I did it!

After 9 months of training, completely upending my life in London and altering my lifestyle irrevocably – I’ve completed what I set out to do.

When I first arrived here in Padstow I was a wreck. My life in London as a jobbing chef and daily drinker was unsustainable, to say the least. At the age of 34, I should have been in the prime of my life, but I couldn’t have been further from that. With my hand clutching my chest, I’d cut a sad and desperate figure, collapsed on the floor of my local pub with my drunk friends trying to help me up. I’d almost died that day, it could have been my last – but, it wasn’t.

Moving down to Cornwall was the inciting incident in my story. Thanks to my Aunt Berol, I had the opportunity to stay somewhere free of alcohol, where I could eat healthy meals every day and where my only friend would be a septuagenarian with a slight addiction to vaping. It might sound like a strange plan for a man in his 3os, but without the help of Berol and the simple comforts of her home, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the race that seemed like an impossible task back in October.

For those of you interested, I completed the 10 kilometres in 82 minutes 23 seconds.

This was well under my target of 90 minutes, which I was pleasantly surprised with. What I was even more surprised with was the support I received from my fellow runners and their supporters. Of course, Aunt Berol was waiting on the finish line for me with a big smile on her face, but for the rest of the race I had assumed that I’d be alone.

It was a dark and foreboding drive to Trethewey.

Although Aunt Berol had done a good job of containing her excitement for the last few weeks, she was positively bubbling with energy on the drive over. I could tell that for her this was a big moment, she’d welcomed me into her home, a few weeks after a serious health incident and watched me recover, bit by bit, all so that I could push myself to the limit on this misty morning.

After I collected my bib and left Berol at the finish line with a cup of tea, I made my way to the start line. It was a strange feeling, stepping into a crowd of people who all looked so different from me. I might have lost a few stone since coming down here, but I was still far and away the biggest runner in the lineup. I don’t know why I’d assumed that I’d be ridiculed, the reality was a lot different. As soon as I took my place, dressed in my unflattering running gear, surrounded by my fellow competitors, I received smiles and nods of recognition.

When the starting pistol sounded, I took my time and kept my own pace, letting the faster runners filter through. I had thought that I’d be left in the dust, but it turned out there were a few other runners who, like me, had challenged themselves to lose weight and get fit.

We all struggled, we all persevered, we all completed.

I have less than a month to prepare until race day.

When you settle into a regular routine, time becomes difficult to keep track off. I’ve spent nearly 9 months living with my Aunt Beryl, here in Padstow and I’ve not worked a day since I arrived.

Don’t take me for a lazy layabout – I have every intention to get back into the world. Once I’ve got a grip on my health issues and I’ve got the all clear from the doctors, I’m looking forward to getting stuck back in to the working meat grinder.

I threw in my job at the Capital when I left. I was a chef, believe it or not.

The cliche of an overweight chef is one that I’m well aware of – still, it’s a cliche that I’m looking to break out of. The combined effects of the stress of the job; heavy weekends of drinking and endless smoking had left me a wreck but with the clean air and nothing but time on my side, I felt that I could get myself in shape for August.

Even though I’ve been running regularly (around 4 or 5 times a week) since October, I don’t feel like its become part of my persona yet. I’ve lost nearly three stone by simply walking every day and going for regular jogs – my Aunt Beryl’s diet has helped too. Although us Londoners are rarely known for our well rounded diets, Beryl had clearly done her research before I came down to live with her. She joked that even she had lost a few pounds since I’d been lodging with her.

Although I’d saved up a fair amount of cash before moving down, I knew I had to be careful once I was down here.

I knew that I’d always be able to find work down in Cornwall if needs be, but I didn’t want to. My plan was to focus completely on my health and forget about the stresses of the kitchen for a year. Since my cash flow had made a semi-permanent shift in the wrong direction, I’ve been finding ways to save ever since moving down.

The first challenge I met was purchasing several sets of plus-size running gear (no mean feat, even in London) without completely breaking the bank. The problem that I was facing was evident as soon as I stepped into the local sports retail outlet. The only plus-sized clothes I could find were cotton t-shirts, impractical for running, especially when any pace beyond a brisk walk was causing me to sweat profusely. Shoes were also an issue, I knew I was going to wear through running shoes in a matter of months, especially with the mileage I was looking cover – so I needed at least 2 or three pairs.

My salvation came in the form of an online wholesale sports outlet. Although I was forced to buy several t-shirts, pairs of shorts and trainers at once, the discount that I received on all of these was massive. With the race now a matter of weeks away, I’ve just cracked into my last pair of trainers.

Let’s just hope my legs will carry me over the finish line in one piece!

There are a lot of benefits to living down here in Padstow, compared to living in London.

Whenever I tell someone down here in Cornwall that I come from the capital, they always release a long breath of air and look at me as if I’ve gone mad.

‘City folk don’t last long around here’, that’s what their expressions seem to say – and I can understand why. The thing I struggled with initially was the quiet and the dark. Even in quieter neighbourhoods of London, you are surrounded by the ambience of the city. Cats screeching, sirens wailing and the distant thumps of music being blasted from racing hatchbacks. They sound like cliches, but these cliches are the realities of London life.

