In writing this blog I aim to highlight that my experience challenges the myth that as you get older you inevitably become slower, heavier and generally unfit. I turned 53 this January and although ageing is inevitable and will impact on my health and fitness in the years to come, for now, thankfully, I am healthy and see no reason why I cannot remain running for a long time yet. A few years ago I was fairly unfit and overweight, but I feel much better now both physically and mentally.
Although I have been interested in running for most of my adult life, I have found myself running more as I have become older. I had been running on and off and ran a number of half Marathons, but I had an increasing desire to run a marathon. I ran my first marathon in Belfast in 2006 and was pleased with my time of 4:13. The next year I ran a marathon in Edinburgh in 4:03 and for a long time this was my personal best. I suppose other things distracted me after this as although I have ran a marathon most years since then, I became increasingly unfit and overweight. This is because I did limited training and spent long periods between runs doing little exercise at all. It goes without saying that my diet was pretty poor as well. This was reflected in my slowest time of 5:16 in Liverpool in 2011. I kept running marathons though and one that I realise now that I am proud of was in Valencia in 2014, which came at the end of a tough year personally. The fact that I was able to focus to an extent, train and complete this in 4:47 was, in my view, a good achievement. For those reading this who do not run marathons I would absolutely acknowledge that marathons are not for everyone and that they are not something that as a runner you have to do to keep fit. For me however, I have found all 12 marathons that I have completed so far fascinating experiences. They have all involved such a rollercoaster of emotions, but all resulted in a great sense of achievement and a feeling of exhilaration, that remained with me for some time after. This was certainly the case with the last marathon I completed in Budapest in 2017. I had a desire in my first marathon in 2006 to beat the 4 hour barrier, and came closest the next year with my 4:03 in Edinburgh, but I had pretty much given up ever overcoming this. Increased training however and particularly running with the GFR training group helped me achieve this goal in Budapest with a time of 3:58. I was a bit of an emotional mess at the end, but I was so pleased that despite dips and challenges physically and mentally over the years, I had achieved this personal goal.
It is, for me, stating the obvious that the main reason for my improvement is down to running regularly with Glasgow FrontRunners. I had attended an LGBT running group in the early 2000’s along with Douglas, who still attends FrontRunners, however this eventually folded. Douglas advised me in 2011 that he started attending Glasgow FrontRunners and I began to attend consistently at the end of 2013. This is a time when I could have been in a better place mentally. I remember one of the first nights I went along and everybody was wearing yellow for Children in Need. As they say, I didn’t get the memo, so felt a bit of an outsider. However, I kept attending and although I did not go to a lot of social events, the people were very friendly and this made me come back. In the last couple of years I have gotten a great deal out of the training groups organised by the club. The group experience, the advice on running and increasing friendship have been big factors in my progress. In the last year I have gained a lot from becoming a jog leader and feel so humbled at being adopted as a club captain. I hope that I can utilise this position to support and encourage others to improve their running and push themselves. I am still understanding this role which focuses on the running aspects of the club. Working closely with run secretary Ian, fellow Captains Penny and Charlotte, and President Jason has been a great help.
So to end this blog, the aim was not to say look at me and what I have achieved, as I am certainly not a great runner and I am not the best model in any interpretation of the word. If anything I hope my story may relate to some and help debunk the myth that ageing inevitably means being overweight, unfit and unable to improve physically. In the last few years my mental wellbeing and physical fitness has improved significantly. The opportunity to meet others from the LGBT community and run as part of a group has been such a great help. I would say that coming to Glasgow FrontRunners has helped me in more ways than I imagined. As I continue to train for my 13th Marathon, which will take place in Manchester in April, I hope my running and involvement in GFR continues for many years to come. I will get older and life will bring more challenges but for me I can testify that mental and physical fitness can and does get better.