You can start the year as a runner – and end it somewhere else. Somewhere totally different that you didn’t think was possible. Granted, nothing happens without hard work, but the feeling that real fitness happened still blows my mind.
Running and a love of the path is where it began. But twelve months on, I’m a triathlete, cyclist and a better runner. I’m fit – fitter than I ever dreamed I would be – ever could be. And it all happened after one FaceTime conversation when I realised I had to help a friend.
My god-daughter was born with an horrific skin condition called EB. Her skin falls off and blisters without reason. It’s savage. Unrelenting. Bewildering. During a teary chat with her mum I decided something had to be done. There is no cure; all you can do is fund genetic research. So that’s where the journey started; it was early April.
I was slated to run the Hackney half in June – but it wasn’t enough to raise the sort of money that’s needed. In a wild moment where my mind twisted, 10 thousand pounds became the target; there was my challenge. I know the reality of fundraising; I ran London in 2011 and it was a struggle to reach the £2k pledge; £10k needed something special. It had to be bold…
A challenge a month for the next seven months. I’d give up my wasteful summer holidays of travelling about, spending money, drinking and I’d invest the cash in making a difference. I’d put myself on the line.
I have friends in Amsterdam, Paris and New York so I plotted challenges around them. A few days later I had my plan. Marathons, triathlons and cycle races across countries and borders. It was a stretch – but it had to be.
At this point, I’d not run a road race since London. The last time I’d ridden a bike was my 2.5 mile commute in London. I stopped swimming at the age of 12. There was work to be done. I had started getting fit. I was going to the gym 5 times a week, doing HIIT classes, spin, strengthening my core and trying to get some shape after years of not caring about fitness. Fitness had never been important. I’d been settled, cosy, comfortable. It was time to break out.
The first challenge was the Manchester 10k with my SWRD crew in May. I turned out 42mins after 5 weeks of solid training. I realised then – this is where it starts. In June, I cycled from London to Paris. 160km of riding a day for 3 days. My biggest training ride had been 95km from Chester to Rhyl and back. It was a shock. It hurt like hell. I screwed my knee – but I did it. And the emotion of cycling toward the Eiffel Tower as Parisians clapped us along the Champs Elyese…
It was 5 weeks between arriving in Paris and entering the Thames in my wetsuit for the London Triathlon. That was August’s challenge. I became obsessed. I trained everyday, sometimes twice. I’d workout before the office, swim at lunch. On my day off I’d cycle to Leeds and then go straight to the pool. At the weekend I’d run. And that’s how it continued. I went from swimming 10 lengths to 80, something I didn’t think possible – but it did.
The day of the triathlon came and I was petrified. But friends cheered and screamed. I’d hoped for circa 3hours – I turned in 2h 31mins across Olympic distance. Leeds Triathlon followed; but I over trained and my time was slower. Lesson learned. Prepare, rest.
After that, back to the road, where it began; but now I was stronger, slimmer and for the first time in my life I had power. Amsterdam Half Marathon came first with some amazing friends. I ran. Really ran. I was red faced. But 1h35. Next up the NYC Marathon. 3h45. I can’t even describe running there. But if you can – do!
The challenges have brought me a whole new world. Fitness. Mental space in all the training. Belief that we can all do anything when we apply ourselves. And most importantly – £9,300 in fundraising. I’m not stopping till I get to £10k. See you on the road.