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Running is my life!

Running is my life!

I have 1096 reasons to run, because that's how many consecutive days of running I plan to do.

Running has truly changed my life for the better and it's hard to measure how much of an impact it's had on me as a person.

Why run? Well, it's simple. If I rewind the clock to February 2015, I was overweight, most likely depressed, but most of all, an awful role model to my daughter.

It was parkrun that proved to be the catalyst for change for me. A throwaway comment from Tony Giles, then Event Director of Great Lines Parkrun, inspired me to come along to Parkrun for the first time.

I'd already sneaked out on cold, dark evenings, seeing if I could run. It certainly wasn't pretty as I huffed and puffed around the streets in Medway, in the dark because I was embarrassed by all my wobbly bits.

The incentive was there though as I'd signed up for the Brighton Marathon in the April. How hard could running 26.2 miles be I thought when signing up? Well, running to the end of the road saw me horribly out of breath, as red a beetroot and questioning my sanity. I have to say though, six weekends of going to Great Lines Parkrun saw me chip away at my 5km time, dropping from 31 minutes and 33 seconds to 25 minutes and seven seconds.

Going into the Brighton Marathon, I was 40, not so badly overweight, still nowhere near ready, having only completed an 8 mile training run, but I did it. I did the 26.2 miles in five hours dead, to the second and boy was I proud of myself.

I'd fallen in love with running.

Ok, I didn't love it quite so much for a few days having failed to get up and down stairs easily for the next few days, but running had become part of my life. That first marathon gave me the thirst for more and I could never have imagined how and when my second one would come about.

I'd heard this guy called Ben Smith was coming to Kent in October 2015 and he was doing this crazy thing of running 401 marathons in the space of 401 days. Inspired, I thought I'd go and meet him, maybe even run a few miles with Ben and the guys and girls that had turned up. Little did I know he'd inspire me to do another marathon.

If he was going to do this for over a year, come rain or shine, the least I could do was run one with him. Again, it hurt and the last few hundred yards will live with me forever as I was in a whole new world of pain, but then so will the pride of completing another marathon.

A few months before, some friends had started to join me at Parkrun and it had helped give me the motivation to turn up at 9am on a Saturday every week. Little did I know then that running would be the thing that unites a lot of us now.

Fast forward to now and I've now run 124 Parkruns to date, completed six marathons including London in 2016, ran a number of Half Marathons, but best of all, made some lifelong friends.

That's what running is all about for me. I joined my local running club, Rebel Runners, just as much to learn about running, but to meet new people.

A good number of my friends have joined me in becoming a "Rebel", joining up for the team runs as and when time allows.

It's great to have that support network around you as and when you need it. The people are great, the bond is strong and there's no edge to a group that support each other through thick and thin.

Being a Rebel gave a few of us the idea of seeing if we could set our own challenge. Running a 5km parkrun was achievable, but what about doing it every day of the week for a year? Well, Ben Smith was nearing the end of his epic 401 marathon challenge and another Ben, Rogers, was embarking on his challenge of running 365 marathons in 365 days, so how hard could running every day for a year be?

We thought there was only one way to find out and our journey began on New Year's Eve 2016. Of course we started our year long challenge a day early as there was a parkrun on. So the challenge soon became the 366 day challenge.

For the five us that signed up to it, myself, Lee Allen and his wife Nicola, Diane Davey and Marie Debont-Booth, the goalposts have moved and changed as the initial year went on.

Lee soon realised he was averaging over 10km a day so thought it would be "fun" to make his challenge to run every day for 366 days, completing 10km a day.

The rest of us kept our sanity and stuck with 5km. For me, it soon became apparent the running was the easy bit. Finding half an hour every day to run was sometimes tricky.

Those initial few months saw us running in rain, wind, freezing temperatures and even snow. It didn't put us off though. If anything, it spurred us on as we knew easier runs were to come.

The Dartford Half Marathon in March was to become a step too far for Diane, breaking her leg after mile three, but somehow managing to run the final ten miles in agony.

Her challenge was then put on hold.

For the rest of us, we ploughed on relentlessly with the Brighton Marathon proving to be a stern test for some of us. What a hot day, but so rewarding!

The days then came and went. We chalked them off one by one, finding different ways to fit our runs in. Mixing it up, running with different people, in different places, taking in different parkruns across Kent.

Unfortunately, Nicola's challenge came to an abrupt end, tearing her ankle ligaments, not through running, but walking down some steps after a run!

That left just Lee, Marie and I to fly the flag for a while.

I think it was as we came close to day 183 (theoretically halfway through the challenge) that Lee and I began to hatch the plan of extending our run streak. Having signed up for the 2018 Brighton Marathon, we realised that if we ran every day until then, that would take us up to 471 consecutive days, so that became our new target.

After much deliberation on a few long runs, Lee and I thought it would be only fair that we round up the challenge to a better looking number - it must be an OCD thing with runners, seeing as no one can end a run on 4.9km, can they?

With 500 days in mind, we thought it best that we be running when Nicola and Diane resumed their challenges, meaning we'd probably have to be running all through 2018, so that took us up to 731 days.

Again, a horrible looking number, so the goalposts moved once again. This time, without consulting Nicola, Lee and I agreed to move the challenge to three consecutive years or 1095 days, plus the one as we started a day early, hence why we are currently planning to run for 1096 consecutive days.

It's probably pie in the sky as we may well carry on from there. Has anyone every run for more consecutive days? Probably, but we don't really care.

We don't run to set records, although we do like to be the best we can be and register decent times at parkruns or marathons.

That's what running has become about for Lee and I, along with all the other guys and girls. It's about testing yourself, but most of all, trying to inspire others.

Lee and I have both lost about three stone each since we started our running journeys, but the biggest achievement for us both will have to be how many people we have inspired in the process.

Friends that have said they'd never have been able to run, have completed marathons with us, gained in confidence, lost weight, become better role models.

Lee's inspired so many people at his work, South East Water, that they now have regular lunchtime runs with almost a hundred different people now having run with him.

That's the most pleasing part of this challenge to me. Complete novices have taken up running and fallen in love with it as much as we have.

We might not produce the next Olympians between us all, but we're all living the dream.

Guys and girls, of all shapes and sizes, big and small, tall or short, young or old, are out there, running.

Of course, there are days when it's hard and I question my own sanity. There's days when I don't really want to do it and I have a moan on social media, but I'm soon boosted by the amazing support network around me.

Complete strangers now stop to talk to me about the challenge or message me with words of wisdom or encouragment. That's been a massive lift for me personally.

I'm not doing this to be famous and I doubt I would be anyway. I'm doing this to be a better me and a better role model in the process.

I've an eight year daughter, Ellie, who has clearly seen Daddy is able to run and that she can too.

It's hard to put into words how proud I am of her. She's now completed 22 full parkruns and over 40 junior parkruns, aged just eight!

She's the reason I get out of bed every morning, the reason I pull my trainers on and get out the door when it's cold or raining, because she sees what I'm doing and wants to emulate me.

We've now passed day 300 of this challenge and we chalk them off one by one, with a selfie, and in my case a pout. Who knows where the next 700 plus days will take us and where we will ever end?

One thing is for sure though, I couldn't live without running now. Running is my life.


What an effort Steve has put in so far and he's got a lot of running left ahead of him!

You can follow Steve's progress on his EPIC challenge on Twitter: @steveksn

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