Even the occasional white athlete high up in the distance rankings appears to be running to find a sandwich. Before they slip through a grid in the road.
It’s easy to watch these guys knock out a marathon faster than you can walk to the shops, and assume all runners are like that.
That running and athletics clubs are made up of 95% Usain Bolt like animals, and a few coaches that breath fire and will judge you for being slow.
But this really isn’t the case.
In fact, 80% of the running community is the opposite, and you should check it out.
Some of you may find the title of this blog slightly offensive, I promise that’s not how it’s intended. I’m the “fat boy”, in this scenario.
This month I have run my first marathon, 10k, duathlon and got my first 5k lined up soon.
I’m 84/85kg, 6′ 1, and wide. You don’t have to look far in a 10k to pick me out from the field. Instantly out of place.
For a competitive runner, I’m considered heavy.. very heavy. But I’ve been out there getting it done.
And it’s all kinds of fun.
It all started 4 weeks ago when I ran the fabulous Manchester marathon for my new partner, Asics.
Now I’ve ‘run’ 4 marathons after 180km on the bike and 3.8km of swimming.Easy pickings for a man like me.You’d think….
With a 25mi time trial on the Saturday, 5 hours sleep and a greasy fully English. I was on the start line Sunday morning thinking, “why am I here?”.
Having planned to run with asics team mate, the incredible Nick Butter, www.nickbutter.com I quickly found a comfortable rhythm, and decided I had the legs to push a bit.
So, off I trotted, leaving Nick to waltz round, stopping at Tesco for an ice cream. As you do mid 3:20 marathon?!
Around the 10k mark I found myself up with the 3 hour pacer and decided I’d push beyond, seeing how much the legs would stretch.
Picking up Tomas B, another top ultra runner around the 15k mark, we decided to hold a firm 4:05/km pace, and chat the mid section away.
At this point I knew I was moving well, even hauling around my excess shoulders & big frame, I knew I could string together a solid time. So at 35km I kicked out, opened the legs, and hit the gas button.Then as expected, it hurt. It hurt a lot. Pushing and pushing, gritting my teeth and chasing down runner after runner, I crawled my way through some of the field in front of me, crossing the line in a very respectable 2:53:53.
And it gave me confidence.
All kinds of confidence.
I knew at that point, that everything I’d heard about the lightweight runners, was a myth.
Sure, if I want to be competitive at big races, kona, marathons, halves. I need to shred the weight. Lose the excess.
But James Cracknell just ran a 2:43 at London marathon near 100kg, so what’s the excuse?
Off the back of my new confidence I decided I’d play, push it to see where I could get to.
Seeing the asics boys running 120km+ a week, I started to build and up the miles.
I was lucky enough to visit my best friends parents out for Easter weekend, and momma Lightfoot’s birthday. To ensure I didn’t miss training, Alex came out on the bike for a chat, so I could run accompanied.
I ended up running a 1:31 half marathon, with more in the tank. Not the ideal prep the day before my first ever 10k!None the less we turned up in Regent’s Park, weary eyed & full of 4 Easter eggs each. To see what my legs could produce.The regular comments on the start line as I shuffled to the front, “he’s a big boy”, “backing himself there”..
A wry smile spreading across Alex’s face. He knew the drill.
And as expected, 500 runners set off at 10am, me & 3 immediately off the front, hard at it.
Having never run a 10k I didn’t know how hard to run, what to do, how to pace it. So we’d come up with a plan.
Run on the heels of the fastest guy. And stay there.
How hard can it be?
Lead by a strong runner from St. Albans, the 3:35/km pace was just right to feel the pinch, without feeling burned out.
Sat on the back of the 4 I was sticking to the game plan. Lap one, 3.3km down. All 4 runners still in the game.
This could get real fun I thought. But these boys can run, they’re playing with me. Half way and someone was gonna open up that gas and ask all kinds of questions of our legs.
So I just held the pace, sat on the heels, kept the speed.
4K, 4 becomes 3.
5k, 3 becomes 2.
Half way and I was feeling good. Hurting, but I knew I had a lot more.
And there was only two of us left?!
I couldn’t hold this guy the end surely. Lean, skinny, athletic. Clearly seasons from many a 10k skirmish.
So I tried to hold him for lap 2/3. And managed to stay in contact, just sat on his heels. The awkward athlete that you just can’t shake off.
That’s when I passed Lightfoot. I couldn’t see the runners face but a crisp not from the main man, and I knew. I knew he was hurting, clearly more than me, so I could be in with a shot here?
If I could hold him to 8km, I could be in with a shot here.
The last 2km is just a viscous mind game, no matter how fit you are, how fast you’re going, it’s gonna hurt and you’ll have to dig deep.
But I had an advantage, my brief few years in rowing had taught me how to race side by side. A position few road runners or triathletes ever find themselves in.
The track mentality, knowing the mind games.
8km, I was still there, and he was looking around, worried, what was I going to do.
So I waited, picked my moment carefully. And as we split ways to pass a group of runners, I kicked out.
And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was running. Really, really running.
9km, 5 metres ahead.
Just two sentences on repeat in my mind.
“Don’t fudge this up, don’t fudge this up, don’t fudge this up”
“Go go go go go go go go go”
And I ran, and ran, and ran. Emptied the tank and came home a comfortable distance ahead. With a first ever 10k time of 35:18. Another very respectable start for a ‘big boy’.
And the duathlon played out much the same. A bike course record even after 3 weeks off the bike, no shocks that was my strongest discipline.
Coming off the first run in 4th, off the bike in second. With gas still in the tank I ran the fastest second run leg, causing a bit of a stir amongst the athletes at the top end of the field.
Who is this tall, unusually overweight man snapping at our heels?
But the most important question, just because you think you’re heavy, are you?
The running community is one of the most welcoming in the world. Fellow Asics frontrunner Matt Rees showed that at the London Marathon carrying a fellow runner over the line in a video that fast went viral.
Whether you run 5k in 15 minutes, or 50 minutes. Almost every club will welcome you with open arms, and have runners of your ability! You might not even think you can run 5k. It does not matter.
They’ll encourage you, help you, teach you tips and tricks. Chat to you, learn about your life, your interests, your hobbies. And before you know it, you could fall in love with the sport.
And you’ll ask yourself, what was I so scared of?!
Nobody will judge you. Because if you’re out there, getting it done, and striving for self improvement. You’ve already won the battle.
So get online, look for your local running clubs, find one with a time that suits, and go have yourself some fun!
I promise, you won’t regret it!