Back in March of this year I set foot on a marathon start line. That in itself was an amazing feat for me, something that just one year before I would never have even dreamt of. I was overweight, unfit and stressed. In February 2014 I decided that I needed to start running (pushed out of the door by my wife who was bearing the brunt of most of my stress!). Running was the obvious answer to these three problems. I started running on my own, 5 kilometers here, 5 kilometers there, and I soon realized that I was actually enjoying it!! I was able to do the same route but each time I did it I was going faster, and suffering less!! Maybe this was my answer to all my problems. Then came the big test, a whole 10km!! All I wanted to do was to finish, and in less than an hour if possible! I stood on the line feeling alone yet surrounded by 24.000 people. “Surely this can’t be so hard” was my thought, and 57:11 minutes later I crossed the line! Euphoria set in. And so did the bug! I began signing up for 10km races left, right and centre, running and running. It was great.
My stress came down, my weight too and I was getting fit. I would even go so far as to say fitter than I ever was at school, where I played football, squash and swam at a high level!! This was good, but I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. I took the next step and joined some other crazy runners who went out regularly with an ex professional turned shop owner. Now that was a good idea!!! Motivation from others, advice from people in the know and shared ideas. Times went tumbling and the fun went up!
In September the distance went up and I did my first ever half marathon. Again, the target was to finish, if possible under 2 hours. 1 hour 57 minutes later I had crossed the line, this time with tears in my eyes. That was amazing, “who would have thought that I could run 21km non stop??!!
December came and people started turning their attentions to targets for 2015. “Barcelona Marathon” “Barcelona Marathon” “Barcelona Marathon” “Barcelona Marathon” The words kept appearing and I couldn’t stop thinking how crazy these people were. And that was my line of thought, for approximately 2 weeks, then I thought, “Well, why not me too?” and I duly decided to sign up. Here in Barcelona there is not the same idea as in London, where most of the runners are sponsored, it is simply pay and sign up.
I’ve been living in Barcelona since 1998 but that has not stopped me from thinking like the Brit that I am. I contacted Elly and asked if it would be OK to race to raise money for Shine the Light on Aniridia, and in no time at all I had my Just Giving page set up and running. I have known James and Elly for years now, and Ella since she was born. Such an amazing fighter deserved some support and I wanted to do the best that I could for her. We proudly gave her the first pair of sunglasses, and I wanted to help some more. This was the best that I could do.
There then followed 12 weeks of solid training, doing up to and sometimes over 100km a week, with a long run every weekend of 2 hours. It was not easy, it was cold, sometimes wet, and on many occasions busy with that previously stressful job I have!! Half marathons came and went, times faster and faster, legs stronger and stronger. And all the time posting statuses on my facebook page reminding my friends and colleagues to sponsor me. 50€, 100€, 200€. The total was going up as was my strength. All was looking good.
Finally the big day arrived, Sunday 15th March. There I was, all trained up, and with a buzz in my body that I had never experienced before. I had read lots about marathons, watched videos, talked non-stop for weeks with anyone who was willing to listen. But nothing could prepare me for that moment I crossed over the start line. 26 miles lay ahead of me, running around the city of Barcelona that has been my home for the last 17 years. I had never seen it like this before, and to be honest I don’t think I saw that much of it. It was head down, one foot in front of the other and go for it.
To cut a long story short, 3 hours 44 minutes and 1 second long to be exact, I crossed the line. I had been expecting to cry from the emotion of finishing a marathon to be honest, but amazingly they stayed back and it was smiles all round. I had done it. And I had managed to exceed my sponsorship target of 500€ by 130%. Brilliant support from my family and friends from England, but also from those in Spain who were not really familiar with the whole sponsorship process. Usually it was accompanied by the question “why should I pay for you to do the race?” It took a few laughs and minutes of explanation.
It was a great experience and one that will be certainly repeated next year. 13th March is already booked up in my calendar!!
I recommend running to all of you. I recommend helping a great cause even more. Go for it! I even lost 16kg!!