This is the first entry in my new blog although it isn’t really – I will explain that one later! Let me start by setting the scene and explaining what this blog is all about.
I was reasonably sporty when I was younger. I ran cross country for my county as a schoolboy and sat on the bench for the Wiltshire U18 rugby team (my progress was blocked by a certain Richard Hill who won the starting position!). I continued to run and play rugby to a reasonable level into my mid 20s and remained actively involved in playing sports until I was about 30. Then I went the way of lots of people I know. First it was work, then kids and then middle age that conspired to deliver me to my fiftieth birthday in less than peak condition. My only involvement in sport was from the comfort of the sofa.
The sedentary lifestyle had also seen me pile on the pounds. I am 5’7″ and on 31 December 2010 I tipped the scales at 14st 8lbs (204lbs). According to my height weight chart my weight was perfect……for someone of 6’4″. I joked that I wasn’t overweight – I was undertall. I make light of it now, but the awful truth was that according to the NHS height weight chart I had entered obese territory. I never thought of myself as obese, but let’s not worry about semantics. The fact was that my weight was on the verge of becoming a health issue.
Most of my problem was due to a poor lifestyle. My wife Cate is a trained (and very good) cook. I couldn’t say no to second helpings of her wonderful food, I love chocolate, I wasn’t averse to a pint of beer but worst of all I was partial to fast food. Take-away curries and Chinese food were on the table too often. Perhaps the most graphic symbol of my poor habits was the KFC map I kept in the car! A friend and I who worked together used to travel the south of England seeing potential customers and we would plan our journey so that we returned via a KFC. I think it is fair to say that I had a poor relationship with food.
I had tried a few times to get myself in shape. I was a lousy dieter so I would always do it through exercise. Luckily I love running – a theme you will discover in this blog. I have heard of “yo-yo dieters”, but if there is such a thing as a yo-yo exerciser I was it. I would drop a stone or two, congratulate myself and then return to my old ways.
At the end of 2010 I decided I was going to do it again but this time it would be different. I would change the way I lived and I would ensure that when I had lost the weight it would stay off. At this point I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage that. By March 2011 I had lost two and a half stones (35lbs) which was almost 20% of my body weight. As with previous occasions, this had been partially due to diet but a lot due to exercise and as with previous occasions this was the danger time. I had lost the weight and there was a risk of me saying “job done” to myself. I needed a plan!
The plan found me rather than the other way round. Someone in the office suggested we did a fun run as a team to raise money for charity. We put someone onto researching it and found a 10k race in Hyde Park in April 2011 organised by the British Heart Foundation. It was just the boost I needed, something to train for, an objective. I can’t think why I hadn’t thought of this before.
I scoured the Internet for training plans and eventually found one on the Running Bug web site. It was a ten week program and required me to run four times a week with the distance and intensity increasing as the race got nearer. I set about it with enthusiasm. It felt great to be running for a purpose other than just to lose weight.
To cut a long story short I ran the 10k. It was moved to June at the last-minute because of the Royal Wedding – they didn’t want a mass participation event in Hyde Park that close to the big day. I set myself a target of finishing in under an hour and was thrilled to get round in 52 mins and 30secs. Perhaps the most important thing I did while training for the BHF 10k was to enter my next race – The Salisbury Half Marathon in October 2011. Once again I set about finding a training program and then got on with doing it. I was in heaven. I had re-discovered my love of running, I was back in some kind of shape and I was challenging myself. This felt great and most important it felt sustainable.
I set myself a goal of finishing the Salisbury Half in under two hours, so getting round in 1 hr 52 mins felt like a real achievement. Once again I looked beyond the event by entering another race whilst still in training, but this wasn’t any race. My next challenge was a big one. I secured a place in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon! This had been a lifelong ambition.
As well as setting myself a 20-week training program, I also decided to write a blog about the experience. You can read all about it here: http://www.realbuzz.com/blogs/u/pwhent/the-london-marathon-virgin/ I wrote the blog for two reasons. First so that I had something that I could look back on in years to come but also because I found it very motivating to write about what I was doing and how the training was progressing. Having written the blog for me, I was surprised and flattered to get some great feedback from people about it. One girl wrote to me thanking me, saying that reading it had inspired her to enter a marathon.
So for a combination of those reasons and with a little encouragement from others, I am writing this blog. It is a new blog and separate from my LondonMarathon blog. The plan is that this blog will chart the new challenges that I take on now that the London Marathon is behind me. By the way, having set myself a target time of sub 4 hours for the London Marathon, I came home in 4hrs 8 mins – so unfinished business there to address at some point in the future. But as for the immediate future it is triathlon that has caught my interest. So if you are interested in seeing how a 52 year born again runner fares in the world of swim, bike, run – and who knows what other challenges – then watch this space!