Staying in reasonably good shape as you get older doesn't get any easier, particularly when you spend most of your life sitting down. Turning 50 a few years ago made me realise that I needed to take more exercise. I had always enjoyed cycling and walking but running seemed too much like hard work and it took a while before I got the bug. Lack of time was one of the excuses I made to myself for not getting out there and just doing it.
I decided to try running partly because I could fit it in before work and at week-ends when the rest of the family were still in bed. It was also something I could do alone, where and when it suited me. I found a 10km circuit in Test Valley that was mainly off-road and which started right outside my house. I just started doing that once a week, gradually increasing the frequency and occasionally completing two circuits rather than just one. I enjoyed the solitude of the early morning run, in the knowledge that I couldn't be contacted and would be left in peace for the best part of an hour!
Having been an active member of Winchester Rotary for several years I was aware of the Clarendon Marathon and then got involved in helping to marshal it. I was impressed by how well it was organised and by the varied and challenging terrain. Around ten years ago I walked the entire route from Salisbury to Winchester as part of a team from work. It took us around ten hours and we were exhausted. I took our Labrador along on the walk and she enjoyed it just as much as I did!
Then, three years ago I was asked to join a relay team from Winchester Hospital Radio and ran the last quarter of the race in 52 minutes. The Rotary marshals cheered me on and I found that really helped. Then the crowd at the end urged me to sprint the last few hundred meters to the tape. I was elated and felt as if I'd completed the whole marathon, not just the last 10km! I decided then and there that I would have a go at the half marathon, so last year I entered and managed to do it in almost exactly two hours. I found the section from Broughton to Farley Mount really hard going but the atmosphere was great and this helped me to ignore the pain and discomfort. The next logical step was to enter the full marathon, which is now only a few weeks away and getting closer each day. My training sessions have got progressively longer and my long-suffering wife is now used to seeing me disappear for anything up to three hours at a time and returning home exhausted but with a masochistic smile of relief on my face. I have almost cracked twenty miles now so the prospect of another six doesn't seem quite so ridiculous.
The running bug has infected my elder son, Tom (24) who has decided to run with his old dad and encourage him. We decided that we would try to put all our training efforts to good use by raising money for a charity that means something to us both. Not everyone in our family can do what we do because arthritis has caused damage to knee joints and has caused mobility problems to develop. Tom and I consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have joints that move freely and allow us to run long distances. Arthritis Research is a charity that supports efforts at finding and funding better treatments (and hopefully a cure) for this painful degenerative condition. So we chose this as our charity and we are going to try to raise £1000 between us. Knowing that our friends and family are sponsoring us will ensure that we keep running and with a fair wind and assuming no injuries we will complete our first marathon (definitely my last) together on 2nd October. I don't mind too much what time I do it in, as long as I can make it to the end without being stretchered off. Wish us luck!