1000 Miles for Mind - Introductions
In this, the first in a series of posts from me on the runr blog, I’d like to make a couple of introductions – first to myself and then to the challenge that I am undertaking in 2017.
I am a runr!
Hi! I'm Antony. I'm 28, I live in Ellesmere Port and I am a runr. I started my love affair with running, though at the time I had no idea it would become that, on 25th June 2015. Before we get into all of that, though, let’s rewind a bit...
Introducing: My ‘sporting history’
Running, and sport in general, wasn’t something that was completely new to me; I’d always been a sporty kid.
As with a lot of young boys, I spent my youth fixated on football and played – sparingly, whenever the manager was desperate enough or was sick of me moaning at him to put me on – for a local team. Truth be told, I was rubbish, but 8, 9, 10, 11 year old me didn’t want to accept that. I did eventually, grudgingly, give up on my dreams to be a professional footballer.
When I moved to secondary school I was devastated to find that there was no school football team. I’d obviously have been first choice to play, had there been one, so this was a blow. I went to an all-boys grammar school where rugby was very much the focus; a sport I barely knew existed at the time. By the second year – with the realisation that the school wasn’t going to abandon its 70 year focus on rugby just for me – I must have started to show some signs of promise as I was asked to start training with the school team. For a while, rugby was a big passion of mine. I played for the school team and also a local club. I even had a trial for West Cheshire at one stage, though I didn’t make it into the squad.
I briefly flirted with athletics. As a winger for the school’s rugby team, I was – in theory – quite a fast runner. I suppose it was probably this that led to me once being asked to represent the school’s athletics team in a 4 x 100m relay. I was never asked again, though, so make of that what you will. We were also regularly put through something called the ‘road run’ in P.E. lessons. We were led to believe that it was a 1 mile course, but I’ve never seen the course certificate for it. I think that my best time was somewhere around 5:40, but this predates my Strava account so don’t hold me to that.
Introducing: Where it all went wrong
Based on the above, you could be forgiven for thinking that my decision to start running was a natural one. That it was something I wanted to start doing more of because I was good at it and enjoyed it. Sadly not.
Despite having finally found a sport that I was reasonably good at, I proceeded to throw it all away. I started smoking. I discovered alcohol. I filled my body with stuff that made those training sessions harder and harder until I couldn’t face them anymore. The choice was simple: continue playing rugby or continue going out on the lash with my mates every week. We all know which way that went.
What makes my decisions all the more bizarre is that, had I continued to play for the school rugby team beyond that age, I’d have been taken on a school tour to Australia! An opportunity not to be missed. Unless you’re a complete idiot of course. And that’s how it continued. Smoking, drinking, partying and about three takeaways a week.
Introducing: The turning point
Let’s fast-forward back to 25th June 2015. 8 years since I left sixth form and 10 since I’d done any real sport or exercise. Sure, I’d dipped my toe back in occasionally – a bit of 5-a-side here and there, the odd run or two – but for 10 years I hadn’t undertaken a prolonged period of exercise. And it showed.
Truth be told, the turning point was probably the end of my previous relationship. I took it badly and it took me a long time to get over it. When I finally reached that point, I realised that I wasn’t happy with myself and it was therefore not too surprising that my ex hadn’t been happy with me either. As a result of the drinking, smoking, takeaways and lack of exercise, I was a mess. My weight, body & lack of fitness were a real concern and something had to change. So I ran.
I ran home from work, a 2.19 mile course, in 24 minutes and 33 seconds. I was completely exhausted. And so it began.
When I first started I used to upload photos of myself, and of the run I had done, to Facebook. I wanted people to laugh at me, to give me the motivation to stick to the change I had made, because I couldn’t trust myself not to give up after one or two runs like I had done previously. I wasn’t disappointed. Oh how they laughed.
