August 3, 2016

Parkrun changed my life

The last two years have been a blur of running and self realisation, but simply put: my life has changed.

This post has been a long time coming.

Chances are you’ve heard me speak about, tweet about, post photos of, just generally bang on about marathons, triathlons, running, swimming, cycling, eating, and everything in between. Sorry, not sorry.

Some of you might even remember me from before I started down this path, others of you I’ve met along the way, and for some this might be the first you’ve ever heard about me or what I’ve done. So I’ll take it back a few years.

There are a few topless photos on the way, so apologies in advance if you’re in Instagram’s no nipples on show corner, but here goes…

A snap of me in April 2014
A very sad looking starting photo in early April 2014

April 2014

This is when it all started. Looking in the mirror and having this fella stare blankly, and kinda sadly back at me. It kinda felt like it wasn’t really my reflection, but looking back that was just a wholesale denial of what I’d allow happen.

There are lots of reasons that it got this way, but living a student’s life with a worker’s income just meant lots of fast food; which combined with little to no exercise ended me up here.

I moved home to London, started a new job, and enlisted the help of an amazing personal trainer, and set about changing the way I was living.

One of the things that I introduced into my life was parkrun.

Cue parkrun

I say that I introduced it, the truth is that my mum had been running every Saturday morning for a year or two, and had completed a marathon.

I did one. Hated it.

I think it really hit home just how bad my fitness levels were and that was soul-destroying, but on the walk home – it took me so long my folks thought I’d given up, and gone home – I came full circle and challenged myself to get better at this rather than let it eat me away inside.

It took me a while to muster the courage to take another shot at it though, but I’d signed up for a triathlon, and a few Tough Mudders a long the way and had been putting in the work in the gym.

PBs rolled in bit by bit, each time taking another chunk off of my time.

I say parkrun changed my life, but that’s not exactly true. I guess this probably should have been called running changed my life.


When I moved to South London over a year ago now, I was in prime location for running in the center of London. This was the game changer. 20 minutes of running puts me on the Thames, and I can run through the best city in the world for as long as I fancy before crossing the nearest bridge, and heading back home.

A photo of my mum and me before the start of the RPF Half Marathon
This wonder-woman of a mum and I cruised personal bests at the RPF Half in October 2015

Last year, the two (well three) triathlons I did went really well, the Tough Mudder events went well, and the Royal Parks Half Marathon went exceptionally well!

The RPF half was a fantastic day. Hitting a half marathon PB of 1:44; cheering my mum over the line as she smashed her own PB, and rounding off the perfect season of progress.

Run Dem Crew

Okay so maybe it wasn’t running that changed my life.

Maybe it was Run Dem Crew that changed my life.

Running on a Tuesday with likeminded, diverse, and wonderful people was a catalyst to reducing all of my personal bests – culminating in a 1:34 PB at the North London Half.

I set a New Year’s run-spiriation with a first footing run on 1 January (cheers Sarah et al):

Miles and smiles. Enjoy every run, and be grateful that you’re able to do this!

I was faster, and leaner. I was enjoying running even more. Finding new challenges.

None of this quite felt enough though. I knew I was capable of more, a marathon maybe? Sadly, my ballot had come up empty for the 2016 London Marathon. Goddamn Spiderman magazine. What next?

The Brighton Marathon

Brighton reopened entries – somewhat unexpectedly, and I jumped at it.

So did my mum.

April 2016, a whole two years since starting this journey, she and I lined up on the start line. Well that’s not totally true. We queued so long for a pre-race wee that I missed my start time, so we jogged towards the start line together.

It was so special.

A selfie of my mum and me getting set to take on the Brighton Marathon
Running late for the start, but always time for a start-line selfie with this superstar!

Now obviously I couldn’t let her cross the finish line without any cheering (she’d cheered me at every available finish line) so I set about getting there as fast as I could so that I could make all of the noise for her.

A photo from the Tuesday after my marathon, where Charlie presented me with my medal
Every crew needs a captain, and running under Charlie’s banner has changed my life

And I did.

But not before she cheered me. Whilst running. Twice.

There were many reasons that day was so special: whether it be running with my mum; wearing matching Stroke Assosciation jerseys in memory of my gran; running through a city that meant so much to Hope; or just doing something that I never thought I’d do.

I won’t put all of it, but the RDC speech that Charlie read out for me the Tuesday after my race sums up exactly why this was such an important day.

There were tears hearing it read out, cheers from others, and the pride I felt at my mum’s achievement was amost crippling; but boy, oh, boy was it a privilage to air my story.

You can read it here if you’d like, but the final line – I felt – was the defining change I’d found.

Run with the people you love and you can do anything!

So my mum changed my life? I’m starting to lose track…

So where am I now?

It’s been a while now since I ran that race, but I’ve not quite found the right words (and I’m still not sure that I have, but they’ll have to do).

A photo from 2014, and a photo from now
It’s been a long way to here, and we’re not done yet

I went back to Derby to take on the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon again – and I loved it (again)!

That was just the warm up for this weekend though. Sunday is the big one.

My second London Triathlon, but I’m moving up to the big boy leagues – it’s time for my first olympic distance. 1500m of salty Thames water; 40km of rolling roads on Alice; and then the small task of a 10km run to round it all off!

The progress I’ve made hasn’t just been physical – although shedding 25kg to dip under 75kg and be the lightest I’ve been as a grown man. My mentalities have changed. I’ve relaxed. I’m happier. I challenge myself more because I know that I’m mentally more capable of overcoming hurdles, and I don’t give up like I used to.

And what’s next?

My season finishes on Sunday. Then I’ma take a week to relax in Italy with friends, and the woman that I love.

Aaaaaand then it starts all over again!

Keeping myself in shape, and able to run long distances will help me be better placed to assist Hope with her training wherever and whenever she needs it; I cannot wait for Budapest!

And I’d be lying if there wasn't a more selfish reason too. I like where I’m at, and I’m not about to let that slip just because there are no races on the immediate horizon.

Oh, and the idea of an Ironman is very much something that I want to have a go at!

Three photos of my swim, bike, and run at Jenson Button Trust Triathlon
What a day that was!

So, in short…

Parkrun changed my life;

Running changed my life;

Run Dem Crew, and Charlie Dark changed my life;

My mum, and my family changed my life.

It’s a growing list, and long may it continue. Thank you to everyone who has supported me, given me advice, put up with my nonsense excuse for why a beer just isn’t what I want and a run is, and just generally been here for me through all of this.

See you on the next start line!

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

If you enjoyed it, and think others would benefit from the read then feel free to share it on Twitter (or elsewhere). I’m always up for a discussion about anything I’ve written too, so get in touch if you want to chat!

If you’ve spotted something out of place or something needs correcting, feel free to open a PR for this entry, raise an issue, or let me know.

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