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From Snickers to Marathon

May 14, 2012 5 comments

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve written a blog post, I’ve been in a funk. I very nearly didn’t write this one, as I debated whether to blow my own trumpet here. I’ve always been careful not to have an ego, almost as though I’ve been raised to think that pride in any achievements should not be celebrated. Strange, as this is absolutely not how I was raised. So you know what? The hell with it! I trained bloody hard to complete a marathon and I raced even harder, so I’m going to document it dammit! Also, during my quest to lose weight etc I’ve read many inspiring blogs along the way (check out @austinslide’s Couch Potato to Ironman, for instance) and if this can provide even a fraction of the inspiration to someone else, then it’s worth it.

As far as the weight loss goes, I’ve written about it elsewhere, but to sum up here: I was 17.5st and smoking twenty L&B a day. Look at this photo, for the love of god. Like a pigeon stuffed into sausage wrapping, and one of two horrific ones that the media CONSTANTLY used.

Image  All the weight I’d worked my ass off to get rid of a few years before had come back in a wave of self-pity, and was threatening to bring friends too unless I changed my lifestyle. I mean, two tubs of Pringles cannot be construed as a meal in anyone’s book for crying out loud. So I figured the best way to both get in shape and help with kicking smoking would be to run. It’s relatively inexpensive, practically anyone can start straight away and the thought of coughing up a lung every time I stumbled ten yards was enough to strengthen my resolve.

Now, anyone who saw me attempt cross country in school would have bet good money on Jesus returning to tap-dance the Olympic torch from Greece to London than say I’d be a runner, especially on those wet and windy days where me and my equally-flab-challenged friend John wallowed like beached whales at the bottom of the notorious hill on school grounds. Particularly out of shape beached whales. So the early days of this foray into running were a hard combo of run/walking at a “leisurely” pace, with much sweating and cursing as more seasoned runners swept by me like smug gazelles. However, I was a realist and knew exactly where I was at so I didn’t let it get me down, I just knew I had to keep at it. Two things helped at this stage. Firstly, the support I’d received at home and on Twitter was incredible. They made me feel like a world champion instead of a puffer who’d taken fifty seven minutes to run less than five miles. Secondly, it’s amazing how quickly the human body can improve, and by how much, with consistent training. I’m a numbers guy, so seeing my distances increase and my pace per mile tumble was very gratifying, and spurred me on more.

I very quickly felt confident enough to enter my first race, a 10k last June (see picture of me to the left looking particularly gleeful at the end). This was a fantastic experience for me. The buzz you get on race day is infectious and addictive, and I knew I only wanted to move forward from here.

A marathon was something that I hadn’t given any serious thought to, seeming like a completely insurmountable distance, but was an objective lingering in the far recesses of my mind. Instead, I continued to pound the road and push the distances until I reached half marathon distance in September. Serious training takes a back seat through winter as conditions worsen, so I just kept things ticking over until after Christmas. By this point, I’d lost about two and a half stone (see next pic) and was feeling pretty fit, so I had a vague notion of a spring marathon. I ummed and ahhed for a while until I realised that unless I actually entered one soon, I’d probably end up not doing it, so I took the plunge and entered the Belfast City Marathon in May.

With that finally set, I could focus completely on training towards it. I was pretty lucky with my training, I only missed the one run throughout the whole thing, due to a damn cold. I won’t bore you with the whole regime, but it was amazing the ride my confidence took on the way, from its lowest ebb after two eighteen milers that were as painful as they were demoralising, to amazing highs including a fifteen miler a month out where I felt I could have gone on forever.

Come race day, I felt as ready as I could be but still not amazingly confident. My mantra was ‘trust in the training’ and if anyone is in a similar position, I’d tell them to do the same. You have put in the miles and you WILL pull it together on the day as long as you don’t do anything too crazy.

Conditions for the race were, well, crappy, but it didn’t dampen the day at all. I had support from Sarah and Ashton, who’d been great during training and with calming me on the day, and I was buzzing to go. Again, I won’t do a mile-by-mile commentary, but it’s a strange thing. I didn’t hit the wall, which I’m sure would have been impossible for me anyway given as I’d eaten ALL the carbs on the weekend before, but I did have low points. Running alongside the shore in 40mph rain and sleet in the middle third was pretty damned trying, let me tell you. They say the race begins at mile twenty, and that last 10k is certainly a bitch. It’s a different kind of pain to training runs, as you almost leave your body in that extra feat of endurance. This leaves you ready to break into any and all emotional possibilities once you cross that line. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I just stopped my Garmin, held it together and grabbed the crisps being handed out, my medal and, most importantly, a hug.

I’d done it. I was a marathoner. No-one could take that away from me. The most important thing from all this though, was the knowledge once I’d finished that, despite being exhausted, I was definitely going to do this again. This was now a lifestyle, not just one thing I do once, get a tattoo of my time just to prove I’m never going to do it again, and stop. This is me, for good.

Before the marathon

26.2 miles later

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Treading on Eggshells – Kenneth Wrong

January 8, 2011 6 comments

Unless David Cameron proposes a tax on sex, the winner of 2011’s Massive Twat of the Year has already been won, by a man named Kenneth Tong. Who is he? Well I didn’t know this myself until a few days ago but apparently he was once on Big Brother, the show notorious for bringing out the best in humanity. Why am I blogging about him? Well in the past week he was been spouting the biggest amount of shit I have ever heard, by saying that if you’re not a size zero then you fail at life and by promoting “managed anorexia”. He is also some kind of rich playboy and happily lauds this over the rest of us lesser humans.

Now, I have to be careful here. Apparently, because of all that has happened to me, I tread very carefully on the eggshells of hypocrisy if I dare suggest his freedom of speech is oppressed. On the flipside, I am also aware that I am not immune from justified criticism if I’m wrong. I’m happy to debate. Also, I’m loathe to give him more publicity because it’s obvious that is what he feeds on in the absence of food. I justify it to myself by saying that he would inevitably get attention anyway and it’s what we do about it now that counts.

I have been through all the arguments in my head and occasionally with people on Twitter. If I say that his moronic, irresponsible and dangerous views should never see the light of day then I’m infringing on his human rights to freedom of expression. Is it right that he should be allowed to speak his mind this way? Free speech campaigners will say yes, that in order to have a free and democratic society you cannot limit free speech, for it is no longer free. I completely understand that, and that we also have the right to disagree with his views. Not that our disagreement with, or vilification of, him will do anything to dissuade this deluded and deranged individual.

His views can lead to people putting themselves at serious risk. I have been told that you and I have the ability to realise his opinions are shit. Yes, that’s great for us. But there are vulnerable people out there who will lap it up. People with eating disorders and low self-esteem will see him telling them they are worthless and then… well I don’t even want to think of what could happen. Of course, the argument that I then went through in my head is that if we start censoring based on the ‘what could happen’s then we walk down a dangerous road. Again, I fully understand that too.

I’m wafting to-and-fro here, and that’s the problem with arguing over freedom of speech. It appears to be black-and-white, all-or-nothing, and that is doing my head in! There is no room for ‘what if’s with such a highly-charged subject, yet it cannot be right that something so universally wrong and terrible is allowed a forum. I think this is because we feel that if we budge just a millimetre, “the man” will take a mile.

So what’s the answer? Is there one? I think I’m writing this just to be cathartic rather than come up with one myself. Do we start to rethink freedom of expression? I’m not proposing that, I just want to know is there any situation where it would be acceptable to think it. I can hear the knives (and other, more violent weapons) coming out now for daring to think that that should ever happen on any level. I just cannot fathom how it is right that such shit can be allowed and that nothing can be done.

Maybe that’s just it. If you want your rights to be upheld then you have to be prepared to deal with this kind of thing and damn the consequences. Sigh, I don’t know. I haven’t really gotten anywhere with this have I? Still, it’s been good to get my thoughts out, as inarticulately as I have.

If it does boil down to freedom of expression versus censorship then I’m on the former side all the way. Dealing with this moron far outweighs censorship of a basic human right. It just seems that there is nothing offering any form of protection to those at risk from him. What is the difference between what he’s doing and bullying and/or advertising cigarettes?

One more thing, in a world where you can’t pick up a paper or look at a website without seeing a light being shone on someone’s Twitter feed/Facebook status/blog, why has there been nothing (the Twitter revolt aside) against this idiot??

Categories: Uncategorized

My True Love Gave to Me… A Sense of Perspective

December 23, 2010 7 comments

It’s been a couple of months since I last blogged, this is simply unacceptable. So here’s a kind of Christmas-themed entry.

