29th April 2019
Sitting here with legs that ache like hell, the complete and utter exhaustion of running yesterday’s London Marathon still lingers – and I can’t bloody wait to do it again!
Ten years on, almost to the day where it all began, I thought I’d share how I got here.
It all started when, while living in New Zealand, I joined a friend’s family holiday in Wanaka over the Easter break. After a few small hikes up nearby mountains during the trip, (that left me thinking I may need to be airlifted off by the Westpac Rescue Chopper), my friend and I decided we should start doing some walking for fitness when we got home. This soon turned into walk/runs and, before I knew it, my friend had tricked me into signing up for a half marathon later in the year. Hideously underprepared, and with no idea of what was ahead of me, I finished it, loved it, and immediately had a hunger for more.
I subsequently stepped up the running and in moment of clarity (or madness?) decided I was going to run the New York Marathon the following year. In the next 18 months I ran three more half marathons and two marathons. Over a two-year period that started a year before the running bug bit, I also managed to shed a whopping 55 kilograms. Yes, that’s not a typo.
Like so many others, my weight was out of control and my lifestyle was less than ideal. A steady university diet of beer and pizza, long hours of work and study, and a lack of sleep and physical activity had become the norm. After graduating, I moved to New Zealand for work and the wheel of change slowly started to turn, picking up pace as time went on.
After three years in New Zealand that literally changed my life, I managed (most of the time) to maintain good habits and my running while travelling and working abroad over the next couple of years.
Unfortunately though, when I returned to Australia and moved to Perth, it all seemed to come undone. I spent most of the next couple of years battling various injuries and wondering if I’d ever run again. I fell apart while training for two marathons and subsequently slipped back into my old eating and drinking habits. I generally just let my health slip, and before I knew it, I had stacked 20kg back on by the start of 2016.
This time round, the road to fitness was actually much harder, despite having less weight to shed. I found personal trainer Glenn Robson, who got me exercising regularly again, and provided the support and the push I needed to resume a healthy lifestyle. Physiotherapist and running coach Neil Drouet helped rebuild my running technique and execution – and gave me (and continues to give me) many reality checks and assurances that everything would be OK. I sought the Pilates expertise of physio Gabriella Duffy, who dragged me out of my lowest points when injuries were impairing me and helped me reconnect with my body.
Osteopathic treatment and remedial massage (there’s too many names to mention!) has also been invaluable in my training and rehabilitation – helping resolve various long term aches and pains, and keeping me in peak shape while training, with regular tune ups.
Careful guidance from naturopaths Renee Trivic and Diane Pascoe helped me get my diet back on track and lose weight, and has been invaluable with avoiding illness during training and learning how to eat for training and recovery.
Six years after my last half marathon, in July 2017 I completed the Geraldton half marathon. I was back!! I pumped out three more after that, before having a crack at another marathon in August 2018. Unsure if I had it in me, and terrified of breaking down with injury, failing in training, or even worse during the marathon, I finished the 2018 Perth City to Surf and within a few months was signed up to run the 2019 London Marathon.
Fast forward to now, where yesterday, I gruelled my way through 42.2 of the most exhilarating, painful and memorable kilometres of my life. Within minutes of crossing the line I couldn’t wait to do the next one.
While I’ve briefly touched on how I became obese, it’s more complex than just eating too much and moving too little. People are shamed and stigmatised without anyone knowing how they got there. What’s worth keeping in mind, is that most people are more than aware that they are overweight/obese – they don’t need to be told. Most people don’t want to be that way (and some do). I have been very lucky to have had an amazing support network around me, and access to amazing resources to help me change my life. Not everyone has this privilege.
Before you judge someone for being “too fat”, “too skinny”, “a drunk”, a junkie”, ‘crazy” etc, stop and ask yourself why they are that way, and what may have happened (or is happening) in their lives, before being so quick to judge.
I’m not proud I spent parts of the last decade and a bit gaining and losing around 75kg, especially as a health professional, but I’m proud to call myself a four-time marathon finisher.
You don’t have to run a marathon or even run. But just know that change is slow and it will happen when the time is right. Sometimes we need a gentle nudge and sometimes we need a big shove. I’ve had both along the way and am so thankful and fortunate to be surrounded a caring, knowledgeable and professional network of colleagues, as well as wonderful friends and an amazing wife. I’m truly lucky to be sitting here today telling you my story.
(Asking for help and making the first few changes is hard. Deciding that’s what you need to do is the first step. A doctor, a personal trainer, osteo, physio, nutritionist, naturopath (etc, etc etc), partner or friend may be that person. Sometimes some or all of them! Before embarking on any drastic exercise or dietary changes, I do recommend ALWAYS seeing your GP first, or a qualified health professional who can steer you in the right direction.)
***UPDATE (running brag): Since this article was written, I have done three more half marathons and recently finished the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart in January 2020.