#18in18 – the challenge continues!

As regular visitors to my blog will know I’m currently in the midst of attempting to run 18 half marathons in 2018 (#18in18). It might not sound a big deal to a lot of seasoned, hardened runners but to me it’s quite an undertaking.

Whilst all eyes will be focused quite rightly on London tomorrow morning, at the same time I’ll be embarking on the latest event in my challenge, the East Antrim Marathon Series #NotTheLondonMarathon – swapping Greenwich Park for Greenisland Golf Club!

Here’s the FAQs:-

What is #18in18?
I’m running 18 half marathons in 2018. Why 18 though? It’s 2018, so 18 seemed to be an appropriate figure. Plus, I don’t think I’m fit enough to run any more than that!

Why do it?
Lots of reasons. The idea initially came to me when I missed out on a ballot place for the London Marathon. In the past, training for the marathon has helped keep me running and active but, without that to motivate me, I knew I needed something to maintain my focus not only during ‘marathon season’ but throughout the entire year.

Then I thought about it a bit more. I don’t know if I can do this. Yes, I *think* I can, and I’m confident (at the minute) that I can but I know it will be a real challenge.

I’ve got Type 2 Diabetes and other unrelated health problems, I’m carrying too much weight and you’ll always find me trundling along at the back of a race. I’m not an athlete. I’m just an ordinary bloke from Northern Ireland trying to do something to better himself.

So, I thought, why not go public with this challenge and use it to help or inspire others in a similar position?

A lot of us have thought about running and duly dismissed it. “I’d be too slow, I’d be laughed at if anyone saw me, I’d finish last, I’m too fat, I’m not fit …”. I’ve heard them all and I’ve used them all.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that anyone reading this drops everything and goes out to run a marathon or half marathon or anything like that. But, if I can inspire even one person to take up running regardless of how far or how fast then it’ll be job done as far as I’m concerned.

I am the dictionary definition of “If I can do it anyone can.” … but, now, I’m running for people who think they can’t.

What races am I doing?
It all started in early March with The Big Half in London, and ends with the Royal Parks Half in October. But it’s not all London based, far from it. I live in Northern Ireland so a lot of the races will be at home which is practical for both logistical and, more importantly I guess, financial reasons.

For example, my second race was the Larne Half Marathon, and it’s to East Antrim I return for this latest instalment.

Number three (sort of!) was last Sunday, the Virtual Reading Half Marathon. I’m including a couple of virtual half marathons as back up runs just in case logistics prevent me from doing 18 ‘real’ races. I do have certain criteria these virtual runs need to meet to count – for example, last week was connected with the actual Reading Half Marathon (same medal etc.).

I do have hopes to do at least one race in Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland too but we’ll see how that works out. My schedule is starting to fill up a little now but I still have lots of races potentially pencilled in that I could do but nothing much has been confirmed yet so if there’s a race local to you that you think I should do I’d welcome your suggestions.

For the record, my list looks like this but it is very much subject to change (those in bold are either done or booked):-

  1. The Big Half (London) – 4th March 2018 – COMPLETED
  2. Larne Half Marathon – 24th March 2018 – COMPLETED
  3. Reading Half Marathon (Virtual) – 15th April 2018 – COMPLETED
  4. East Antrim Marathon Series #NotTheLondonMarathon – 22nd April 2018
  5. Newry Half Marathon – 27th May 2018
  6. Lacock Half Marathon – 10th June 2018
  7. Lisburn Half Marathon – 20th June 2018
  8. Swansea Half Marathon – 24th June 2018
  9. Bath Two Tunnels Half – 8th July 2018
  10. Dark Hedges Half Marathon – 22nd July 2018
  11. Kells & Connor Half Marathon – 4th August 2018
  12. Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon – 12th August 2018
  13. The 401 Challenge Festival of Running Virtual Half – 25th August 2018
  14. Waterside Half Marathon – 2nd September 2018
  15. Chippenham Half Marathon – 9th September 2018
  16. Belfast City Half Marathon – 23rd September 2018
  17. Great Scottish Run (Glasgow) – 30th September 2018
  18. Royal Parks Half (London) – 14th October 2018

What do you need to do?
Nothing, really. Just follow my progress, read my blogs, offer your support. I know I’m being selfish, but I’ll need your backing to complete this.

However, what would really encourage me is hearing your story. Has my challenge inspired you to put your trainers on and go for a run, maybe even for the first time? I’d love to hear from you. Are you already a runner but have suffered from the same doubts and lack of self-belief as me? Any hints or tips? Let me know.

I’m not primarily doing this for charity but I would also like to use the challenge to raise something for Diabetes UK.