Introducing: My new love
Somewhere along the line I stopped running to lose weight. I was running because I enjoyed it.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. From the very beginning I suffered a lot with injuries. All of that extra weight and all of those years of inactivity had taken a toll on my body; it wasn’t ready for this. Yet I kept going back each time, undeterred.
I ran my first race – a 10K in Farndon – on 18th October 2015. I had originally entered as an extra source of motivation, one more thing to keep me honest in my quest to keep running. If I had a race to run, I had to train for it.
In the week leading up to the race, disaster struck. A new injury had flared up and I couldn’t walk without limping. I made the first serious mistake of my time as a runner and ran the race regardless. I managed to complete the race in 49:08, inside my target of 50 minutes, but at a cost. I was to run only once more in 2015, such was the extent of the aggravation I caused to the injury. Lesson learned!
Despite the setback, and 7 weeks without running, I was back at the start of 2016. Now motivated by the sense of achievement at having completed my first race, rather than wanting to lose weight, I wanted to do it again. I was hooked. On 16th February 2016 I started a couch to half marathon training plan and my next aim was set: the Chester Half Marathon two months later.
To this point, my running had been entirely for my own benefit. At first because I wanted to lose some weight and then because I started to enjoy it.
A friend of mine – one, seemingly intrigued by my mass of social media posts, rather than bored to tears by them – asked me why I was running and whether I was doing it for charity. This made me think. Which charity I would run for? The thought process, however, was so short that my mind was instantly made up for me. This was something that I wanted to do.
My sister is one of the strongest and most inspirational people I have ever met. She suffers with Borderline Personality Disorder, defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a “serious mental disorder”. I have seen first-hand the devastating effect that this illness has had on my sister, her family and her life. Despite this, she has not only been discharged from mental health services, but now works as a service user consultant, facilitating workshops for professionals and actively using her personal experiences to support those who suffer with mental health illnesses. She’s quite a woman.
Statistics say that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. For every one of us that experiences a mental health problem, there are countless friends and family who are affected by the reality of the illness that their loved one is suffering from. I'm no good at statistics, but I'd imagine it's very unlikely that any of us will go through life without being, in some way, affected by a mental health illness.
I am very fortunate to be able to say that my sister is still here today. The harsh reality is that not everybody else whose loved one has suffered with their mental health can say the same thing.
Mind is a mental health charity that “won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect”. Increasing the levels of support that are available to people who are suffering with their mental health is vital to lessening the impact that these illnesses can have on all of our lives.
Introducing: Chester Half Marathon for Mind
Charity chosen, running vest en-route, fundraising page set up and race entered. All that I had to do now was bridge the gap between a 10K and a half marathon!
I learned from my mistake. I took a more sensible approach to my training. I added long, slow runs and steady paced efforts, rather than trying to set new PBs every time I ran. I couldn’t afford to get injured now!
Training went well. I’d set myself a target of 1:50 and it felt well within my reach. I meticulously planned exactly what pace I needed to run each of the 13.1 miles in order to achieve my goal. I’m a bit OCD like that.
I got to mile 12 bang on where I wanted to be. What I hadn’t bargained for, however, was the course – another rookie mistake. Mile 13 contained 77ft of elevation and my tired body just couldn’t take it. I slowed almost to a stop. I wanted, so much, to stop and walk up the hill. But I couldn’t. All that was going through my mind the whole way to the top was the mental fight that my sister faces every day. If she can beat that, then I can beat this. I’m her big brother; what sort of example would I be setting if I gave up? Nope. No way.
I crossed the line in 1:50:47. Not even a shred of me was disappointed. I’d given it my absolute all and, when it came down to the crunch, I didn’t give up. Moreover, I was absolutely empty and it was enough of a struggle to get one foot in front of the other, nevermind consider my emotions!
The most important thing to come from the day, however, was that I’d raised £361.25 for Mind. It had happened again. I was hooked. Not only did I now want to keep on running – and I would have to; I had a missed target to avenge! - but I wanted to keep on fundraising too.
