Your Story: John's story so far

Hello fellow team Family Holiday Association runners!

Michelle asked if I could jot down a few of my thoughts and feelings ahead of our London Marathon 2019 challenge, so here goes...

My name is John, I have 4 children and my wife and I live in East Sussex.  We are a pretty active family but it doesn’t happen by chance, there is a lot of pulling the kids off of various electronic devices in order to get them moving! I’ve always been in to sports, but mainly team games. Only about 2.5 years ago did I start running, and boy was it hard at first! I was carrying too much weight and that was the driver for getting out on the road. Within 12 months around 2 stone was shed, and I was happy to be back to a 34/36 waist! These days I’m a 32 waist, and due to all this running can enjoy eating and drinking without too much guilt.

Being competitive I’m always trying to better times, run longer, run faster, but sometimes that’s not such a great idea as it can also attract injury, so far I have been lucky to avoid anything serious. I know about my competitiveness so manage it as far as I can, for me that means limiting races because the urge to push harder and harder is too great to ignore! Although I’m ‘only’ 42, things do seem to sprain and pull easier than they did 20 years ago 😊

When I started running I fell in to the classic trap of not spending enough on running shoes, big mistake! I couldn’t ever go more than 9 or 10 miles because my knees hurt so much. Eventually I listened to the advice of colleagues at work who run, who suggested to visit an actual running shop and have trainers fitted correctly. Turns out I pronate, a lot, and needed a shoe that would help correct that. Having parted with £110 I was expecting improvement! I wasn’t disappointed, within a couple of runs my knees had improved remarkably, nowadays I don’t suffer at all (apart from my pocket!), well more than the rest of my muscles!  Tip- when it’s time to replace your shop fitted shoes Google the trainer you have had fitted, I have stuck with the same shoe but can usually find it online for £60-70. The run shop still gets my business for the other bits and pieces.

Diet wise we are careful as a family not to eat too much sugar. My working life includes the responsibility for feeding 30,000 children a day, we have reduced the amount of sugar in their school meals by over 70% over a 4 year period, something that I’m really proud of. With the extra running I’ve been careful to be eating more protein, especially after runs. I’ve found that Quark is a really tasty low sugar and high protein alternative to yogurts. That and low fat Greek natural yoghurt that I sometimes add fresh blueberries to. Pre-run I’ve found that I need at least 3-4 hours after a meal to digest or else the dreaded stitch occurs! My morning pre-race breakfast consists of a chilled banana with local runny honey. Followed by 2 double espresso coffees! Not sure if any professional runner or coach would suggest that cocktail, but hey it’s all about what works for you right.

Like everyone else I guess one of the major challenges around completing the training is getting the hours to do the runs. What with balancing work, family and social activities trying to fit in running 3 or 4 times a week is difficult, especially if like me you have a long commute, mine is around 4 hours a day. I’ve been working from home when possible to run in daylight hours, and catch up in the evenings with work, best of both worlds. Also been staying overnight at work in a cheap hotel, allowing for an evening run in different locations that’s been a great way of unwinding as well as braking up the horrible commute. That’s certainly something I’ll continue post London.

The other thing I’ve started doing that really helps is swimming once or twice a week. Again, building up from 30 minutes to about an hour now. Being competitive, (of course!) I’ve set targets, swimming 65 lengths and doing that mile was achieved after a few weeks. It really helps loosen up your legs without putting pressure on them, also seems to be great for working on strengthening your body core.

I’m sure everyone in our situation is slightly apprehensive if they can keep going for the whole 26 miles. I needed to mentally prove to myself I could, so prior to Christmas set off on a bit of a false marathon build up plan, ending with a 17 mile run and an 18 mile run in 2 weeks of December. Knowing that I can do those distances has helped psychologically prepare me to have the confidence in these next couple of months to nail the 26. Time wise all that I’ve committed to is trying to get under 4.30. My fastest half is 1.58, but of course this is a whole different ball game, so if it takes me 4.45 or 5 hours then so be it. London 2019 for me is just a case of running it all, and completing the run.

So why did I choose the Family Holiday Association? Well, let’s be honest, most of us firstly decide to run a marathon because we want to challenge ourselves, prove to ourselves we can do it. We then try and apply through the ballot, get a few refusals and either give up or look for other ways of getting in. That was my pathway, from there I started to think about what type of charity to support. Working with children, and having my own that thankfully we can afford to take away on holidays, it really hammered home how lucky my family was. The charity seemed the perfect fit, so although I entered the ballot on the off chance, I’d already paid the entry fee to the charity, determined to raise at least £2000.

That brings me on nicely to the subject of fundraising. For years I’d been sponsoring people to do everything from sitting in a bath of baked beans through to sky diving and climbing mountains! I thought it was about time to cash in all that goodwill and raise some money myself! A mixture of e mails and phone calls to colleagues, suppliers, contacts and some social media to friends yielded the first £1,000. At work my team volunteered their time to support me in organising, cooking and serving a 6 course Christmas meal to our Executive Director team of 15. This function, held in a grade 1 listed building, raised just over £500.

Now it’s a case of badgering and tracking down the last stragglers who have pledged to give, as well as a further push over the Feb and March paydays! My wonderful team at work have also just announced that they are running a raffle for me and have begged prizes from our suppliers, so that if people just want to give a pound or two then they can.

Hopefully I’ll smash the £2,000 mark and the money can make a real difference to a fair few families and their kids.

I’ve been posting on the Team Starfish Facebook page, there are a few of us that have been keeping in touch through posts, it’s cool to see who else is running for the same cause and helps give the whole thing a team feel- running can be a lonely business so it’s nice to share experiences and encouragement with each other. If you’re not on the group page yet then hop on over, be great to have everyone on!

Right, off to get the weekend run in, take care out there and if I don’t read of your exploits on Facebook in the meantime, see you in London!

Good luck!





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