Monday, 1 October 2012

I'd just like to thank a few people...

Note: No, I didn’t write this after the Bristol Half Marathon. I wrote it earlier in the week and have just tweaked it. Hey, have you ever seen an Oscar acceptance sheet written between the announcement and reaching the podium? No, just like you’ve never seen the hundreds that have been written and never delivered! And you know what happens when they ad-lib

Hey-up! I did it! In 1h49’56” - which, I’m told (for I am ignorant in such matters), is a good time, especially for a first attempt! And it was a faster time than my sub-2hr goal, so I’m happy!
(Let’s see... I came 3,481st. Out of 9,975 finishers. Top 35%, a mere 47’55” behind the winner. I guess I should be happy wi’miself, then!)

I’ll get round to writing a bit more about the run itself over the course of the week. For now, folk… there’s no red carpet or any golden statues, but I do have a few thanks you’s to go through…

It’s been an interesting journey from April 19 to today. It’s lasted 165 days, 795km (or 494m, if imperial takes your fancy), going from one grey evening when I ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute, walked a minute, ran a minute and walked home, to a drizzly morning when I ran 21.0975km in 1h49’56”. I walked out of my house on that April evening weighing around 95kg (15st) and at the start of this week I came in at 74.5kg (11st6lbs). My running shoes have seen the scenic sights of the Portishead Coast Path, some deserted field near Wotton-under-Edge, Pill, Bristol and Amsterdam’s waterfronts, a running track in Paris and, last but never least, Sheffield and the parkland route of the TenTenTen. I have boosted Decathlon’s profits and redefined sporting fashion in a manner not seen since Becks moved West… well, sort of.

There are some people who deserve more than a passing thanks. Some of the names listed below would expect nothing less (or shouldn’t, anyway!), some would not even expect a mention. Anyway – here goes (in no particular order):

Paola Gueglio
Back in the early 90s, I’d see Paola around 200 days/year, as we were schoolmates. OK, let me start that again…
Back in the early 90s, I’d see Paola around 170 days/year, as we were schoolmates (some of us with a better attendance record than others, I’m sure she won’t mind me saying). After 1994 I didn’t see her for a while, for several years in fact, until I bumped across her near my parents’ house. Not that I recognised her, mind: fortunately, she did me. Gone had the rotund, drinking, smoking girl I’d known and before me stood this slim, drinking, smoking version of her. To this day, I have never seen such a transformation in a person, achieved primarily through hard work (I think). Whenever I’ve embarked on weight-loss / fitness ‘projects’, I’ve thought back to the day I didn’t recognise Paola Gueglio. And this time it has seemingly worked.

I first encountered Richard in 1994, when fate placed us on the same University degree course. He has since become one of my very best friends as well as a consummate marathon runner. His tips and encouragement, as well as the thought that if a lanky ginger beanpole could succeed at this then surely I had a shot, have been extremely valuable. Of course, I’ve since figured that being a lanky beanpole of any hair colour is no bad thing for a runner, but that doesn’t matter: I was ignorant of that particular detail at the outset.

Sally and Bob Parsons
For geeing me up one morning when my spleen wanted me to stop and introducing me to trail running along the Portishead Coast Path in the process. Staring out onto the Bristol Channel, my eyes appreciated such an introduction immediately; no doubt in the longer term my joints will be even more grateful for my feets’ somewhat softer landings!

Karl Fearnley
For inadvertently spurring me into signing up for the 2012 Bristol Half Marathon. All he was doing was talking about it on his Facebook page without actually mentioning it, teasing people into guessing: and I was the first to figure it out, not least because I knew the date! At the time my long runs were 18km, so I didn’t feel unduly daunted by the 21.0975km distance and promptly signed up. Still needed to up the training, mind!
(Top lad, is Karl. Hope to see him soon. Face-to-face, like. Stuff Facebook.)

Jon Bonner

For being my running partner. For taking someone who could go off and run 18.46km in 1h52’13” on his own and helping him become someone who could run the extra 2.6375km in an extra er, no, hang on, in 2’17” less! OK, so the 18.46km were hilly, but still, you get my drift.
We set out yesterday to hit 1h50’00” and, courtesy of Jon’s pacing (assisted by GPS watch and printed out pace bracelets), I was within four seconds of that. By any standards, such accuracy is amazing. Now he wasn’t quite so accurate, as he came in at 1h47’57”
, having left me trailing in the last couple of miles. Delighted he did, that he felt comfortable doing so! Extra physical fitness and/or extra mental strength boosted by knowledge of the route (it was his tenth Bristol half in a row!) showed: and I'm delighted it did, that he felt comfortable leaving me behind safe in the knowledge I was odds-on to achieve my goal. In fact, I'm delighted I kept the difference at two minutes trust me, as I saw him fade into distance it felt a darn sight more!
Took this meself, I did! Paris, 04/07/2012
No, not for ‘Born To Run’, which sadly still reminds me of Salcombe in this context (Uncle Richard filmed me before the race namechecking it and adding “we should have it on in the background, really!”
…but just for being Bruce Springsteen. As my Facebook profile states, “There is nothing I have achieved in this life that I do not owe to the grace and love of God and to the energy and inspiration of Bruce Springsteen”. And sure, I have been humming plenty of his material whilst training, not least the live version of ‘Out On The Street’. In fact, I’ve been humming that at home, too. Not to Mrs S’ amusement, I must add. Fair dos: the “wo-oh, wo-oh, wo-oh, yeay, yeay, yeah!” bit only really makes sense if you can hear the rest of the song in your head: having seen it performed live thus also helps. Otherwise, you’re just an annoying numpty going round the house singing “wo-oh, wo-oh, wo-oh, yeay, yeay, yeah!”.

Martin Nisbet
For taking this shot of me in Paris. And for being The Doc.

Cousin Oliver
My cousin (named after me, I’ll have you know) and personal Decathlon shopping assistant. Not that he works there, he just goes if I need anything. He signed up for the TenTenTen but had to pull out the day before. By then, however, he’d already given plenty of encouragement and shared enough of this journey – not least when we went on a run together along the Coast Path. A section of the journey which I have since optimised in terms of routing, i.e. I no longer have to run through people’s gardens to find the main road. Just in case that entices you back Darn Saath, Oly!

Cousin Nats
Not named after me, I’ll have you know. Out of the "Ten Savage Cousins", by far the most experienced long-distance runner, what with having run the London Marathon and all that. Her words of wisdom and encouragement as I was still getting to grips with this malarkey were very helpful. And the nearest thing to a little sister I’ve got! Love you loads, Kid.

Cousin Joe
From Wembley to Endcliffe Park, we got there together. Not necessarily by design, but then few things are by design with Woody! Same again next year, Lad? Well, on the running front, that is I can’t be doing wi’Wembley again.

untie Dawn and Uncle Richard
For spelling out to me, back on May 5, how tough the TenTenTen was. For telling me it was going to be really, really, really tough. And don’t get me wrong: for the version of Giacomo Oliver Squintani to which they were used, for the version of Giacomo Oliver Squintani that they encountered back then (the fat/unfit one), they were spot on. Nevertheless, they did spur me on to get the miles in and get the pounds out (or, as I would actually rather say, “to get the kilometres in and get the kilos out”). That chat on the way home from Exeter was the single greatest motivator once inertia had been broken and the running had begun. 50’38”. 1h49’56”. Thanks!

Now for some Twitter folk… whilst I do know their real-world names, I have chosen to leave their Twitter handles. Because ‘person’ and ‘persona’ can be two different things: there are differences between Giacomo Squintani and @gos75, for example. The fundamentals are the same, but the medium requires you to tweak something. So, here goes…

Two #bladesrunners. Two people whom I’ve never met but whose #runningtweets made me think that maybe I should give it a go after all. Like me, not particularly enthusiastic runners, indeed arguably somewhat reluctant. Like me, they’ve been there and done it. And got a t-shirt or two along the way, too – though, of course, hardly as spectacular as their Sheffield United tops!
Another of the #bladesrunners (indeed, The Chairman of the Board) whose name features frequently in this blog as it is to him whom I’ve turned for advice on this running malarkey. Because #twitterblades are such fantastic people, I received many nice tweets after the SheffieldTenTen: Nick’s was one of my favourites:
@gos75 wow , fantastic time beats my best Gia - you will now be my coach from now on - very well done mate

although my all-time favourite tweet, still from Nick, will always be this one - sent the day that Our Jess came home and Nick, being the athlete that he is, was duly out there welcoming her:

Again, people I’ve never actually met (and, for the avoidance of doubt and/or legal action, not #twitterblades)… well, almost, I did meet @MazyMixer just before last week’s TenTenTen but let’s not let that ruin a good line. People whom I’ve bumped into on Twitter and who have been very kind to share some of their experience with me. The online equivalent of the people you’ve never met who stand by the side of the racecourse and shout encouragement. Never underestimate how helpful that can be.
Amongst all the tweets, one will always stand out: posted on May 24, it was the one in which Martin mentioned this article he’d written. I’d only just stopped run/walking and progressed to the heady heights of 5k training runs. The article put a lot of things into perspective and has been a source of motivation since. If you do nothing else with this post, with this blog, just make sure you read this. And #ballstocancer!

Other assorted #twitterblades:
From @danchap1022 and @BladeSam who’ve willed on these old legs of mine to @alanPickard20 who’s eyeing up next year’s Yorkshire 10k, from @8LAD35 for asking me whether I was fundraising as he didn’t want to miss the boat (not this time, but I’ll be in touch re: May!) to @LivvyRhodes for subscribing to this blog (she may be the only one to have read it), from @unitedite whose award-winning A United View blog gave me the opportunity to write a few posts about Udinese, the Lane and later Mick Rooker, realising that actually it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have my own, albeit not footie-related to @hollowspy and his inspiring photos (oh, and he did the logo above, anall)

…look, #twitterblades are just special folk. Not just the ones listed here, but each and every single one of them
– of us. I tried to explain why back at the end of April, when this experience was still in its infancy, but it’s not an easy task. To each and every one of you, #thanks and #UTB!

Above, shiny new shoes in April;
below, chipped version, 30/09
I walked in having never really run before. There I was, suited and booted having come out of a conference but with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts in two… I walked out with a pair of Asics which, I was reassured, fitted my running style as filmed on the treadmill. I also bagged a free Nike running top (which of course no longer fits – XL!) and paid for a pair of socks (complete with ‘L’ and ‘R’) and a running bottle (which I’ve not used in months now, but was useful when I started out). Thanks for getting me going.

£65.99 I spent in Moti on April 18: at the time, my biggest concern wasn’t so much starting (which takes a day) but keeping going (which takes forever and a day). Kept going I did: which is why I can say that those 6,599 pence I invested therein in proved to be one of my shrewdest investments yet. I can honestly say I never looked into losing weight through diets, because actually weight loss per se wasn’t my biggest goal. But I doubt there’s much out there that helps you lose as much weight as I did for £65.99! Although yes, I did top my running equipment department up a little…

For flogging such cheap but perfectly adequate gear. Not only did that limit the damage to my bank account (lest we forget, running is not free!), it also demystified running somewhat. Which running on a treadmill with cameras analysing how your feet land did not: it was needed to get me going, but after that I slowly but surely started to get a little more clued up.

Man run 13 miles.
Man need NourishMeNow!
I first came across these guys as sponsors for the TenTenTen. Came back from the Sheffield race with ample supplies to get me through the Bristol Half… and beyond! I love the name, I love the people and I love the products. It’s all too easy, after a long run, to not feel hungry for a proper meal – these drinks solve that problem and are downright yummy! Can’t wait for online ordering to be somewhat more seamless, mind! :-)

Mum and Dad
For starters, I wouldn’t be here without them, which is a fairly major deal. Dad, thanks for the tips and encouragement as I belatedly sought to follow in his footsteps once the time felt right. Mum: sorry to break it to you over the phone that it wasnt a full marathon I ran in 1h49’56”!
Both of you: thanks for always being in front of me to show me the way and right behind me to help me get there. Love you!

Every now and then (but not frequently enough), we set up as Skype videocall so that my parents and my Nonna (my Dad’s Mum) can see the kids. When we had such a call on March 3, my Nonna (no shrinking violet – which us just as well, she’s hardly 5ft tall, if she shrank anymore they’d be auditioning her for “The Borrowers”) duly commented on the overly rotund shape to which I’d taken. That was the single greatest contributing factor to me deciding I needed to do something about it – and in time for our visit to Italy, when she’ll no doubt serve up the most delicious home-cooked Italian food. ‘Sustanziusu’, she’ll call it – ‘filling’ in the Genoese dialect. It won’t pass any dietary scrutiny but believe me, it’ll pass any taste tests – anywhere!

n.b.: Mother hates having her photo taken. As a result, I have yet to unearth any featuring her, me Dad or Nonna that pass muster. Sorry!

Nonno, Grandma and Granddad
For teaching me the value of hard graft and that there is little wrong with a little stubborness. Today both paid off.

