It’s that time of year when we start to look ahead to our goals for the New Year and I also feel it’s essential to reflect on achievements in the current year to help appreciate the journey we have taken. For me, this has been one of the most amazing years ever and I want to share some of the highlights with you.
My running year started on New Year’s Day with a fun run in Blairgowrie then followed up with the Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon in February. These events were as much about socialising with friends as vital training runs. The Paris to Loch Ness Challenge was already mapped out and while the Edinburgh races were going to be my biggest challenge ever, including what would essentially be an ultra with the Half and Marathon back to back, I still seemed to treat it like a normal marathon. I’ve never run an ultra so why would I know to treat this different from any other race?
April quickly arrived and so the journey began in Paris. I remember standing on the start line on the Champs Élysée and saying a few words to my dad not so much about the marathon itself but the whole journey ahead. The way my body wanted to pace the race that day so that I could save energy for Edinburgh was something I’ve never experienced before. I then took on the Balmoral 10k after receiving an invitation from Macmillan then Loch Leven Half Marathon 2 weeks before the Edinburgh largely to see how close to 1hr 30mins I could get although, curiously, once I crossed the finish line I was more interested to know if I felt like I could keep running, which was important to me. It wasn’t really about the times, it was about knowing if I could achieve what I was setting out to do.
The big day soon arrived and I was on the start line of the 10k race in Edinburgh. This was interesting in deciding how to pace it given I had other races to follow. That didn’t seem to matter as I smashed my 5k PB in the first half running mostly uphill! I had been asked to meet up with various people from GSI Events (the organisers) at the end of every race and this involved various photographs and interviews, something I’m definitely not used to and it was actually quite a lot of fun to be the centre of attention! The 5k seemed to be rather a formality followed by more photographs.
The next day was both nerve-wracking and exciting with the Half and Marathon. The Half seemed to pass in a flash and then what I had planned in my head went out the window. I had figured that I would get my bag, jump on the bike and me back at the start in time to run with everyone else at the back. Waiting for photos and hitting heavy traffic changed everything but in a good way. I was so concerned that I was now much later getting back than what I wanted to be, I actually found myself running faster in the first half of the marathon than what I could ever have dreamed of.
What happened next totally blew my mind. My photo crossing the finish line of the 5k had appeared on the EMF Facebook Page overnight on the Saturday but it was the photo as I crossed the finish line of the marathon that changed everything and went way beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Not only did I become the poster boy for the event (the main photo received over 1000 ‘likes’ but I also featured in the press releases and was interviewed by Radio Forth again the day after. That wasn’t it though as it all seemed to snowball and received a thank you card from Macmillan from the event that I realised everyone who ra for them that weekend would’ve received the same card. It was hard to comprehend all this as for me, I had just done something I’m normally used to doing – running a marathon although obviously it was a bit more than that! It was rather overwhelming to know that what I had done had inspired so many people.
It was quite nice to go to Florida and enjoy a much-needed holiday, recharge the batteries and take part in our usual 5k runs before coming back and preparing for my final race, the Loch Ness Marathon. While I was away, I was stunned to win the Charity Runner category of Run4It‘s Running Inspiration Competition. I also won another competition from the Edinburgh Marathon to win a place in the race in return for blogging about the journey and so I will be doing all 4 races again in 2015!
I was quite excited to be part of the Relay Wild Tri again and it was pretty good to do it along with some great friends of mine. This was the second time I’ve done it and has whetted my appetite to do a ‘proper’ Triathlon and will be doing one on New Year’s Day in Edinburgh. A couple of weeks later, I was in for the Scottish Half Marathon and was ecstatic to smash my PB! I then went on to run the Pitlochry 10k the week before the big day at Loch Ness. That was an interesting experience as it felt like the big job had been done (Edinburgh) but at the same time I couldn’t be complacent , it was a marathon after all! Another factor I had to take into consideration was the fundraising that Allison and I had been doing and the figure was forever rising, particularly around that last weekend. I was able to relax into the race even though I hadn’t run further than 15 miles in training once in the build up and so it was going to be interesting to see how I would get on. The feeling crossing the finish line was incredible as I had received amazing support from the Macmillan cheer stations and it was an amazing, yet very emotional, experience when I crossed the finish line knowing that my challenge was complete.
I went on to smash both my 5k and 10k PBs at the Aviemore 10k then finally winning the Santa Run in Perth a couple of weeks ago to round off the most incredible year.
What did I learn? I learned I could achieve pretty much anything once I put my mind to it. I have felt like I have become a stronger runner from it all and become more in tune to what my body is telling me and what it feels it wants to do. I have changed my approach to races now and I’m more up to doing challenges, like Edinburgh, for the exhilarating experience I got from doing it and pushing my body beyond what it’s normally used to.
My proudest moment? Being asked to speak at a workshop for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival representing Macmillan and also between Allison, myself and the others who became part of our team raising over £10,000 for Macmillan. I thank my dad most sincerely for introducing me to running, for helping me become the man I am today and for inspiring me to help and inspire others.
Never stop learning, trying something new, listening to your body and most of all, having fun.