First things first, as this is a Christmas post I should get one thing straight. If you are the kind of person who calls it “Xmas” I will hunt you down and slap you across the face with some crusty underwear. It’s not that I’m religious, it just grates with me. It’s a nonsensical abbreviation. Is it “ex-mas” or is it “cross-mas”? Neither makes any sense. Is it some kind of take on the crucifix? I doubt whoever came up with it is that clever, however if they are then for some reason I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate to commemorate someone’s birth by removing their name and replacing it with the instrument of their death. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, moving on…

So last weekend my emotions got the better of me briefly. I was really down because this will be the first time in my life that I have not spent Christmas with my family. In the past few years our routine on Christmas Day was fine-tuned and something I looked forward to immensely. I would spend all morning with my girlfriend, exchanging gifts et cetera, then she would have dinner with her family while I did the rounds with mine before going to my dad’s with my brother for dinner. Once there we would head to the pub while dinner was cooking (misogyny is rife in our households!), have a few pints, laugh and reminisce over a game of pool. We would return and have the best damn Christmas dinner with ham that I walk through fire for and then proceed to get quite drunk while playing poker or darts. My dad would bring out his annual tradition of a new drink to try (previous entries being tequila from Tijuana, Aquavit, Grappa and something from Latvia which we couldn’t pronounce but called “breakdancing fluid”) and we’d get very merry before staggering home and spending the night with girlfriends. It may not sound like much but I’m a family boy and it meant the world to me.

I am a big kid at Christmas, I still get infected by the season and love everything about it. Yes the presents are nice, but mostly it’s the time spent with loved ones, the laughs had and the memories shared. The prospect of not being able to do that this year really got to me. After I confided in Sarah she made me realise a few things. I hadn’t grown up, for one. That Christmas routine is for either a teenager or a bachelor, not someone in a committed relationship. And while I will definitely still miss my family, I will be spending it with my new family – Sarah and Ashton – and that excites me a lot. I am truly in love with them both and I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend it than with them. Plus this year I’m not the kid, the actual child is. I cannot wait to see how Christmas is for him, he’ll bring out the inner child in both Sarah and myself as he gleefully takes the whole thing in after Santa’s been. We’ll be creating new routines and new memories from 2010 onwards and I look forward to them more than I ever have anything else.

Sarah made me realise that things change, not always for the worse. The whole of this year has marked a big change in me and Christmas will be the final note on me finally (hopefully) growing up. Though maybe not completely…

 

 

Merry Christmas to you all and a happy New Year.

Categories: Uncategorized

And So it Rumbles On…

September 29, 2010 23 comments

It seems like all I do these days is moan. Which I don’t like because normally I’m a happy-go-lucky person (occasionally to my detriment), but lately I’ve been sensing a change within me. Of course we all know what the cause of this is. I’ve not mentioned anything about the case on this blog so far, partly because it’s well-covered elsewhere, and partly because I’d rather let this blog stand or fall on it’s own merits.

I’m varying from that this time because I thought the end, or AN end of sorts, would occur last Friday, meaning I could dust myself off and get on with things. Now that it’s adjourned, the hell continues and my sanity plummets ever lower. I’m sure in some quarters, people are thinking “Well it was just a fine you received, it’s not like you face a murder charge” and while that’s true, and I’m trying not to lose my perspective here, that does not mean that the effect on my life has not been catastrophic. At this point, the case (and whatever verdict) are secondary. It’s how I go about picking up the pieces after that. A lot of people say to me that it’ll all be over soon, but it won’t. The case may be, but that’s only one less thing to worry about. By the time that comes around, I’ll likely be bankrupt (ironically, that isn’t hyperbole) and vacantly staring into space while I dribble profusely. This is, without doubt, the hardest period of the whole thing so far, so please bear with me if I become a miserable sod.

I honestly don’t have a plan or a clue. This is new to me. I don’t know which way the verdict will go. I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get a job either in the interim or the long term. I just feel like I don’t know anything, and it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever had to face, that includes standing in the witness box in front of a raft of sour-faced legal people.

So there you go, another self-indulgent moan! Hopefully this time next year I’ll be looking back and lambasting myself for posting it!

Categories: Uncategorized

One More Thing

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m going to start reviewing things on here. Films, books, TV shows and the like. And by “the like” I mean just those things. Hope you don’t mind!

