a.k.a My Guide to going from Coco the Clown to Mo Farah in less than 8 months
This is my first blog and if I’m honest the only reason I’m writing this is because Lisa Pickard at Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association said I should give it a go.
And that’s how this whole thing started….’go on Jay give it a go.’
If you’d have asked me this time last year if I ever saw myself doing a marathon it would have been a safe bet that the answer you would have got was a laughing outburst from me with a dodgy Dudley retort something along the lines of ‘There’s more chance of the Beatles reforming.’ To write my first blog after running my first marathon I find comical… given that I am a man of many words and that I’d never run more than 1km before February 2017!
So where did it all come from? Why am I writing a blog? There’s a point…I promise…stick with it.
Earlier this year there was a lot going on in my busy head with a little baby Dudley on the way, a lot of change at work and I really needed to get some clarity and some space away from the buzz of life; to prepare myself for the massive changes coming my way! So, after a busy day on a cold and crisp February evening I put on an old, faded blue Oasis t-shirt, those swimming shorts that have travelled with me for the past 10 years that I can’t part with and a pair of flat, white, grass stained ‘going out’ trainers (the ones that aren’t made for running in and I’ve started using to mow the lawn in). I looked absolutely amazing, like I’d stepped off the catwalk for clowns and I was Coco. In all honesty I could have had all the top running gear but this wouldn’t have helped me, I was out of breath and sweating conkers at the end of the road. I managed less than a mile and called it a day but I loved having the space to think.
After sticking with it and buying a pair of cheap gym trainers (still not running trainers but a step in the right direction…pun intended) I had a Forest Gump moment and just kept running. Without pockets holding my sweaty phone with Strava tracking my route I did my first ever 10km run!
It took me over an 1hr 30mins, but it cleared my head and I enjoyed it and thought there might be a career in this for me…Mo Farah, watch out… (or not.)
At this point my good mate, Alex (aka Monkey because he’s got that planet of the apes look about him- the 60-70’s version), suggested I should run a marathon with him and for some reason I said ‘Yes, okay then’ bearing in mind that at this stage I’d not even got to a quarter of this distance! I still to this day don’t know whether I was drunk when I agreed to do this but I’d somehow paid to enter.
Now what I’d agreed to enter wasn’t a normal marathon…. oh no…this Dudley boy doesn’t do things by half, he’s a lot more stupid than he looks…It was the Glencoe trail marathon, a tough off road 26.2 miles in the Scottish wilderness with a total ascent of 1,608m. My first marathon was going to be run through an ‘unforgiving landscape, linking the Great Glencoe with Glen Nevis and taking in the Devil’s Staircase, a gruelling 500 metre climb over the eastern edge of the truly fearsome Aonach Eagach Ridge, against the dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands.’ Yes, I know, a walk in the park! Idiot.
I’d entered and there was no turning back…or was there? ‘No, you’re definitely doing this Jay!’ I convinced myself.
At this point I realised that I needed something to keep me on track to complete this and thought I needed to do this as a fundraiser. The charity? SHYPP: an obvious choice. I first heard of the Supported Housing for Young People Project (SHYPP) through my work with a local housing association when I was asked if Housing Partners, the company I work for, would consider them as our preferred charity. After being invited to one of SHYPP’s media events where young people told their stories through art, music and video I was genuinely brought to tears.
As a musician myself this really hit me hard and I saw myself in those who had laid bare their deepest emotions…that could have been me, one of my family or one of my friends…I’d taken for granted how lucky I am to have a loving family, a roof over my head, good health and never went without what I needed. Many of those who talked about their experiences hadn’t had the same privileges.
Now I’d chosen my charity…I thought, right…I’d better get the right gear now to give me a fighting chance of hitting my goal of raising £500…! Oh, and I suppose I’d better get running further than 6 miles…to give myself a fighting chance of staying alive. After a lot of running, tight calves, sore knees, soaking, muddy socks and a lot of energy gels and isotonic drinks…I’d turned my body into a running machine… (well, that’s what was going on in my head although in reality I’d probably just given myself less chance of killing myself…death by marathon!) Even at this point.
I’d still only managed 15 miles on a good section of the ‘Stretton Skyline’. I’ll never forget Alex saying to me in the midday sun at the bottom of the Carding Mill Valley surrounded by sheep and soaking head to toe in sweat, gasping for air, ‘you’re ready:’ it was like a moment out of the Karate Kid: I was ‘Daniel-San’ and him ‘Mr Myagi.’
The big day came around quicker than I thought it would and now there was really no backing out. We got to the Red Squirrel campsite (passing where they’d filmed Hagrid’s Hut in Harry Potter- a welcome distraction from the impending doom I was about to face) and the rain was cold and belting down and the 60mph gusts of wind placed me in a scene out of Papillon, Platoon or Apocalypse Now and then the bagpipes started…. Highlander! We were running, this was it, I was doing it!
I’m not going to lie, the first 3 miles were the hardest I’ve ever run and I kept thinking to myself, Jay what on Earth are you doing?
I started off avoiding the small puddles thinking this would help me to stop getting wet. After the first mile I was knee deep in bogs and running through streams…cold and wet? I can’t remember- I’d lost all feeling, I was now in the zone! At around the 11th mile I remember actually enjoying it. (No really!) But the conditions didn’t improve until around the 21st mile and by this point I couldn’t tell you where my legs were- I was cramping up and really starting to struggle to run anymore. I’d hit the wall and the mind games had started. With the support of Alex and keeping my mind focused by singing ‘Don’t look back in anger’ over and over and over again I got to the final drink station- just under 5 miles to go and a nice bit of cheese and hot punch to get a bit of energy back! ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish… ‘I’ll crawl if I have to’… I was going to finish. I was positive and I was nearly there!
After well over 6hrs- I’d done it. I’d completed my first marathon and raised £500 for SHYPP!
There’s a couple of morals to why I’m writing this blog. I wouldn’t have written this blog if not for Lisa suggesting it. I wouldn’t have done the marathon if not for the support of Alex. I wouldn’t have raised £500 if not for the support of family and friends.
You might think ‘Wow, 6hrs in the cold and rain and running 26miles+ well done Jay’ and do you know what, it was bloody hard and the aches and pains I had for over a week-I didn’t half creak and whinge! But this is all nothing compared to those people out there who are homeless who spend night after night on the street-freezing and without support. My discomfort was worth every second, bead of sweat and ache and groan knowing that it was to raise awareness and money for this fantastic cause, SHYPP.
SHYPP are the Lisa, the Alex and the family and friends to many people: they’re the support to get many young people through those tough times- and they’re also the reason I didn’t back out of that marathon…
From the SHYPP team: a huge thank you to Jay for completing the marathon and raising an amazing amount of £500 for SHYPP young people, you are a star.