#18in18 – race two coming up

18in18 finalEarlier this month I kicked off a little project I’ve been thinking about and working on for a while now … a personal challenge to run 18 half marathons in 2018, and to hopefully inspire others who don’t think they can run.

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.

I’ve looked at, admired and taken advice from initiatives such as ThisGirlCan, Run Mummy Run and Julie Creffield’s ‘Too Fat To Run’ but there’s nothing like that targeted at men, not that I’ve found anyway.

So, I thought, why not go public with this challenge and use it to help or inspire others in a similar position? That said, I am at pains to emphasise this isn’t just a men only project, it’s open to absolutely everyone. I don’t care if you’re male, female, alien or mountain goat.

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 earlier this month with The Big Half in London, and ends with the Royal Parks Half in October.

I set a PB at The Big Half – 2:39:13 – which I was absolutely delighted with, but it also shows that I’m not terribly fast or speedy, which is sort of the point behind my challenge. I’ll never not finish in the last 10-15% of a race, but I will try my best and push myself all the way and I want to, by example, encourage others in a similar position.

Despite starting and finish in the capital my races aren’t 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.

Indeed, my second race this Saturday will be the Larne Half Marathon. I live in the same council area, in Ballymena, so this is almost as local to me as it gets.

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 pretty much clear, I have lots of potential races 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.

The following is a list I’m looking at but, as I said, it’s very fluid and could well change as the year progresses apart from those in bold.

  1. The Big Half (London) – 4th March 2018 – COMPLETED
  2. Larne Half Marathon – 24th March 2018
  3. Omagh Half Marathon – 7th April 2018
  4. Glenarm Castle Challenge – 14th April 2018
  5. Newry Half Marathon – 27th May 2018
  6. Lisburn Half Marathon – 20th June 2018
  7. Swansea Half Marathon – 24th June 2018
  8. Ards Half Marathon – 29th June 2018
  9. Bath Two Tunnels Half – 8th July 2018
  10. Cookstown Half Marathon – 22nd July 2018
  11. Kells & Connor Half Marathon – 4th August 2018
  12. Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon – 12th August 2018
  13. Dambusters Half Marathon – 18th August 2018
  14. The 401 Challenge Festival of Running Virtual Half – 25th August 2018
  15. Chippenham Half Marathon – 9th September 2018
  16. Belfast City Half Marathon – 23rd September 2018
  17. Great Scottish Run – 30th September 2018
  18. Royal Parks Half – 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 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!!!


Running for the soul

Sometimes the gentlest of runs are the best, and good for the soul.

That’s what tonight was with the club. Nice, laid back, no pressure but hugely beneficial.

I had already decided to go with the 30-minute group. I know it was step-up week so, by rights, I should have gone with the 60s but I had an ulterior motive tonight.

As well as only being interested in a comfortable run it was suggested to me today that I should think about signing up to the forthcoming LIRF (Leader In Running Fitness) course being held locally and, after discussing it briefly with an office bearer at the club, I was advised that it might not be a bad idea to go with the 30s and to shadow the leaders just to get a little taste of what’s expected and involved.

I’m still very much undecided whether to apply for the qualification or not, but I am interested in encouraging those starting off on their running journey or lacking confidence in their ability. That’s one of the driving forces behind my 18in18 Challenge so a course such as this seems a perfect fit.

But that’s for another day.

Tonight, in a departure from the norm, I ran up to the club. I don’t normally do this but, encouraged by my success on Saturday, I decided to do it this evening. I’ll admit to questioning it because, as I ran, I could feel a niggle in my left calf, and I was a bit concerned I might struggle so why was I ‘wasting’ my running time now?

However, that niggle well and truly disappeared when the club run itself started. If I had the niggle when the session started it might have been enough for me to have a ‘bad’ night but, as it turned out, it was just what I needed. I was able to focus on the run ‘proper’ with legs that felt good and were already warmed up.

