I had never run a race of any kind when I entered the Eastbourne half marathon in 2004. I am still not sure to this day exactly why I entered it. I was impressively overweight at that stage and it might have been to prove to myself that a fat lad could get round thirteen miles. I had no background at all in running (I was useless at all sports at school and didn’t bother at University).
I entered the race with two months to go. Two months to get myself into shape to run a half marathon. I bought some running shoes. I joined a gym. I even went for a couple of runs. Nothing too long, mind. Didn’t want to tire myself out before race day.
Race day dawned cold and bright. Somehow I got round a shade under two and a half hours. I was elated. Huge sense of achievement – I’d done it! The slight problem was that running a half marathon on virtually no training with no background in running had absolutely mashed my left knee. The iliotibial band on my left leg had seen far better days. I walked with pain and a limp for several weeks until I eventually decided that this running lark wasn’t for me. I moved onto bigger and better things, like drinking beer and eating pizza. My running career was over.
Fast forward a couple of years. We’d moved to Brighton in the meantime and I had finally decided that I needed to lose some weight. As part of this process I took up running again. I ran the Brighton 10K and a few other short races locally. I ran another half marathon and then entered the Berlin marathon in 2008 with my wife, Natasha. She still claims that it was her idea and she is probably right! Thankfully, I had realised by this stage that it is better to train for a race than not to bother and wing it…
Berlin was fabulous. Fabulous race, fabulous city. Loved it so much we went back the next year and ran it again. Haile Gebreselassie won it both years, the first in a world record. I like to think that he pushed harder than usual because he was worried I would make a late run and catch him!
We moved to Hastings at the end of 2009 and for a variety of reasons my running went to crap for a few years. I got fat (again!) and hardly ran at all. When I did it only reminded me how out of shape I was.
In June 2012 I finally worked out that this was not how I wanted to be. My running journey started again, as did my weight loss (again!). I discovered trail running. All our holidays were now in the Alps. I realised that running off road was completely different to running on roads. I realised that this was what I wanted to do.
It was around this time that we volunteered to run an aid station at the South Downs Way 100, organised by Centurion Running. We were at Southease – mile 81. The aid station was open through the night, the runners having started early that morning. Working at that aid station was without doubt the most inspiring thing I have ever done in running. It was Natasha’s idea to do this as she was thinking about running ultras at that stage and wanted to see what it was like. I learned so much that night about ultras, running and the human spirit. If you are ever thinking about volunteering at a race, do it. I have learned so much from doing so.
I ran the Beachy Head marathon that year on my birthday – it wasn’t pretty by any means but it was fun. I then entered my first ultra – a 33 mile race (day 1 of the Pilgrim Challenge) in February 2013 and completed it, mostly through ankle deep mud. That led to two fifty mile races later that year – the South Downs Way 50 and the North Downs 50. They were both amazing experiences. I was hooked.
I ran my first hundred mile race in 2014 (the Winter 100), my second one in 2015 (South Downs Way 100) and my third one in 2016 (Samphire 100). I loved and hated all of them in equal measure but for some reason I keep going back.