Mum, me and sister after Chester Half Marathon
Introducing: 1000 Miles for Mind
Following on from a half marathon, I wanted to do something more. The obvious choice was a marathon. I looked at the Chester marathon and came up with a plan. I’d run the Chester Half Marathon again in May 2017 – making sure to beat my time! – followed by the full marathon in October. 10 months of fundraising, a half marathon PB and a first full marathon; what a year that would be!
I spoke to a friend of mine and asked her advice. Not just any friend, this is my running coach and winner of the 2016 Manchester Marathon friend. On that note, if you’re looking for a running coach or a marathon training plan, I can’t recommend Kelly highly enough: http://www.kc-coaching.com
The response wasn’t what I wanted to hear; it was a bad idea. I was still new to running and I’d struggled a lot with injuries. I’d be better off waiting and getting a good year of training under my belt first. I was disappointed, but I’d ignored Kelly’s advice before – prior to my first race – and look where that got me. I’d have to think of something else. Keep an eye out for me doing a 2018 marathon though!
Disappointment put to one side, I came up with another idea, this one entailing a whole year of fundraising and giving me some assurances that I’m ready to take on marathon training. I’d attempt to run 1000 miles in 2017. In the 18 months prior to January 2017 I had only run 987 miles, so I’d have to up my game considerably to avoid missing another target!
My OCD set in again and I went about calculating the number of miles I’d need to run per month, per week, per day(!) in order to complete the challenge. Almost 20 miles a week is not an insignificant amount of running, but I knew I could handle that. The question, as always, was just whether I could maintain that amount throughout the whole year. And there was only one way to find out! On 1st January 2017 my challenge officially started.
At the time of writing – on 24th March – I have recently passed the 250 mile mark; a quarter of the way through the required mileage, just short of a quarter of the way through the year. Still on target! What I’m more proud of, however, is my progress towards my fundraising target, which I set at £1000 and which currently stands at £673.44.
The challenge got off to a flying start, with 106.58 miles logged in January. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, injury reared its ugly head again in February and I missed the most part of 2 weeks worth of training. Still, I managed to log 85.84 miles for the month – just above the monthly target of 83.33 miles – and took the running total to 192.42 miles. Thus far, March has seen another week off with injury and a further 58.07 miles logged, taking the current total to 250.49 miles. With a week of the month left, planned mileage would still see me run almost 100 miles this month and take the running total to around 290 miles.
All-in-all, I’m happy with how the challenge is going. I’ve had a few setbacks, but have managed to keep ahead of where I need to be. I’m really looking forward to the next 9 months; to challenging myself and helping raise vital funds for Mind.
- 15/01 - Helsby Half Marathon - 1:35:24
- 19/02 - Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon - 1:34:25
- 26/03 - Cheshire 10K
- 23/04 - Whitley 10K
- 21/05 - Chester Half Marathon
- 18/06 - Port Sunlight 10K
03/09 - Salford 10K
Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon
As I mentioned at the very start – I bet that feels like a long time ago now, doesn’t it? Kudos if you’ve made it this far! – this is the first of a series of posts by me on the runr blog. I’ll be posting monthly updates about my progress during the 1000 miles for Mind challenge. Without the other introductions, they’ll take a lot less time to get through, I promise!
If, however, you’re a glutton for punishment and would like to see more regular updates from me, you can find me on the following where I post updates after every run:
If you're able, and are willing, to contribute financially to my cause, that would be very much appreciated.
However, just as – if not more – important (and free & easy to do!) is sharing what I'm doing. Making more people aware of the services that are available to them when times are hard can save lives. Helping support people who want to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health illnesses will save lives. To that end, all updates on my fundraising contain the hashtag #1000MilesForMind on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - any shares/mentions/retweets etc would be just as gratefully received.
I’d like to thank each and every one of you for reading about me and my challenge, I appreciate that it’s been a long one! I’d also like to thank runr for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you.
Until next time, happy running!