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From Land’s End to John O’Groats

I started out in 2017 with a new goal of trying to run 365 miles in 2017. This changed midway through the year to try to run the 814 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. This post looks back at my achievement and some of my thoughts around my running and meeting this target.

It Begins

Those who know me will know that I am a web developer which involves sitting at a computer for large amount of time hammering out lines of code. I love it, in fact I left a well paid job back in 2014 to concentrate on it full time.

However I gradually started to get frustrated with sitting around all day. You see the thing is, when you work from home as I do, you can end up sitting down, pretty much all day.

I would be taking my lunch break and moving from the office chair to the lounge chair in front of the TV for half an our whilst eating some lunch. Also I was watching general daytime TV which can be a little less than fulfilling, perhaps is a polite way of putting it.

Therefore I found myself wanting to break the cycle. I could go all day without really walking around or even getting out of the house and therefore I knew that I needed to change.

It all started at the back-end of 2016 when, being very unfit (you tend to be when you sit around all day) I went for some short walks in my lunch hour. I really enjoyed it, just getting out of the house and getting some fresh air was doing me the world of good.

So around the Christmas time I decided that to try an motivate me I would set a goal, a target to aim for in 2017 of a distance that I would run, not walk.

So why run?

Good question. Well I have always been a very sporty person. As a kid I would always want to be playing sports. Whether it was football, cricket or anything else for that matter I wanted to be involved and loved it.

I used to be pretty good at running at school. I was always the one that got picked to do the 1500m at sports day, primarily because no one else would want to run that far, but because I was actually quite good at it.

I remember one race in sports day and I was against another pretty good runner. He bolted off in the lead and everyone was cheering him like mad. I thought at the time, no way I can win this one. But sure enough he faded and I ran straight past him on the last lap and won the race.

I did a few runs with friends. This was with Keith in October.

Anyway I digress, but the final reason running was a good choice is that I needed no financial commitment to get going. I had some trainers, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and therefore I could start straight away.

Running is always something I have enjoyed and been pretty good at. And I wanted to do something that would help with my fitness, well being and generally improve my overall health.

365 814 miles

As I had not run, or in fact done any real exercise in a long time, I wasn’t sure what I should set my goal as and therefore I aired on the side of caution and opted for a mile a day.

There was some slips and trips which resulted in minor injuries.

I started off the first week doing just a mile a day – in fact I did 7.6 miles, but I did this in just 3 runs and I was enjoying it, I wanted to do more.

Over the first few months I started doing more runs, and for a little bit longer each time. By the end of the second month it became pretty clear that I was going to easily beat 365 miles.

When I finally managed 365 miles on 26th June, I thought what the hell I am going to set a much more ambitious target. I knew I could double what I had achieved as I was pretty much half way through the year, but I wanted to push on further.

I’d heard about people (actually) running from Land’s End to John O’Groats and wondered how far is was. Wikipedia indicates that the distance is 814 miles which was a perfect distance. Double what I had done and a bit more. Therefore the new challenge was set.

Keeping on track and motivation tools

One of the questions that I have been asked a lot is about how did I stay motivated to keep going out running each day and putting in the miles. For this I have two answers.

Perseverance

First, and it sounds obvious, is perseverance. And I don’t just mean force yourself to get on with (well I guess I do) but there is more to it really.

For me at least I had to keep going out running until it became habit. I remember reading somewhere that it takes humans between 20 – 30 days for something to become habit, rather than a chore if you keep doing it regularly.

For me this was exactly the case. Once I was about 4 – 5 weeks in, it was just part of my daily routine. The same as eating lunch, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. It no longer felt like I had to go running. Once you reach this stage you are on to a winner.

A little bit of tech – well I am a developer!

My second top tip it to use technology to help keep you on track. I use the Strava App on my phone. This tracks each run I do, how far I ran and how long each run takes etc.

Recommend Strava for keeping track on distance and times.

Being a web developer I also wanted to start a running blog/log of activities to log down each run. I planned (although rarely did) to add photos etc. to runs. However each run I did was logged on my running blog with the statistics from Strava. I then showed a running total on the side of my blog.

Having the numbers in front of you, for me was very motivating. I wanted to improve, increase the distance ran, reduce the time it took for running 1k, 5k and eventually 10k. I am quite a competitive person and therefore this pushed me along to get better, further and faster.

The other thing I would always do each time I did a run was to post it on Facebook and also in our work #health channel on Slack (our internal chat system). People then commented and liked the posts and this spurs you on. Also when you miss a few days (which is totally fine by the way as you need a rest) people ask whether you have not been for a run lately, which gets you back into it.

What I’ve learned

Having ran over 814 miles so far in 2017 you would think that I have learned a lot about running. I guess so and without wanting to bore you totally I have summarised below the main things I have learned:

Listen to music (or something!)

When I started running I didn’t listen to music at all. However having spoken to others about my running they often asked what stuff do you listen to or what headphones do you use.

I thought I would give it a try and I must admit it is a must for me now. Why? Well I am not entirely certain but I think there are two reasons.

The first is that the music gives you a beat to run to, something to focus the movement of your body on and to keep in time to. This helps you keep your running stride or method consistent which for me helped.

The second is that when it starts hurting (and it will by the way as you push yourself – more on this further down) the music is a bit of a distraction, something else to focus on other than the discomfort.

Minimal kit

I see a lot of runners and know a lot of people that run and have all sorts of kit including devices such as heart monitors and watches etc.

Half way through I purchase a new pair of trainers – Brooks Ghost 9

I am not saying they are wrong at all, but for me all you need is yourself, your phone (remember Strava), a pair of cheap headphones, suitable trainers (they don’t have to be the latest and greatest £200 plus pair, just comfortable), a t-shirt and shorts.

Stick at it

I mentioned this previously but stick at it. In those first few weeks or months there are times you will not want to go out. But go, do a shorter run if need be, walk for some it, but stick to it and it gets much easier.

Alongside this, when you are on a run there are going to be times when you just want to stop, but the negative feeling this brings is far outweighed by the positive feeling you get when you finish the run having pushed through it. The words I most often say when I have finished a run with sweat pouring of me are not that was torture but that was good.

You can do anything, if you want to

The final thing I have learned is that, if you put your mind to it, commit to the task ahead and don’t quite the first time it hurts, you can do anything. When I was 18, I was 7 stone, anorexic and incapable of walking a few steps and to say to me then that I would run from Land’s End to John O’Groats I would have said never. But I have and I feel great for it!

What next?

So I guess that leaves us with what next? I am certainly going to continue with my running and the target currently for next year is going to be to beat the 1000 mile mark.

However that is not all, I have something else that I want to tackle and I will be looking at doing that is 2018.

Links and Resources

By Mark Wilkinson

I love playing golf, running and I am also a WordPress business owner, developer, husband and father.

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