As I said, the session itself was grand. A relaxed pace, good company and the opportunity to chat all the way round … perfect with a half marathon waiting for me.

I ran back home again to bring me to around 7km for the evening. I envisage, as per last week, I’ll do a wee run on my own at some point this week plus a jog to the gym and back just to keep my ticking over ahead of Larne on Saturday. It worked last week so why change what’s already tried and tested?

Relive my run

Spar Craic 10k

Remember how I said in the my last post that I wasn’t targeting the Spar Craic 10k for a PB, and that I was going to take it easy because I’ve got the Larne Half next Saturday?

Well, umm, that didn’t really go to plan I’m afraid.

Not only did I beat my time in last year’s event by almost six minutes but I whacked nearly five minutes off my 10k PB, the same personal best that I set less than two weeks ago in London without really trying.

Today I did try, and I well and truly smashed it!

So what happened?

As ever, I’m not entirely sure. I travelled to the race with Lisa, Elle and Aidy from the club and, as per the race instructions we parked at the Odyssey Arena which was a mile away from the start at the City Hall.

Normally, with half-an-hour to spare to kick-off, I would have dandered across and tried not to expend too much energy. However, Elle is the club female record holder for the London Marathon so she knows her stuff and, on her recommendation, we ran into the city centre.

It would be a good warm-up, I was assured. I was sceptical. I’m firmly of the belief that I have only so many miles in my legs on any one occasion and I wasn’t going to waste them on a warm-up.

But run we did and, you know what, it was alright. It was a bitterly cold morning, but it warmed me up nicely for the start. I just might have been converted into little running warm-ups from now on, rather than solely relying on my usual series of stretches etc.

Anyway, so what of the race? Instead of my usual preference of starting at the back I decided to embed myself in the main body of runners, partly to keep warm and partly to see what would happen if I allowed myself to be dragged along in the early stages.

It seemed to work a treat. Yes, plenty of runners still passed me but I was still going faster than I would have had I lined up further down the field. I decided to try to stay with everyone for 3km, see how I felt then and decide to either ease off or attempt to maintain that pace.

My second kilometre was a bit faster than the first. This was going ok, I thought. The third was a similar pace and I felt good so I elected to try going at this tempo for as long as possible.

The next couple of kilometres ticked over at the same pace. At the halfway point I was just a smidgeon outside my 5k PB but I didn’t really feel tired. I had settled into a nice rhythm and my legs were behaving themselves.

By this stage we were back into the city centre after having gone out to West Belfast for a while. I was back onto familiar territory, I could envisage the remainder of the route. In my head it didn’t seem too far, and I mentally broke it down into stages.

Past St. Anne’s, along the cobbles in the Cathedral Quarter, around the Custom House Square area, past the Big Fish, over the footbridge and into the Titanic Quarter for the finish. Wee buns.

And, to be honest, it was. I started to tire a bit but I kept pushing. Looking back at my stats, the second half was only a little slower than the first which is testament to the strength I still had in my legs.

By now I knew my PB was going to fall, and fall in style. It was only a case of by how much, so I decided it was a case of go hard or go home. I had dared hope of maybe knocking a minute off it … but nearly five? Really?

With the finish line in sight I usually make a sprint for it, to try to shave a precious few seconds off my time. I didn’t do that today. I had no need to. I just coasted over the line feeling immensely pleased with my efforts … and even though over 1000 people still finished ahead of me I felt as if I’d won the bloody thing!

I honestly didn’t expect this, and really didn’t anticipate going for it how I did – and what is especially encouraging is that I felt I had more left in me at the end. I wasn’t doubled over, I wasn’t breathing heavily and I didn’t feel drained.

This coming week will be one of consolidation, a few easy runs in preparation for the Larne Half. Miles, yes, but gentle, relaxed miles and, who knows, I may even study the start area to see whereabouts I could squeeze in a little pre-race warm-up!

Relive my run