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Apperley Quarter MarathonSo today was race day. My first race since I left school some 21 years ago. In some ways I am still surprised that I decided back in June to start running. I always HATED running or at least that is what I have believed for most of my life.

Thinking back though, I am no longer sure this is true. As a small child I was always outdoors, playing. My memory of this time is not filled with slow walking, but moving as fast as I could. I was chasing life in the way so many small kids do, hungry to get big and to be able to do the things bigger kids (like my older brother) were allowed to do.

I think my hatred of running actually came from school and is not so much a hatred of running, but of failure. What I always hated was coming last, not being celebrated and watching other kids basically be told they were better than me.

A sense of failure is hard for many of us to accept at any age and for me that feeling of ‘being crap’ is one I have long associated with sports of almost every kind.

I find it interesting to see the changes in people I went to school with and how they have changed over the last 20 years or so. Given the popularity of Facebook I suspect I am not alone. There is one kid I went to school with who I remember as being obsessed with sports who is now a fitness instructor, but there are many more of the sporty kids that have grown up as average, overweight adults, who at least on the surface appear to have little physical activity in their lives.

I’ve been reading about running recently, learning about training techniques where going slower actually makes you faster. Maybe taking 37 years to find a love of running instead having one throughout my childhood and teenage years is my time to prove this theory.

I think the key thing for me is that something I hated has become something I love. I now find running lets me switch off from the stresses and pressures of the life associated with being a 37 year old working father, with a mortgage, bills etc and temporarily reconnect with my infant self. As an infant I didn’t have anything to worry about and when I ran as an infant it wasn’t exercise it was fun.

The competition of school took the fun away from sports for me, but now I think I have found that feeling that has been hiding from me for 30 something years. Running is once again not about exercise, it is about fun, relaxation and time for self reflection. I suppose in a way it is almost like meditation and somewhere I find peace, whilst also pushing myself to see what my body is capable of.

So did racing change this? Well firstly I was not racing to win. Getting ready to be called to the start line it was easy to spot the guys that were setting out to win this – they were jogging around, warming up and in some cases even came to the race with different running shoes to use depending on the weather and terrain! The guy that did win it was one of the people I suspected would.

As for me, I found myself surprised to be keeping pace with some clearly experienced club runners and even passing people that at the start I thought were going to leave me in their dust. I had two simple targets for my run today, to finish and if possible, to do so in under an hour. I had also decided my race would be powered by plants only, and for much of this week I have been on a juice detox.

A few weeks ago my target time was longer, but a throw away comment from a friend of mine made me decide to increase my personal target to get under the hour. It is worth bearing in mind that on my initial training runs in June I averaged between 12 and 16 minutes per mile and that was for shorter distances. In June I wouldn’t have expected to complete this quarter marathon in anything under an hour and a half.

Training has made a big difference and today I told myself what I wanted to achieve before the race started. I knew what I wanted from today and got it, with a finish time of 54 mins and 42 secs!

That doesn’t mean it was easy. The course had a marker every kilometre and after 8km it started to feel tough. That said, my pace was fairly consistent across the whole course, sure the 3rd and 4th kilometres were quicker than the 7th and 8th, but not by much.

Year Without Beer

Never mind the Olympics, 2012 is my Year Without Beer! I am spending all 366 days of this leap year alcohol free in an attempt to raise money for 2 charities that are both very close to my heart.

If giving up all alcohol for a year isn’t enough of a challenge to make you dig deep and show your support, I also plan to run 500 miles! As part of my running challenge I have completed a quarter marathon and am signed up for a 10 mile road race (Great South Run) and 8 mile off road challenge (The Grim Original).

If you want to show some love them please donate to my year without beer and give your support to one of these fantastic causes:

  • To donate to Cancer Research UK please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB66 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB66 £5″ will donate £5.
  • To donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB55 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB55 £5″ will donate £5.