Categories: Uncategorized

Getting Older

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Cor, it’s been a while since I posted something. I really need to kick my ass and not lose momentum. Also, this post may touch on some previously recurring themes that pop up in this blog, but then again it is my state of mind and I did say I was using this as some kind of therapy.

So anyway, I recently turned twenty-seven. Do I feel twenty-seven? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. I still feel like a ten-year-old, only with a lot more hair and a lot less potential. I still consider things from a ‘when I grow up’ perspective. So that got me thinking, at what point does someone actually realise, and feel, that they are actually “grown up”? I always thought that at some point during my twenties, some wise old sage would approach me like a hooded Jedi and whisper into my ear that it was time (of course in reality this would be greeted with a punch to his wrinkled fizzog and a backstreet castration with my foot), and all the wisdom of the world would be bestowed onto me in a ceremony I likened to Highlander. I would have it all figured out. So far that old man hasn’t appeared, maybe because he’s with his probation officer all the time.

So what brings that feeling of assurance on? Of course, no-one has all the wisdom of the world, but some people must feel that they have themselves figured out? Is it a certain turning point in your life or does it happen gradually? Is it when you’ve achieved all your career goals? You want to be a doctor as a child, you ace your A-Levels (of course these days all you need to do is spit on your exam paper to get an A*. I jest! Congratulations to all A-Level students, now use Sociology in real life! I’m so bitter), you study medicine at university, you ace that and you become a doctor (NB: Process shortened for time purposes). So, is that it? Are you then satisfied enough to enjoy the fruit of your labour or do you want more? I hope there are people like that. Others may scoff at those who don’t dream for anything more, but if you’re constantly in pursuit of something, then the next thing, and the thing after that, when do you ever actually enjoy life?

It may not be the career, is it parenthood? Does becoming a parent, and putting a child or children in front of your own well-being bring that ‘grown up’ feeling on? Maybe if we aren’t constantly examining ourselves, we don’t worry about it as much? Am I mistaken and actually no-one ever feels grown up as such? I imagine this would be more apt for us men, god knows women are more emotionally mature than us, I make no effort to hide that!

Turning thirty is just around the corner, and I’m in the middle of a quarterlife crisis (it’s a real thing, honestly! I didn’t make it up, check it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarterlife_crisis), which brings about many existential thoughts I guess, this being the latest in a long line of them. All I know is I don’t want to be 70, still spending most of my time playing Playstation 30.

Or do I…?

Categories: Uncategorized

Back to Work

July 9, 2010 2 comments

I have a job! I was called about it on Tuesday, interviewed Wednesday and started Thursday. And while it’s only a temporary position, I couldn’t be happier.

It’s probably a good thing that it happened so quickly. I was becoming increasingly concerned about how I was going to get back into the mindset of the daily grind. Prolonged unemployment seems to put you in a funk, and once you get there it seems hard to get out. So as it transpired over 48 hours, it didn’t give me a chance to dwell on that, I just had to do it.

Another thing that unemployment does to you is it makes you doubt yourself. When you’re just out of work, you look at your CV, you are happy with it and you’re sure that you’ll be employed right away. Over time, what started as confidence quickly turns into doubt over your CV. Have I enough experience? Is it varied enough? Is it even formatted properly?! This then turns into “No-one should give me a job because I’d fuck everything up! I can’t do ANYTHING!!”. What was once routine and mundane, those tasks you did naturally, suddenly become a daunting mountain that you think you can’t possibly scale again. For anyone that is unemployed right now, I would say that it very quickly comes back to you. It may take a morning to shake off the rustiness, but after that it again becomes second nature.

I feel invigorated. I maintain that man was not put on this earth to work in an office all day every day, but social thinking makes us believe that jobs define us and give us acceptance. My feeling of worth has sky-rocketed, after only two days of being back at work! I feel that maybe life isn’t one constant shitcloud which rains upon us.

I will never complain about any job again. Of course it’s never good to stay in a job you hate, I’d make sure you were guaranteed something to go to before you leave it, and definitely don’t burn any bridges. Like all those Eastenders actors who decide they’re too good for the soap and head off to Hollywood before returning six months later asking for their character to return from the grave or come back from “up West”, make sure you keep your options open.

I’m still looking for a permanent position, obviously, but having something, anything in the meantime gives me optimism I haven’t had in a while.

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