I’ve not wrote one of these in a while, I haven’t felt the need to. I haven’t been racing, clearly, because no one has. I have thought about sitting down and writing one, plenty of times. I’ve about 10 write ups saved in my drafts and used them as a bit of a mind dump at times; wouldn’t say any of them make sense when I read them back a couple of days after! I initially started writing this blog to recall my ‘intrepid’ adventures and over the last few months we’ve all been on one… so you can call this one, the start of something new or a compilation of all those 10 without the ‘crap’ wrote in between. This post started off with the typical idea of just being one post, but it became that long it is now in 2 parts, it might end up being 3 depending on how long that part 2 gets! So here goes, a bit of my journey over the past few months, part one; it might just be a load of rubbish, I might be a bit rusty at the writing game, you tell me!
I began working from home in the middle of March, the week after Thirsk 10 miler; where I ran a personal best of 53:19 on the 15th of March, in honesty, wasn’t in tip top condition… confidence was just returning to push my hamstring after my catastrophe at the Dewsbury 10k a month or so earlier. But ever since the Thirsk 10, the confidence has fully returned, I’d say, and my running has been given the room to find something I never had the opportunity to embrace before. I had a month or so working from home. I had a focus each day, run in the morning, then do some work and run again in the evening. Switching my lifestyle from travelling point to point delivering various sports sessions throughout my day; often embracing the 12 hour day with runs in between. The norm was lunch on the move, eating in the car in between journeys; a lunch favourite being Cous Cous, a flask of boiling water (so I could make a hot cous cous meal) and a tray of Bernard Matthews Turkey; if I was feeling ambitious a generous helping of Peri-Peri sauce. But the shift in my work allowed time for my recovery, that was something I often neglected and the time over the last few months has opened my eyes even more to it. I was beginning to see it a little more clearly over the last few marathon seasons anyway, finally trying to embrace the idea of a ‘taper.’ Another thing I once neglected. With all of these changes in my ‘hectic’ lifestyle; I then found it even tougher having my work removed from me completely; then began the furlough. It wasn’t something I initially embraced, questioning the value of what am I actually doing, if I can’t help during what everyone is perceiving as a crisis. On a week to week basis typically seeing 500 or more people; being involved regularly with 3 different schools and roughly 5 classes per school, then the evening sessions or fitness sessions I’m involved with and the inclusion football team I manage. Since working from home, on a week to week basis, I’ve seen around 4 people; those being Ellie, Dad, Mum and James. I’ve also seen Steve Frith on 1 occasion to pick something up from his house and then off the top of my head, not really anyone else… that is part of me doing my bit, during this crisis.
Over the past few months, I’m not going to lie, initially I found it tough, really tough. Not having any immediate goals. The goals I did have evaporating right before my eyes, losing sight of the reason why I am doing what I am doing. Stumbling to and from run to run, with nothing much else in between. Literally waking up on days and having nothing else to do, other than get out and run. Sometimes leaving it until late in the day, until the absolute last minute before getting my shoes on and going out the door. There isn’t anything wrong with that. But sometimes to my own detriment, running hungry, with nothing but my breakfast to eat and leaving the house at 3 or 4 o’clock. Leaving myself low on energy, with little time for recovery in between, before venturing out on a second run of the day a few hours later.
Then I took a step back, just for a moment and thought to myself, what can I do. What can I do, that has value, that goes some way to enhancing the life of myself and the others around me. So that in years to come, I can turn around and say… I made a difference. Just like my day job, hopefully!
Step 1: Embrace the treadmill
When the furlough began, the limitation also began, 1 outdoor form of exercise per day. Some could say it was a bit of a nightmare, I’ve all this time but limited in the form of doing what I love (however grateful for still being allowed to, unlike my previous life as a failed footballer). I’m what you could say an advocate for the double day, I embrace a double day, pretty much everyday is a double day, when it comes to my running. It’s how I improve, I’ve even done a triple day, a quadruple day a few times. That stopping and starting, replicating intervals, making run after run, high intensity, low intensity. Switching back and forth, recovering, before going out and blasting the body again. It’s a quick shot of exercise, a way to higher mileage with ease. I’m a junkie when it comes to exercise, any form of it, any form of pain endured through exercise. Once I start, I can’t simply just put it down and stop. So dropping from the double day, to a single day for me wasn’t going to happen. But thankfully, I must’ve anticipated this crisis and bought a treadmill (aka dreadmill) from Mark Yates late in 2019. The furthest I managed to clock on it during this period was 5 mile. Anymore than that, I’d probably die of boredom. I took my treadmill setup in this period from being a £50 second hand treadmill, that I bought only for emergencies. To a wonderful well oiled, technical machine. Simply put, my Garmin pinging to my laptop, that was connected to Zwift, that was pinging through a projector; with music blasting out from a speaker. Unbelievable scenes!
