Many of us can look to a moment in our lives when we reflect and say ‘that was a real wake-up call’. On balance, wake up calls are a good thing, as long as we actually listen to the call and do something about it. My own personal epiphany came in 2011 when our daughter, Lucy, was born. We were living and working in Abu Dhabi at the time and the job was pretty stressful. I knew I was unfit but it wasn’t until I stood on the scales (and tipped them at 97kg) on the day Lucy was born that January that I realised I wasn’t unfit at all – I was, to all intents and purposes, heading towards being obese. Oddly enough, it wasn’t realising that fact that woke me up. It was realising that since I was 45 years old, when my daughter reached 21, I would be turning 66. And if I didn’t do something about my weight and general health & fitness, she might well be turning 21 without me there.
So as is often the case in my life, I made a profound personal decision and my wife made sure it was implemented. She’s Australian and that’s how it works. She found a keep fit instructor who lived on the same compound as us and booked me in for 10 sessions. Then she actually told me she had found a keep fit instructor and had booked me in for 10 sessions. On such occasions, it’s best just to say “OK”.
The keep fit instructor in question was a pint sized Kiwi called Magdalena and she was, quite frankly, verging on the certifiable. I don’t mean in an Ernst Stavro Blofeld ‘bring about the end of the world’ kind of way but she certainly believed that if she wasn’t making you suffer, the session clearly wasn’t hard enough. And if it wasn’t hard enough, it wasn’t doing you any good. So with that philosophy clearly ingrained and not open for any discussion, she set about making me really suffer. I recall our very first session. Magdalena lived two blocks away from us in Abu Dhabi. It took me 3 minutes to walk from our house to hers. It took me 15 minutes to walk back, though I mean walk in the vaguest sense of the word. Like a fool, I decided I needed to go back the next day.
And yet I wasn’t a fool. Magdalena may have been borderline bonkers but it turned out she was also very, very good. The strength and conditioning worked a treat and the weight dropped off. By the time we came back to the UK about 12 months later, I was down to 88 kg and feeling a heck of a lot better, especially when I realised that I had substituted a fair amount of heavier muscle for the fat I had been carrying a year earlier.
My wife had more delights in store. She loved running and decided this was the next big step for me. I had been a half decent runner in my youth – nothing fast in any sense, but able to keep up. Not anymore. Despite a decent core strength thanks to the aforementioned mad Kiwi, I didn’t have much cardio endurance so at first it was tough. But frustration soon turned to interest and interest soon turned to love as I started to get fitter and faster. So much so that I entered the occasional race. Again, nothing crazy as I was doing it for the fun of it, but it was racing as far as I was concerned. The high point came in 2014. Aged 48, I managed to run my fastest ever Half Marathon (1:29:52 – which I didn’t think was too bad for an old codger), as well as my fastest Marathon (3:37). I was on a roll.
And then for some inexplicable reason I hit a plateau and never really kicked on. OK, I’ve done Halfs and a few more Marathons since but if truth be told I lost just a little bit of my previous drive and I don’t really know why. It’s especially odd because I am privileged to work in professional athletics as well as cycle retail. I’ve wondered a number of times over the last 12 months whether being able to spend time with truly impressive athletes and their coaches has actually had the effect of making me feel how very average I am rather than serving as a motivation. But whatever the reasons, I sort of lost a bit of my running mojo and the amount of regular running declined.
I did manage to run the Boston Marathon this year in the most Biblically bad weather of all time (truly, it was horrific) and although I still managed it in 4 and a quarter hours, I was not at all happy. I wondered after Boston whether I was ever going to be able to run again as I had done in previous years. But being me, I put the idea out of my mind pretty quickly and did little practical about it. Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago when I jumped on the scales again and was shocked. I was 90kg. What the heck had happened! When I had run the Tissington Half Marathon in 2014 and dipped under the magic 1h30 (as well as coming 4th in my admittedly Veteran’s age group) I had been 79kg and ripped. OK, maybe not ripped but a lot better than now. Something had to be done and drastically. That was when Project 3:20 was born.
There’s a theory in marathon running (note: there are many theories in marathon running I’ve discovered and a fair few of them seem to conflict with each other but bear with me if you can) that if you want to work out your potential Marathon PB then you take your Half PB, double it and add 20 minutes. Which for me is 3h20m. And bear in mind I’m now 52 with a slightly gammy knee and very gammy quads that is one heck of a tough ask. So naturally, I decided that I should set that as my new target and go for it.
And go for it I will. Project 3:20 is a personal commitment to myself to run a 3h20m Marathon or better in the next 12 months. And since I always need a bit of added pressure to focus the mind and make sure I deliver, I thought what better way to do that than blog about it. So over the course of the coming months I will be doing occasional pieces on the training plan, the nutrition, the gym work and the swearing. I do have to confess that when I am running at my best there does tend to a be a bit of swearing.
But hopefully along the way I can share a bit of the fun as well. Because although this is supposed to be a cycling blog for cyclists, I discovered fairly early on that my brother Paul is a far, far better cyclist than me and always will be. But the very good news from my point of view is I am a better runner than him. And naturally being the big brother means I have told him I always will be the better runner. Nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to really focus the mind further. But seriously, since variety is the spice of life, I thought it would be fun to throw the odd running blog in amongst all the cycling stuff. Editor’s prerogative and all that.
Next week I take delivery of my latest new bit of kit. It’s a Technogym MyRun treadmill and it is achingly cool. I know it’s going to be really cool because it’s Italian and that’s probably all you need to know but the tech is clever as well. Apparently it’s bluetooth compatible, is fully integrated with Zwift Run and since that system integrates with Strava, we’re going to have a whole load of fun or at least that’s what the blurb says. Paul often tells me that “If it ain’t on Strava, it never happened”. Now I accept I’m no quantum physicist but even I’m not sure Paul’s theorem stands up to too much scrutiny in the physical world. But what the heck; Strava definitely adds a further competitive dimension and since with Zwift Run I can go for a virtual 10km run with Svetlana from St Petersburg any time I like apparently, I’ll make sure we’re fully integrated with Zwift and Strava – it sounds a bit of a laugh.
Maybe I’ll even get Paul excited about all this. Ok, maybe not….