My Running Story – Volume 2

Just a little under three years ago I wrote a post entitled “My Running Story” which you can read if you click on the title just now (the blue words. CLICK THE BLUE WORDS!). In this post I outlined my transition from a run hater to finally using the word runner to describe myself, over the period of a year. I also shared a brief bit about why I started running and why I decided to continue. (Spoiler alert: I started running to impress a girl. Of course I did, what else was it going to be?) Today I thought it was finally time to update my running story and see what has changed in these last three years. I’ll do it in three parts…

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My newest pair of road shoes, which I got from my parents for my 24th birthday. These are my 4th pair of “proper” running shoes for roads (and the easily the brightest)!

Part One (Hundred)

Straight off the back of that blog post I kept on running and never looked back. I didn’t get particularly fast and never did manage to bring down my Newbury parkrun pb time (it’s still at 22:17 to this day). I found myself actively enjoying running, to the point where it quickly became my favourite thing to do. I found myself going out running in the week, not just at parkruns and I entered and completed a few more organised race events (I say race loosely, I have never and will never run one of these with the intention of racing it to win. I just like organised routes and medals). I injured myself a bit but nothing major and I kept ploughing on with the distance, eventually getting to the point where I entered the BUPA Great South Run. I finished the GSR in a time of 1:24:08 (I think – somewhere around there anyway) and whilst my legs hurt for days after it, I was incredibly proud of what I’d done.

My friends had all left Portsmouth at the end of our final year in University, that previous July, around the time of the last post, and I found myself mixing a lot more with the Havant parkrun regulars. I’ve made some wonderful friends through Havant parkrun and I if I’m being completely honest I don’t think I would still be running today without their support. It gets hard sometimes (more on that in Part 2) but the people I’ve met and run with kept me going. The crowning achievement of this next year of running was the day that I ran my 100th parkrun, earning entry into the coveted 100Club and getting my next free parkrun T-Shirt. I was even incredibly lucky to have two of my three best friends and ex-housemates come down for the weekend to run with me on my 100th, in addition to the Tea Themed course and Hi-Vis vest that I received from my parkrun friends. I was happy in my ability to run and felt more comfortable doing it, talking about it and enjoying it.

Part 2  Mojo No Go

It all went a bit to pot after the 100 Club. I’d suffered at the hands of my PGCE year and put on a bit of weight. That continued throughout my time in my NQT year and found myself stressed and working so hard to keep up with the gruelling demands of the school. I lost myself a bit and didn’t run as much. I hardly ever went out in the week and my road shoes sat neglected on our shoe rack. I had no mojo to go out and run. By the time I’d got home from work and had dinner it was usually 8pm and I had books to mark and lessons to plan. I was writing a new scheme of work each half term, and frequently even wrote two of them since I was teaching three different subjects at this point. I even had to plan my own RE lessons since it was apparently a “weakness in my teaching” (I did take the time to explain on multiple occasions that yes, my RE teaching wouldn’t be as good as my Geography teaching because I hadn’t studied RE since Year 11 and even then I didn’t like it. I’M A GEOGRAPHER! But did anybody listen? Of course they bloody well didn’t and of course it was all my fault who else could plan those lessons? Oh I don’t know… THE RE DEPARTMENT MAYBE? No. They didn’t.)

As a result of being tired and stressed my running suffered. My times got slower and I just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort to bring it all back together. What was the point? I was slow anyway and I didn’t enjoy running anymore. It became a bit of a chore – something I only did to keep myself vaguely active and only then once a week at the most. I tried going to the gym to get back into it, but I was too lazy. I just couldn’t be bothered anymore.

I still went to parkrun though. Every week on Saturday morning I’d get up, I’d go to parkrun and I’d run 5 kilometres. I might have been a lot slower, I stopped to walk a lot but I still did it. It was this routine, and the people I met and mentioned before that pulled me through my year and a bit of no mojo. As I said, I would have probably quit if it was only me.

It all came back eventually though. I found myself running in the week again and making time for it. I started training regularly in Tae Kwon-Do once again after taking roughly 5 years out to do University and Teacher Training and I slowly brought my fitness back to an acceptable (by my standards) level. I’m still a lot slower than I was but I’m okay with that – at least I enjoy it all again!

Part 3 This is the bit that sounds like a Bowie song (because of all the ch-ch-ch-chaaangeeeees!)

Queen Eizabeth parkrun’s annual Summer Barbecue. I blame this place and tie as the catalyst for where everything about my running story changes. For years, since starting parkrun and catching the bug for it I’d wanted to be a Run Director (One of the people who is in charge of the run for a week and makes sure it all goes smoothly) at Havant parkrun. In my “Year of running dangerously” (or running more and enjoying it if you prefer) I’d ingratiated myself into the volunteer team at Havant parkrun. I hung around to help pack stuff away, I volunteered more and I enjoyed it. I became a bit of a regular fixture and got to know people really well. I wanted to Run Direct because I wanted to give back to the place and the thing that had kept me going through a year of hating work, through three years of learning to love running. It felt right and I was always on the lookout to see if a spot on the RD team ever opened up (it didn’t).