All those reassuring noises, the buzzing backdrop to my daily existence, disappeared when I moved to Padstow. My first night spent in my Aunt’s room was silent – silent and dark. I was prepared for the quietness, but I wasn’t prepared for the darkness. I would have never said that I was scared of the dark – but, saying that, I don’t think I’d ever experienced true darkness before moving down here. When there are no street lights, filtering that comforting yellow glow through the windows, all you’re left with is what the moon can offer. On my first night at Beryl’s, clouds blanketed the sky, blocking any potential moonlight from entering the twee spare room she had welcomed me into.

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded in darkness – I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

Despite these slightly unsettling conditions, I soon found that there were a number of advantages to living on the sunny South coast.

You notice the clean air pretty much as soon as you step off the train.

London in Summer is a foggy, murky mess. The Underground stations are sweat boxes, packed with slightly perspiring tourists and tired looking office workers. The stench of other people, sewage and fried chicken is insidious and hard to shake off. In the heat of summer, a similar haze hangs at around ankle level in Cornwall. But, without the traffic pumping out an endless concoction of toxic fumes, the sea breeze is allowed to move the air around, mingling the new smells which are certainly easier on the nose.

Fresh cut grass, baked pasties and sand dunes.

These are the scents that I associate with my new home and they’re infinitely more pleasant than the ones I left behind.

What took me the longest to get used to was the change in social attitudes. London has a bad rep for being an unfriendly place to live, which is somewhat well earned. Before I moved down here, I was told that the Cornish locals were no friendlier than us Londoners. The broad stereotype of xenophobic country yokel was enforced and I believed it. I knew that I’d misjudged the people of Cornwall when I was woken up at around 5:30am. By the sounds of it, the Postman and the Milkman were having an animated discussion about the upcoming village fair.

I idly eavesdropped, dropping off to sleep just as I head my Aunt wake up to join the conversation – I remember falling sleep slightly surprised that there were still working Milkmen in the 21st Century.

I’d certainly come a long way from the East End.

My Father smoked 40 a day until his dying day, I’m breaking the family tradition this year.

One of the Doctor’s first orders was to quit the cigarettes. The fat clogging my arteries was putting undue strain on my heart, so I needed to stop.

running-10My Aunt Beryl moved down here, from her family home in Dagenham, when she retired in her 60s. She was a hard worker in her time, a line manager in a packing factory who commanded respect amongst her colleagues and friends. Although she’d loved living in London, she had always dreamed of leaving the big city and retiring to the countryside. Her dream of living the good life was realised 20 years ago when she sold her little flat in the city and bought a cottage in the Cornish seaside town of Padstow.

When the time came for me to escape the city, and the toxic lifestyle I had been living, Aunt Beryl’s was the only option. She had plenty of space in her home, even for a big lad like me, and was more than willing to accommodate an extra guest.

old-ladies-vapingBeryl had been a smoker for almost all her life too. Growing up in the 50s, when over half the adult population smoked, it was ingrained into both her social and professional life. A resilient old bird, she’d never suffered from any of the negative side effects that the habit often saddles people with. However, as the years wore on, and she realised that she would be living well past 80, she started to worry about her guilty pleasure rearing it’s ugly head – putting an end to her peaceful retirement plans.

When I’d told her I had to quit, she jumped at the opportunity to join me. So began our journey to a smoke-free life, one that would have ended as soon as it began, if it weren’t for this handy little gadget:

Vaping Store

It’s an electronic cigarette and it might just be the thing that saves my life.

An old friend from London came to visit, he brought with him a couple of these vape pens – as gifts.

He brought back news that life had changed quite a bit back at The Nag’s Head. Since my departure, several of the locals had cut down on their drinking (much to the dismay of Barb, behind the bar) and quit smoking as well. With the Winter months coming in, many of them joked with each other that it was better to stay inside to vape, than step out into the cold to smoke. Regardless of their rationale, it sounded like my incident had scared them into attempting to ditch some of their bad habits as well.

Although Beryl and I have only been vaping for the past month, I’m already starting to feel like I can breathe a little deeper. The daily walks have been getting progressively easier and I’ve already lost a stone on my new diet.

I may have a long way to go yet, but at least I’m taking steps in the right direction.

 

 

 …

The runner must care for themselves.

Running is not everything, it doesn’t solve everything, it cannot be the only thing you do to your body, you have to care for your body in all ways, in so many ways, in essential ways.

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You must remember that only a fool believes he can do it all, that an idiot rejects the fact that he does not have access to all things and all knowledge.

Not everything is conquerable by the power of your intuition alone, sometimes you need information and knowledge that you just don’t have. That is your burden: the burden of having to have the wisdom to recognise your own weaknesses whilst trying to build your own strengths.

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Can you go and look for someone who knows more than you and get there help?

Can you drop your pride and do that? Because I know it can be hard. Like running up a mountain. It can be hard like building a house. It can be hard, that is for sure, it can be hard. But it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter one bit! Not at all, not at all, NOT AT ALL! Because you only get one body, sure it may be difficult today, you may be busy or tired or just uncomfortable with the whole idea but to stay fit you need to get help!

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I’m talking about professional, medical help.

You know what? I’ll admit it! I go to a physio every week. And it doesn’t make me less of a natural runner or anything like that, it just makes me better at running! It makes me be able to keep giving for longer and keep running stronger.

So yeah, get your legs involved!