Bacon Roll Back Story
I think we could safely say that I used to be fat.
Not that my impeccable upbringing would permit me to use such a term in company, particularly regarding anyone else who now appears to be the size and shape that I used to be. But when the tinsel faded on Christmas 2006, I was 39 years old, tipping 16 stone, and had not done any form of regular exercise for many years. Even then, this had been limited to stumbling around a five-a-side football pitch once a week, carrying the self-delusion that spraining an ankle now and then was a badge of honour that counter balanced the lager and late night junk food that followed. Granted; not an untypical position to be in for many living in the 21st century. What follows could have all the classic mid-life crisis clichés thrown at it and frankly, most would stick. Except, with my father taken ten years earlier by a sudden and fatal heart attack – a disease he never knew he had – and all my own medical metrics rolling downhill fast, the late noughties were looking less and less likely to be anywhere near the middle of my life.
What follows is my personal race report for the Edinburgh Marathon 2013; a detailed reflection on the various elements that influenced my performance on the day and my overall experience of running the race. I have deliberately steered clear of comparing organisational aspects, quality of the t-shirts etc. as much of this is available from other sources. This is very much my perspective. Inevitably – if it interests anyone at all – it will perhaps appeal most to runners who have already undertaken a similar journey, or others considering it. However, like everyone else who stands on the start line of such an endeavour, I had my own baggage and a unique reason for being there. To talk only in terms of jelly beans and vaseline would tell just half a story.
In 2007, I changed my relationship with food and the results were dramatic. The fitness and passion for running came a little later. This was not a diet in the traditional sense, as the principles that allowed me to steadily shed 5½ stone in six months remain steadfastly in place to this day. Essentially, by eating less fatty food, spreading more fruit and vegetables evenly across the day and avoiding late meals at all cost, I got in to a controlled pattern of gain days & loss days. This, combined with some exercise, has given me a personal formula with which to combat the dreaded onset of middle aged spread and dealt with many of those troublesome risk factors. No tricks or gimmicks. No drinking horse urine, muttering incantations or waking at 3am to stand on my head.
I began a gym routine that tackled core fitness; a mix of aerobic strength and weights. The treadmill played a part in this and quickly became the favourite part of my workout. My complete naivety blinded me to kph speeds, mile pace, distance covered and all the things I now hold dear to my analytical heart. About 5km seemed hard, so I kept doing it. About a year later, I became intrigued enough to find out what it was like to run outside. In July 2008, I entered a city centre 10k race in Leeds and took a shade under 50 minutes to finish. It seemed crowded and a long way. I wasn’t bowled over by the experience in truth but had already secured an entry for the renowned Abbey Dash in November, so I did that too. I went two minutes faster. On reflection that was all it took; a connection to the concept of improvement. The gym training continued unscientifically, although there was some shift in emphasis towards my “new sport“. To finish under 45 minutes for 10km seemed a stretch which required some more focus and I began to spend much more time road running. The snowball was well and truly rolling on my late developing running career. In late 2010, a full tilt 10k race attempt ended in bitter disappointment and the lengthy plantar fascia injury that followed curtailed fledgling plans to step up in distance. Prolonged physiotherapy undertaken, a full year passed before a 43:57 finish in the 2011 Abbey Dash signaled time for a new challenge.
I set out my aim at the outset of 2012 to step up to half marathon in spring as a stepping stone to completing the Loch Ness Marathon in autumn. Respecting the distance, I had no particular ambition regarding time. Just determined to stay away from injury and introduce a bit of variety in the form of trail running, to help counter the mental barriers associated with the extra distance. With half marathon races in Leeds and Coniston under my belt, I began a 12 week training cycle in July prior to completing my first 26.2 mile race in September. I completed Loch Ness in 3:43:49 – learning loads about planning, nutrition, hydration, recovery, pacing, personal resolve and the importance of support. Running over a thousand km in preparation for the marathon transformed both my running and my ambition. It was time to join forces with other running junkies and I immediately felt at ease in the company of Roundhay Runners. Welcomed universally by friendly folk, I quickly took to the informality and diversity of a very special running club.
A 2013 spring marathon beckoned and where better than my home town of Edinburgh. I had left in 1985, with all credentials in tact borne of an upbringing amongst the least healthy nation known to man. I would return a changed man and pound the streets of my nation’s capital in celebration.