My enthusiasm must have been noticed by Dave, the Event Director (man who is “in charge” as it were of all the RDs and deals with parkrun HQ) who also happened to be the parkrun Ambassador for the area (person who helps new parkruns start). Dave mentioned that there was finally scope to get a new parkrun in the North of Portsmouth since the Southsea parkrun was doing so well. The funding was in place as long as a willing, enthusiastic and passionate team could be found to organise it.

Dave asked if I’d be interested in taking the reigns and becoming the Event Director for this new run.

I said yes.

Things kind of floated by for a few weeks until One Fateful Day at the QE Summer Barbecue when I asked the first two people to join my core team as Run Directors. From there we went through a bit more recruiting and a lot of course design, redesign, measuring, remeasuring, finding funding, finding people to run with us, finding volunteers to help organise us and around 8 months later we finally held our inaugural parkrun.

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun has just had it’s 7th event and we’re still going strong. The 4 of us on the RD team have settled in nicely and it’s got a great atmosphere – largely down to the fact that all the volunteers we get helping are such amazingly positive people, and we’re lucky to have so many of them stick around with us as our Core Volunteers who we can always rely on to help us keep the parkrun going. I love being the Event Director and overseeing everything, working with my team to make the run happen and some of the stories you hear from people are so heartwarming and positive, it really makes you remember why you do it.

I love parkrun. It made me a runner. It made me a volunteer. It made me a better, more rounded and friendly person.

It also made me run in the week more and realise that if I can stop being lazy for an hour, I do still love running!

I’ll be back with Volume 3 one day, I’m sure…

 

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Tasks for the Maintenance and Betterment of Living

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a rut and have found myself at a loose end. It all started around February 2015 when I noticed that I wasn’t really happy. I had put on a lot of weight (over a stone since I started teaching), I wasn’t doing much that I enjoyed and as a result found myself just being incredibly lazy. A lot of this I out down to work. I wasn’t happy working in the city – the hours were long, the job was hard and I felt trapped, being a country boy at heart. As a result my teaching suffered and I was forced to work twice as hard as ever just to keep myself from going under (seriously, you have no idea how awful it is to arrive at school at 5:30 in the morning and not leave until 19:00 at night). I started to hate everything and withdraw from a lot during this  point in my life. So I decided to start doing something about it.

The job seemed to me to be the root of the problems and so I looked elsewhere for employment. I found a lovely school in a little suburban village and applied. I prepped hard for the interview and luckily (or should that be thankfully) I got the job. The hours are just as long (not 5:30 am long though!) and the teaching is just as hard but I enjoy it. My department is so supportive and I love working around people that inspire me so much. Everything else would just fall into place now that this was sorted, and it did. Kind of. But not really.

Even though I enjoyed my job now I was still finding myself piling on the pounds with another stone going on between September and Christmas. In February I topped out at 13st 13lbs – the heaviest I’d ever been. My waistline had expanded a bit and I couldn’t blame work and lack of effort anymore. I was training in Tae Kwon-Do again, I’d joined a Gym and was running a bit more. Something was still wrong though since I just kept gaining weight. Turns out, I’m an avid snacker. I’m the sort of person who snacks when they work. Marking books? Snack time to get you through it. Bored? Make a snack, it’s something to do. Stressed? Have a snack and you’ll better. Well, I decided to change that yet again.

Around February, I started to actively try to lose weight and eat better. It went well for a while but I relapsed and started again with new determination at Easter. Since February I have gone from 13st 13lbs to 13st 5.8lbs (as of time of writing). That’s a good enough place to start, but I’m still not there yet. It’s not just losing weight either. I’ve been inspired…

Recently, I’ve got back into watching some old youtube channels that I used to watch and one of them in particular stood out. This man had overhauled his channel from the kooky, quirky comedy that I’d loved throughout university to a new daily vlog style of channel where he just talks about his life and what he’s doing to improve it. (Can you see that I’ve not so much been inspired by him as shamelessly copied him). This man was Craig Benzine, or WheezyWaiter as he’s known on youtube. I saw one of his videos titled Improving My Life and thought it was a gret idea. In this video he gets himself a whiteboard and writes a list of things he’s going to do to improve his life. This was called the “Tasks for the Maintenence and Betterment of Living”. As a result, I decided to create my own shameless rip off of wheezywaiter inspired goals. A few of these are the same as those Craig sets out in his video, purely because I liked them so much and thought I should do my own version!

