After deciding that it wasn’t logistically possible to do the coast to coast walk, I was of course gutted, but for the first time in a long time took the sensible approach rather than being stubborn (shocking I know). However, as the days sped by and I got closer and closer to May, I was getting very uneasy with the fact I didn’t have a challenge sorted out.
Then out of the blue, Tony (one of our beloved chiefs from Chorlton Runners) posted that he’d been given a number of free places in the Manchester 10k. Having completed the event last year, as challenge number 5, I knew I couldn’t compete and get away with running it as I had before. I did however, have a plan up my sleeve, which would elevate the severity of the challenge and allow me to breathe easy knowing I had May’s challenge sorted.
So just before Cadets started at 19:00 on the Monday evening, I secured my place in the Manchester 10k, an hour later committed myself self to running the race in boots, combats and a 21lb day sack, and by 22:00 that very same evening I was out running the streets of Chorlton, in the pissing down rain, starting my booted & weighted training for an event taking place on the Sunday. Clever!
Some might argue that starting training 6 days prior to an event would be somewhat silly, but I had 16 challenges under my belt, so I knew fitnes wouldn’t be an issue, but the problem of my ankles not bending, and being weighted down with 3 litres of water and multiple cans of baked beans was going to be somewhat problematic!
Sunday arrived, and with Vicky (housemate) in tow, we headed into town. I have to say that I’ve been so impressed by Vicky’s uptake in races over the last year or so. This was the 3rd time she’d completed Manchester, having done Sheffield and Dublin in the last year also. I’m continuing to wear her down, in order to get her to sign up to her first half-marathon – before the end of 2012 for sure!
The amazing [21:21] supporters club were also on show for this run, with Nat, Sarah & John manning the course for the ever crucial action shots! As Vicky & I moved forwards to the start line and said our good lucks to each other, I thought I’d feel more self conscious about the fact I was dressed in army gear, given the fact I have never served in the Military. However, I forgot that there were thousands of other people around, and felt a truly strong connection to my brother. I’m not comparing what I was about to embark upon to what he has endured, but for a couple of moments before crossing the start line, I thought about all the training, hardship, conflict, horror and relief he’s experienced over the past 5 years, and I felt really proud to be running in greens. Even more proud to be running with the very same day sack that he took to Afghanistan.
Of course I was running for Help for Heroes, but I was also VERY MUCH running for my brother Nick.
The day sack was strapped very tight to my back – I was trying to ensure minimal chaffing throughout, and I’m pleased to say I did a good job. I started off slower than normal, but with a steady pace that meant over taking a fair few people along the first few kilometres. As ever with Manchester, the streets were lined with so many people coming out to support the city and its sporting community.
It made me laugh as kids on the sides were shouting “come on army man, you can do it!” – it definitely spurred me on though. In fact the amount of cheering from the sidelines and support from other runners was phenomenal. I got so many thumbs up, pats on the back and cheers it made me move my behind much more quickly along the route.
Seeing Nat, Sarah & John out on the streets yet again really lifted my spirits, as my legs started to feel heavier & heavier. I’m sure someone was putting lead weights in my boots along the route. The 21lb day sack was surprisingly not as troublesome as the inability to bend my ankles. I can see why runners spend so much money on specialised trainers and not any old boots they find lying around the house. They might have stood me in good stead for Swindon, but not as much for road running!
As I was drawing ever closer to the skyline hogging view of the Hilton Hotel, and the finish line, I was feeling really tired, and starting to think my legs wouldn’t carry me any further. As the weight of my feet was really starting to piss me off, I took a second glance to the left, and saw Jon McGrath (one of the BMF instructors) who cheered out as I passed by. Well this was all I needed to shift myself on to a sprint finish! Weaving in & out of other runners, I finally crossed the line in 1hr, 7 minutes & 53 seconds. I didn’t beat my target of 50 minutes, but then again I set that target for when I was wearing trainers & shorts, not boots & combats.
I remember seeing this guy at the Manchester 10k last year, when I was only 5 challenges in. He was wearing combats, boots and a weighted day sack. I remember thinking to myself that this guy must be nuts and that I’d never be able to do something like that.
A year later and I have proved myself wrong massively. In fact, given what I have achieved in terms of fitness over the last year I’m really proud of myself. Just shows that if you set your mind to something, you really can achieve some pretty awesome things!
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge