconds.  That’s 13.1 miles in a quicker time than most young, healthy adult males would manage. Those of you who have known me for anything more than a year or so will realise the magnitude of that statement.  Especially those of you have ever seen me “play” “football” or any other “sport”.   I was the kid who came last in every race at school sports day.  When we had to do cross country at secondary school, the only kids I beat were the ones who were wider than they were tall.   This is the story of how such an unlikely transformation came to pass.

I weighed myself on 1st January 2010.  I was 164lbs (11st 10lbs / 74.5kg). That’s quite a lot for me.  Not the heaviest I’ve ever been, mind you.  In the wild and reckless days of free three course lunches at work, I managed to get up to about 178lbs, which was utterly ridiculous.

Anyhow, not for the first time I decided that new year was as good a catalyst as any to do something about my hideous gut.  A big man with a big belly is one thing, but a wee man with a big belly and skinny limbs is just silly.  I think it was Ed Byrne that said he looked like a “piece of string with a massive knot in the middle”.

Unsurprisingly, what with me being a lazy git and all, this new year resolution took until late February to put into action.  One morning, I dug out my three year old, but barely used, crappy Adidas gym shoes, a pair of shorts and a football top, and I went for a run.  I ran for about a mile then I turned round and ran home.  I was knackered, and I didn’t really enjoy it.  No surprises there. I’d tried this before and had the exact same reaction.  Unlike before, however, I got stubborn and did it again a couple of days later, and again a couple of days after that.

Next thing I knew I was having my gait analysed and buying a rather expensive pair of Asics Gel Kayanos, for mild-to-moderate over-pronators, don’t you know!  By this stage I was tolerating running, and making some progress but I certainly wasn’t enjoying it or anywhere near becoming the hopeless addict that I am now.  Hand on heart I can’t look back at one particular run and say “that was the day I got hooked”, but I can pinpoint a few factors in the transformation:

1) Setting A Target

Very early on I decided to sign up for the Great Scottish Run 10k in Glasgow, and to raise some money for a charity that was close to my heart, Maggies Cancer Care Centres. Despite being six months away, this was not an insignificant target.  Of course I knew I could get in shape to finish a 10k, but it would require some training, and I really did not want to huff round in 70 minutes hating every second of it.

2) Gadgets & Stats

Within a couple of weeks of starting running I bought the Nike+ iPod system.  The product is not without its flaws, but as a data geek, it opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities.  Uploading and analysing the data from my runs quickly became an obsession. I’ve since moved on to a Garmin Forerunner GPS system, which is a lovely piece of kit. I can analyse time, distance, pace, elevation, calories burned and more for every run, and every phase of each run. Of course these gadgets have some other fantastic features, but I firmly believe pouring over the data from each run contributed to my developing addiction.

3) Runner’s High

Like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and good looking Old Firm fans, I thought Runner’s High was a myth.  It’s not!  It doesn’t happen every time I run, or even one in five times these days.  It certainly doesn’t happen when I am doing repeated hill sprints at 6am on a Tuesday morning in November. But when it happens, it’s exactly as described. A mild feeling of euphoria, and the notion that you could keep running forever.  It’s quite nice!

4) Old Age

My Dad is also a runner, and like me he was over 30 when he started to take running seriously. I think there is something about running that just appeals more as you get older.  Maybe it’s a combination of the solitude and the fact that you are competing against yourself more than others.  When I was younger I got a kick out of beating my mates at anything, but running is much more about beating your own personal bests, unless you are competing at elite level. I also think I have become more mentally tough (i.e. stubborn) as I have aged. There have been times on the road when I know I would have stopped in years gone by, whereas nowadays I just grit my teeth and stick it out. Incidentally, other genetic traits I have inherited from my father are a big nose, red hair and the upper body strength of a 12 year old girl.  Thanks Dad.

5) Making Progress

Targets, data, weird highs and being a stubborn old man got me started along the path to addiction, but the number one factor that has kept me hooked has been the progress I have made.  It sounds boastful, but I am very proud of what I have achieved. Coming from being the least fit non-obese thirty-something imaginable to where I am now feels like a big deal.  Of course, the results did not come instantly, but that’s the whole point.  Whilst it sometimes feels like I am having a bad few days, if you look at my performance over time, every month since I started my running has improved, and that is very motivating.  Of course, watching the massive gut recede doesn’t hurt either!

So now I am a fully fledged, slightly obsessed runner. I’ve even signed up for the London Marathon, which is somewhat terrifying.  I’m running for a great charity, IT4CH, so if you’d like to sponsor me, I’d really appreciate it.

My sponsorship page

In my next running blog post I’ll talk you through the four races I have completed so far. The highs, the lows and the newbie mishaps. Bet you can’t wait!

agony and ecstasy

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6 Responses to “The Year I Started To Run”

  1. Nick Cawood Says:

    Great blog fella. I’m impressed, but not in the least bit surprised, by how seriously you’ve taken your new hobby!

  2. Barry Grossman Says:

    Cuz, you’re doing the Grossman name proud. Well done. I finished a half-marathon with plans to do a full one some day but pulling my ITB muscle and majorly screwing up my back and have a disectomy has delayed that idea.


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