 

Tasks for the Maintenance and Betterment of Living

  • De-clutter physical stuff – I have too much stuff, a fact that my entire family will attest to and I’ve finally decided to get rid of some of it.
  • Lose Weight – This is one of the things I’ve been focusing on for a while as I’ve said it’s going well. I’m not on some weird diet or crazy exercise plan. I’m just trying to move more and eat less than i burn. To do this, I’m relying on my trusted fitbit, which is now a year old. I’ve gone back to (roughly) tracking the number of calories I eat to make sure that I’m not tempted to snack, and trying to hit my 10,000 step goal, as well as trying to do some form of exercise, however small it is, for 5 out of 7 days.
  • Cycle more – In 2014 I bought a bike to get to work, since it was only a 10 minute ride from my flat. I think I cycled less than 5 times in the year. I hsaven’t used my bike nearly enough and rely on my car to get to places. I enjoy cycling and so I’m using my bike more, and will track it monthly to see how many times i use it! (I’ve used it today to cycle to my favourite coffee shop to write this!)
  • Read more – I love reading and yet i never do enough of it. So I’m going to read more and to do that I’m going to start by…
  • Watch less TV – Why do i need to watch the same episode of Scrubs for the 20th time? (I mean don’t get me wrong I love Scrubs but it’s a complete waste of my time!) I’m trying to keep it down to only one episode of something a day online or something interesting if it’s on the TV and I’m watching live!
  • Run more – The final task on my list is to run more. I love running and yet I stopped running as much as I used to. This will also help me achieve the second goal on the list! I’m trying to run as much as possible each week and will measure it from Saturday to Saturday (or parkrunday to parkrunday, if you know what I mean!)

So there you have it. Some tasks to hopefully make me feel better  and more energised. So far? It’s going pretty well. I think. I hope. We’ll see! I’ll keep you updated! (That’s the next thing to go on my list – Write more!)

 

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The TftMaBoL Whiteboard that I’ve put on my bedroom door so I have to see it everyday! 

 

Did Game of Thrones Stop Doing That?

“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things” – Tyrion Lannister

A year ago I posted my latest entry in the “Stop Doing That” series where I rant and nitpick about various things in society, the only difference with this post was that I did it purely about the HBO programme Game of Thrones. Well a year has passed and it’s time to see how well Game of Thrones has done at listening to my complaints, because obviously the people in charge read this thing, right? Let’s go STOP by STOP…

THIS BLOG POST MAY INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR THE BOOKS AND TV SHOWS and also a bit of bad language but honestly, if you’ve read or watched the series you’ll be completely desensitized to it and if you haven’t then this probably isn’t the best place to start or you clicked on this by mistake…

STOP: Giving Sansa Stark so much screentime

Okay, they didn’t do this. HOWEVER, they have made a massive adjustment to her story line to stop her being the boring, one dimensional cardboard cutout of a character and she’s actually doing things (I mean seriously check out next weeks teaser). Having her reunite with Jon Snow was an excellent move and a bold change from the books in bringing Brienne into her story line, but I think it will pay off. I no longer want to fast forward through her parts of the show. Good work.

STOP: Rushing through important plotlines but stalling the boring ones

The Dornish plot was awful. It didn’t get better. Tyrion and Jorah have been rushed and I don’t think we’ve had a satisfactory episode for either of them so far (I live in hope, though I think Jorah is off on his spirit quest to find the greyscale cure for the rest of the season). Thankfully, Petyr Baelish has been reduced to a minor role this season – good. I was growing tired of his creepy little beard.

Also, we are set for a return to some of the skipped plot lines such as the siege of Riverrun. I’m very happy about this as it means more Blackfish and rights this next problem…

STOP: Making Jaime Lannister an afterthought

Jaime has been in the recent episodes of season 6 but it hasn’t exactly been his best season. Thankfully, all that looks set to change when he gets to Riverrun next week and go toe to toe with the Blackfish!

STOP: Letting characters disappear vaguely for large spells of time

Osha came back. Then died. Yara came back and is set to inherit some of Victarions book plot. I’m alright with this, especially since they’ve reunited her and Theon. Varys is even back, though in a slightly less than jazzy plot line, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I’m still holding out hope for Gendry though…

STOP: Forgetting about the direwolves

I take it back, just stop killing them. Please.

STOP: Cramming House words into it the episodes for the sake of it

Yep, this has been done and the show is better for it!

STOP: Toning down the swearing

Slightly, maybe. I don’t really know but if The Hound comes back, so will his foul mouth (hopefully).

 

So there we go, all in all not a bad improvement. I once said that Season 5 is the series you could skip in a Netflix marathon and with the exception of a few episodes I stand by that belief This season? Much better. Well done Game of Thrones. Well done.