I ran my first London Marathon for them and since then have received lots of advice and support not only from the charity but from their other runners, and have made some good friends along the way. So I’d like to give something back. I have no set fundraising target, no charity places to pay for, I’m paying for all my races myself and funding my own travel. Everything I raise is going straight to Diabetes UK.

I’m aware that everyone seems to be rattling their virtual collection tins under your nose these days but if you would like to donate something to help Diabetes UK continue their research and support into the condition then I’d be delighted and honoured if you could.

No worries if you can’t at the minute, this is a year-long challenge so maybe you could do so further down the line. My JustGiving page is https://www.justgiving.com/18in18

But, please, keep tabs on my progress and keep in touch. Hopefully it’ll be fun and interesting and, for me, not too sore on my old body!!!

Relive the Big Half – Blog
Relive the Larne HalfBlog
Relive the Virtual Reading HalfBlog


parkrun … or not to parkrun?

Yesterday (Friday) I picked up my new trainers, Hoka Clifton 4’s for the record, so was eager for a run to help break them in.

However, I couldn’t really be bothered with a run just for the sake of a run so I needed something to go to.

I did consider my local parkrun but because I’ve got a half marathon tomorrow I wondered if going as hard as I could in an event would be a good idea? Now, I know there’s no law that states I have to give it everything at parkrun – in fact, that probably goes against the ethos behind the entire movement. But still I needed a run and I didn’t know if I could trust myself not to run the full thing.

Then it occurred to me … the Cullybackey Cosy Sofa people have their third run of the week at parkrun so I decided to run there, join in with them and run back home again. Nice and gentle, no pressure on me to produce a time and a decent distance to boot. Clever Martin! Sensible Martin!

So that’s exactly what I did. I know Hoka’s. I’ve been wearing Clifton 3 for the past year but despite being used to them I knew I needed to take some time to mould the new pair for my feet … and I also knew that it’ll still likely be a wee bit uncomfortable at the start, despite the shoes themselves presenting no problems.

It was great to feel the ‘bounce’ again, it was amazing to sense the flow of my footstrike from heel to toe. I’d forgotten just how good a new pair of trainers felt.

My legs also felt a bit of burn in them again, particularly around the ankles once more, so I made sure to take it very, very easy. Was the burn due to the heat, or was it due to the new shoes? I reckon, on this occasion, it was the latter and I fully expected that. I remember this happening before. That’s no reflection on the trainers, I’m unlikely to ever wear another brand – I just need to break them in.

That aside, the run itself was fine. I took the back route to Ecos, avoiding most of the town centre. When I arrived I briefly toyed with the idea of actually doing the parkrun but I was firm with myself that it wouldn’t have been sensible. It might well have gone ok, but if it doesn’t go well tomorrow I’ll be blaming it on this so I thought it best to remove any doubt or possibility of today being a contributory factor.

The Cosy Sofa group was good. Not as many as Tuesday night, but that’s to be expected, but still a decent turnout. It was nice to run at the back again, this time with Yvonne, to chat and catch up, and also to chat with and encourage others.

We ran as far as the footbridge, doing 4x4x4 with two minute walking breaks, at which point I turned off for Suffolk Street and the run back home. Thankfully, this was a lot more comfortable on my ankles than the run there, an encouraging sign.

All told, I did five (slow) miles this morning which I thought was alright in light of another half waiting for me tomorrow. A reasonable warm up, and a good introduction to my new Hoka’s!

Relive my run

Cullybackey Cosy Sofa wk2

Because I like to document every run I do I suppose tonight’s outing warrants at least a brief mention.

I made my way to Cullybackey for the first run of week two of the club Cosy Sofa to 5k programme. I love supporting this initiative because so many of us come through it on our way to developing a running ‘career’ so if I can help then I will.

I had to work a little this evening so my original plans were to run the 4.5 miles to Cullybackey, do the C25K session and then see if I could get a lift back home in time for work – the reverse of last week basically.

However, the heavy rain at around 5:15pm put me off running out. Not that rain deters me, but there was no point risking picking up bugs if I didn’t have to … so I got a lift to Cullybackey instead.

After the initial excitement of the launch night last week it was really good to see week two supported in such numbers by club members, and so many of those who are working through the programme turning up again.

Tonight’s run was three minutes running x3, with two minutes recovery walk in between each segment.

Along with Kim I ran tail for our group and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was pleased to see everyone ahead of us get through it without any noticeable issues. I remember when I followed the programme with the club, every week brought progression and a little worry beforehand so I hope those for whom this is all new will be encouraged by what they achieved tonight.

Afterwards Kim gave me a lift back into Ballymena, and I rounded off my evening with a run down the Toome Road towards home, just the thing to stretch my legs without putting any pressure on them. Not much distance covered tonight, but sometimes it’s just all about getting out there and keeping moving.

Relive my run