06 December 2015

Running for my life - David story

St.Brendan’s AC members share their personal stories and different experiences of getting fit and embracing new challenges in recent years.

Running for my life - David story

My background

I am 33 and originally from Laois. Up until recently, I had lived and worked in the Dublin area for the last 10 years. My wife Irene and I and our little daughter Katie moved to Causeway in March this year and we both joined St. Brendan's AC. I work from home every day so by joining the club I have met a great bunch of people that I always enjoy meeting up with for training sessions or at races. Everyone is so friendly and really supportive across the entire club.

Up to 2 and a half years ago my appearance, health and fitness was very different to what it is today. I weighed 21 and a half stone (at 5ft 10in in height with a BMI of 42.8). Back then I was often breathless after minor exercise such as a short walk, suffered back pain and didn't sleep well and my little baby girl was just starting to walk so keeping up with her was going to be even more of a challenge. Critically my outlook for a long and healthy life was significantly reducing with every passing year I did nothing about my weight.

I had seen family and friends with similar challenges to what I faced address them in recent years so I used that as further inspiration that it could be done and made to last. I took some advice from my brother who is a gym instructor and a fitness enthusiast.

In May 2013 I started to reduce my calorie intake, changed my diet, kept a food diary and started some regular exercise (a couch to 5k program). I set myself a target of 3 stone lost before my next birthday in December. I achieved that target in half the time I had set out so I knew the plan would work. I also completed my first ever race, the Run in the Dark 5K in November 2013. The weight loss kept up over that year and I kept up the running and completed a number of 5K and 10K races in same time period.

After 1 year I had got my weight down to 14st and generally speaking it's held pretty steady since then, for now I just keep an eye on the scales every week and just focus on my fitness.

This year has been my best year of running to date as I got a number of personal bests at 5K/10K/10 Mile and Half Marathon. I am particularly proud of breaking my half marathon PB each of the four times I raced the distance this year, I feel I have more to come from myself at that distance as well and long term wise could see it being the distance I race most often. The biggest challenge I took on this year was my first attempt at the marathon distance.

Dublin City Marathon 2015

I also completed my first marathon in Dublin on the October bank holiday weekend. That was a dream come true, thinking where I had come from back in 2013 to having the confidence and fitness to even consider signing up for the full marathon, let alone training for it and completing it. My training plan started back in June and lasted for 18 weeks which had me running 5 times a week starting the plan with a total weekly mileage of 20 miles and getting up to a maximum of 40 miles per week. The plan included a number of 18-20 mile runs....something I had never even dreamed of before but I was able for it. The long runs were a real challenge at times to be honest, as much on the head as anything else physically. I did the majority of all training on my own....on the day you are surrounded by people but you are racing on your own. Thankfully though, club mate James joined with me for a good few of the long runs which made things a lot easier. Some highlights of training included a 19 mile run around London city centre, better than any open top bus tour! I also took part in a group run doing 20 miles of the course a month before the marathon up in Dublin, this was with some other marathon novices that I knew from boards.ie that were on the same plan as me. That was a very beneficial experience as it gave me a good knowledge of the route and also it was my first time breaking 20 miles.

The day of the marathon was something very special, I was so happy to make the start line after having some knee pain issues in the month preceding the race that had to be carefully managed with physio direction. I actually celebrated crossing the start line probably as much as many do finishing such races but it was a proud moment for me to be there. I was very happy that I was feeling confident and that I was sure I was able for the challenge. The race went very well with things holding steady up to the halfway point, the second half was more challenging with tough weather conditions and also the step into the unknown when I crossed the 20 mile mark for the last 6.2 miles. That last hour of running was where the training really came in. I got some cheers from work colleagues and friends on route throughout the whole race and that was a huge benefit, also my wife Irene got around to cheer me at three points on the course at the 4 mile mark, 19 mile mark and then in the last 0.2 of a mile. It was a great boost to see her on each occasion but unfortunately I did not spot her at the third location but I had my eyes on the finish gantry and was willing myself over the last stretch.

That last hour was the toughest thing I have ever done physically, it took a lot of mental coaching telling myself that I was okay, acknowledge any pain/tiredness I was feeling and to just keep running. I remember well crossing the UCD flyover and thinking of what someone said to me in the weeks preceding the race that it's just a parkrun to finish from there. I have ran 5K many times and always confident that I can do that no matter what. A lot of people around me were walking but I wanted to achieve my goal and run every step and proud to say that I did that. I stopped once for two seconds to adjust the tongue on my runner but outside I that I ran non-stop. When signing up the race that was what I wanted to achieve and despite coming in at 4:12:54, which was 2-3 minutes above my goal time on the day I was so happy with it all.


I had two weeks off after the marathon to allow the body to recover and now getting back into things again over the last few weeks. For the moment as I work through the knee pain issue which has thankfully subsided hugely (thanks again to club mate Derek in Tralee Physiotherapy for helping me out) I am back running 3 times a week. Outside of that I am doing some strength and conditioning work which should resolve the knee issue for the future.

The Future

At the moment I am working to address the “runner's knee” issue that I got in the last month before marathon training and making good progress. The rest of this year and for the early part of next year I am planning on trying to chip away at my 5K time in Parkruns. I have a 5 mile race in Dublin at the end of January and I am signed up for the Valentine's 10 mile run in Tralee. I am planning on a half marathon in March/April but have not decided which one yet. Next summer then all going well I might have another go at training for and running the Dublin City marathon in 2016.

Long term wise I hope to maintain my current fitness and have many decades of running left in me. Running gives me so much, on top of maintaining my fitness I find it hugely beneficial for my mental well-being. It's something that both my wife and I can do together and moving to a new area it's been a great way to meet new people. Hopefully in time our daughter Katie will enjoy to run too.


1 comment:

  1. David is an inspiration - so very well done