It made it a little more interesting anyway. Pretending to plod around the streets of London, Harrogate or NYC.
Step 2: The Barnsley Marathon
It started off as a well thought out idea, all of the spring marathons were crumbling before our eyes. I was adamant that I myself was going to run one. So I set it up, a small event for the ‘locals’ to run the Barnsley Marathon. Publishing the what would be route of today, trying to stick to as much of the route from years ago. We set out a lovely democratic vote for what day we would all ‘compete.’ On the plan, we had drink stops, people offering support. People were committing very early on.
It seemed a unbelievable idea. But in reality it was just that. It wasn’t really a goer… before we got it off of the ground, things began to change day to day. People’s confidence and restrictions were becoming smaller and tighter. Running a marathon wasn’t at the forefront of people’s minds, although it was mine. But when it came down to it, I had to question my own responsibilities. It’s not so much about ‘rights’ during this period of uncertainty, more about your own responsibilities. So the plan for The Barnsley Marathon had to change and it became clear as to why all of the ‘big’ marathons had to cancel. Barnsley Town was one of the leaders and had one of the biggest running scenes in its day.
So as the idea for the marathon crumbled, The Team Barnsley Quarantine Series was born. I was originally going to call it the infected series or something like that, but had to question the reasoning behind my humour…
Anyway, we had events ranging from a local parkrun, the Spencer’s Dash, 10k, a Half Marathon and a Marathon, should people choose to run one. The idea being people would submit their times from each individual distance. You had to complete a minimum of 3 to qualify for the series. Then attached to taking part was a small prize for the winners, a Team Barnsley Buff, the 3 I had left in my collection from last year. Also a voluntary contribution to the Barnsley Hospice and a lump sum would be donated in the end.
We had around 40 people take part and no one within that group completed a Marathon, me included. The people that won the buffs were David Lloyd, Craig Tattersall and Alison Wood. All in all we managed just short of £100 for the Barnsley Hospice. That was that and done by the end of April!
Step 3: Educating people
A massive part of my day to day job is around education, Physical Education to be precise. I travel from school to school, teaching and coaching. My job title is Premier League Primary Stars Officer, which basically means I look after our Primary Schools and coordinate a project called Primary Stars, funded by the Premier League. It aims to CPD and up-skill Primary School teachers in the world of PE and also gives children a great experience, because they are taught by Barnsley FC! It’s all given to the schools for free as well, so that helps. Then they even get some cash out of it at the end to improve their PE offer in schools, through the form of a sponsored Penalty Shootout. Win, Win! I still do, but not so much anymore, due to time, on our health project engaging individuals and groups in some sort of physical activity to enable them to develop a healthy active lifestyle; whether this be through our Fit Reds, Walking Football or Mental Health course. It’s a big jump from working with kid’s to working with adults and back again, but all so similar…
Anyway that was a tangent there. As a part of my job, education and educating people is massive in my life. So I sat and thought about what I could do in this period, to also educate people. To make people take a small step (or large step) forward in their running. It isn’t something I advertise so much anymore, mainly due to time constraints, however many moons ago I became a qualified Personal Trainer and was working with clients in and around the Barnsley area. It taught me a lot and I learnt a lot during this chapter. So I thought why not revisit it, because it would allow me to educate people. That’s the whole idea anyway.
I began reconnecting with this world a little more during April, speaking with an handful of old clients who never really went away, offering them support. Receiving a few messages here and there through the week, giving people ideas, workouts, alternative methods of exercise to do at home. Things that when you open their eyes, they probably knew it anyway! Hosting small zoom sessions for individuals and giving them some sort of motivation to actually do a workout. Some people respond better and are more likely to actually do it when they’ve got someone telling them!
I’ve also in this time wrote running programs for people, enabling them to have some sort of weekly goal, targets, giving them some sort of motivation to get their trainers on and get outside. It is something that I’m intrigued to explore further, given the opportunity and judging by any possible interest. I’ve also engaged in plenty of conversations with people, offering advice or support on one of the most crucial aspects of running…. THE TRAINERS! Something often neglected by the inexperienced runner and surprised by the fact that the wrong trainer can cause injuries. You wouldn’t play football in your loafers (okay maybe some people will), so why would you run in a pair. Advice sometimes can be absolutely priceless and if it means more people run free and be happy, that is all that matters!
That is that… for now!
So anyway as the small title goes, that is that… for now. I’ll knuckle down with part 2 and publish it. I hope the whole thing wasn’t too rusty and actually made sense! I promise you it gets even better…
For now though, Just Keep Running!