Deo adjuvante, labor proficit. A perfect motto for any occasion. I don’t do tattoos, but if I did…
…thanks again for all that you and your people, our people have done to shape me. Im all the better a person for it.
imagine how bad I could have been!)

For teaching me to suffer. It came in handy.

Karen, Roberto and Daniel
Karen, for consenting to me disappearing on early morning runs without grumbling. Well, not too loudly, anyway – although she has expressed a perfectly reasonable desire for longer days and evening runs to return!
Roberto, for every time I’ve walked through the door after a run and he’s asked me if it had been a good one.
Daniel, just because.
Thanks for being with me and beside me for the past eight/five/three years respectively, but particularly over the past year or so. Something that potentially, if unlikely, could have gone terribly wrong seems to have gone alright. Time alone will tell if it went spectacularly well. Love you all!

Last but never least: 
My Brothers
For lifting me up and carrying me when my legs couldn’t do it anymore. For being a constant inspiration and a reminder that however much or little I achieve in this life, I achieve it in their name as well as mine. For being my angels – the best angels a brother could hope for. And I know that’s a split infinitive but I’m going to leave it thus.

So – is this the end of the road?
No, it’s not. It’s been more fun than I care to admit, as of course I can’t stand running and you all know that (although it really isnt about enjoyment! more about that later in the week). It’s done my body more good than I ever thought, that’s for sure (well, the waist, anyway: we’ll have to wait and see about the legs). I will enter the Sheffield Half Marathon, which takes place on May 13, as soon as entries open: I am already looking forward to running past so many landmarks that mean so much to me, that shaped the person I am. My first race had to be in Sheffield and it was; similarly, it was appropriate that a week later I was in Bristol, on my new doorstep, running along sights that I know and appreciate. But here’s a sobering thought. From April 19 when I first stepped out for a walk/run session to yesterday and crossing the finish line, 169 days passed. From today to May 13 and the Sheffield Half, 224 days lie ahead. That’s eight weeks longer than it took me to get to this stage: T-169 for Sheffield won’t be till November 29!
In some respects the road ahead could prove tougher, as I will need to find new sources of motivation. But I’m sure I will. As I’ve said before, I will reassign some of the time I’ve spent running to indoor training, in the comfort of our garage with weight bench, rowing machine, exercise mat and pull-up bar. I suspect I will find at least one 10k, just to have something to help focus the legs. Say…
Weston-super-Mare two days before both my legs turn 37?

Munched through a 14” Hawaiian last night. Accompanied by a Timmy Taylor. All that after a post-race Frappuccino. I actually put on weight yesterday, even running a half! Bothered? Nope!

Love to you all. Love to every relative, colleague and friend who’s liked a status, replied to a tweet, dropped me a text hey, maybe even wished me well face-to-face! Tonight, I love you all. This was a big deal for me. Crossing the finishing line was just that: it was the culmination of a journey that began on April 19. Tonight is about each and every one of those 164 days, with a little context provided by what took place 313 days ago when some clever people dug a hole in the side of my head, took out a pesky little piece of brain and stitched it all together again. That’s why, for me, it’s about more than a half-marathon and the couple of hours it takes to run it. That’s why I’ve yakked on for so long. Again, thanks and thanks for getting to the end of this with me.

Oh, and the 2013 TenTenTen is pencilled in for October 13. I’ll be there!
50’38” first time round… hmm… 45’? Ooh ’eck, only 83 people managed that this year! Out of 773! That’s, like, 10.737%! It would be the equivalent of overtaking 145 of the 227 runners that finished ahead of me in Endcliffe Park!!! Well that ain’t gonna happen, is it??? I’m just a fat lad from Yorkshire a fat lad from Yorkshire

p.s.: and no, I can’t stand running. I mean, look what it does to your toes! And thats BEFORE the Half Marathon – blasted things had been like that for months! What good comes out of running, eh? You tell me!

I'm told I should look into these… hmm, fair point, I will.


  1. If you don't have black toes/toenails at the end of a (half) marathon you haven't done it right :-)

  2. 1) I've had those since late June. Bit like the niggle on the left ankle, which I've also ignored as it's never got any worse;
    2) My Dad claims to have never had that problem. My Dad has run three marathons. Hence my sudden concern...
    anyway, I've done the worst thing one can do: googled it. So will now rely on advice provided by a nameless, faceless stranger.