I first became aware of Ironman in 2009 when the UK version of the event moved from Sherborne Castle to Bolton. It would be three years later, in 2012, when I finally got around to going to the town centre and watching part of the run. I had become more interested in running by this point. I ran as a teenager, and for a while was rather good, particularly over the middle-distance track events. For a while I thought that I would go to university and study something sports related, but bouts of illness which bookended my A-levels put paid to that and I read English. No regrets.
I lapsed into a very sedentary lifestyle, and this became a very unhealthy one. Although I occasionally ran (sometimes ‘training’ for a few weeks for a local 10K), I could never make it stick. I didn’t know why I was doing it.
In 2012, as my thirties were slowly coming to an end, I realised that I needed to do something about my weight, my relationship towards food and alcohol, my anxiety, and my complete lack of fitness. I was, to put it bluntly, a mess. But where to start?
The answer was round the corner. I live close to Leverhulme Park in Bolton. There, each Saturday at 9AM, was this thing called ‘parkrun’. It started on the very running track that as teenager I ran 400 metre reps on, ticking each one off in 57 seconds. Now, at 5K pace, the opening lap would take two minutes. But no matter, each parkrun felt like a tiny step in the right direction. I stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped using pizza as a crutch, and generally started to look after myself. The implications of this were more profound than I either realised at the time or have space to write about here. It is another story for another day. But for now, I started the long process of getter better.
By 2014 I was an avid Ironman spectator. On race day I’d be in town with my children, coffee in hand, shouting out to the occasional person that I recognised and generally watching this spectacle of both suffering and celebration go by. I’ll be doing this next year, I thought to myself. I quickly dismissed this idea…
The following morning I drove to the Ironman expo at transition two. At the time you could enter the following year’s event if you signed up in person and, of course, paid the fee. This I did. I was now an entrant for the 2015 Ironman UK. I would by 40 by the time the event came round, it would be a brilliant way to mark the start of a new period of life.
I had one target: to complete it.
In the years after, I still went into town to watch. I would drive out to various parts of the bike course with my daughter too. We’d watch the athletes fly past and my thoughts would be tinged with disappointment that I wasn’t out there on the course pushing myself further. I was also grateful. Grateful to have had the time, space, money and opportunity to do it. It is a brilliant way to push yourself beyond what you think you can do. But so is parkrun. So is the local marathon, and it was to these things that I continued to focus on, all the while remembering that I ran because that was the vehicle through which my belief that we can literally move ourselves towards a better version of ourselves is possible.
This year was no different. I went into town watch the run. I’d been out earlier to see some of the bike course, part of which is conviently within 5 minutes of where I live. I was struck with the thought that I must do it all again. I was sort of hoping that the idea would disappear, but the morning after all I could think about was having another go. Unlike 2014, this year you couldn’t enter in person the morning after, you had to wait until the entries opened towards the end of July. In the intervening weeks I explored all of my thoughts about why I should do it all again and it came down to this: to see how fast I can go. I know I can do one, I thought to myself. In 2022 it has to be for a different reason.
This time it’s all about how fast I can go.
I’m going to use this blog to record my training, my thoughts, and my developing ideas of how we can move towards more fulfilled versions of ourselves.
Ironman UK 2022, 304 days to go!