In an attempt to get the aul mental health back on track your Mum decided to take up a new hobby.
Hobby is a stretch. Hobby suggests that I enjoy doing it.
It’s probably best to rephrase it as: Mummy decided to take up a pastime that hurts, makes her cry and sets her lungs on fire.
In short, I decided to to run.
This all started when Sarah from work grabbed me at a weak moment and had me agree to do a 10K in Dublin 14 weeks away.
For reasons unknown I decided to go along with it.
When I told your Dad, he laughed – a reaction I haven’t let him forget.
I then rang your Granny Betty, she laughed.
I told your Aunty Jenny, she laughed – hard.
I was beginning to see a pattern.
By the time I told the only real athletic person I know, Aunty Ciara, I could predict the reaction.
After she finished laughing and reminding me that the only time she ever saw me run was for cookies at the canteen at break time in school, she decided to help.
Just as a side note, in my defense these cookies were out of this world.
If I could sneak into St Louis now without looking like a creepy weirdo every break time for these cookies, I would.
What was I talking about?
Well thankfully another honorary aunt of yours – Hannah Louise – was busy training for the London Marathon and was able to provide us with some helpful hints.
Such as: remember to breathe.
I still have trouble with this advice; for reasons unknown as soon as I start running I automatically forget how to breathe and I mimic that of a dirty old man creeping someone out down the phone with heavy breathing.
Thankfully, I have earphones in so I don’t actually hear any of this but I’m sure it’s super attractive to those around me.
Like most things for me, training didn’t go exactly smoothly.
I decided the first ‘run’ would be to the outer boundary of the village. Easy, sure we drive there in less than five minutes.
I dug out the one pair of tracksuit bottoms I own, runners that were at least seven years old and had my motivational music to hand.
I was all over this.
So, that lasted for the first thir
ty seconds before my lungs caught fire, my heart felt like it was about to break out of my chest and a blister began to form almost instantaneously.
How do people LIKE this??
I decided that I couldn’t turn back after thirty seconds so I limped on – please remember I hadn’t made it out of our estate yet.
The only saving grace was that it was early on a Saturday morning so there weren’t many people around to see my shame.
I suddenly remembered: hydration.
Those bloody Lucozade adverts must have been on about something so I thought water would be the key to sorting out the inferno in my lungs.
Not only did I forget how to breathe, I forgot how to drink and I just ended up looking like a dribbling mess.
BUT by this stage I’d reached the end of the estate.
Destiny’s Child were warbling something about being a ‘survivor’ and I just wanted to strangle the smug b*tches.
The rest of my first outing didn’t get much better.
I’m not going to lie, by the time I reached the Square there was a dry-heaving incident in front of a family.
It wasn’t my proudest moment to date.
The point is, I kept at it.
Your Dad nagged me every night I didn’t want to go out until I eventually relented and hobbled out the door, Ciara kept me motivated and was always looking up races that we could do before Dublin and Hannah Louise was always at the end of the phone sending us messages of encouragement.
My little entourage were there every step of the way.
Four weeks in, we (stupidly) decided to do a 10K race in Hilltown – just to see how far off we were.
Ciara showed up on race day, hungover and ate everything she could find in the house.
I decided to take things much more seriously and was keeping hydrated, not eating too close to the start; basically reading anything I could find on the internet.
Your Dad’s prep work involved one practice run and a halfhearted stretch at the start line.
Nervously, we took our positions and my stomach was located in my feet somewhere.
I was worried about being surrounded by seasoned athletes and how I would look compared to them.
I needed have worried.
Your Dad and I were quickly dead last and all sights and sounds of said athletes (including hungover Ciara) were well ahead.
I can’t stress how far behind we were. At the 2K mark I begged your Dad to let me stop and go home but he was having none of it.
He didn’t care if we were going to arrive four hours later, but we were crossing the finish line.
We reached several markers at the point of the stewards packing up to go home, but reach them we did.
One hour and 18 minutes later we crossed the finish line. Ciara was waiting, medal around her neck and eating her weight in Jaffa Cakes while we staggered in.
They had run out of medals by the time we got there but I was so delighted to have finished that I didn’t even care.
The next 10K, your Dad was suspiciously absent from but I had Ciara on-hand to spur me on when the self-doubt would rear it’s ugly head (usually at the 2K mark).
During this race she kept me going with: “Don’t be silly, you can do it.” However, it wasn’t until afterwards that she confessed that she was going to punch me if I kept it up.
Now, I’m blaming cheap Italian wine and holiday air that made me agree to doing a half marathon in Newry; but once I sent that text message to Ciara, I knew there was no getting out of it.
Training had to step up a gear but I was still pretty self conscious about running with people so I decided to take off by myself one Saturday afternoon to see how far I could go.
I was confident that this time would be different. No dry-heaving, I would remember exactly how to breathe, I could do this.
I set off with my motivational music and got in the zone.
I was free, no one could bother me.
I was unstoppable.
I needed to pee.
Christ, no one on this planet needed to pee more than I did right at that very moment.
I was beginning to wish I had done more pelvic floor exercises.
Then I felt it. A trickle.
Sheer panic washed over me. What the hell was I going to do?!
Don’t worry Oliver, I’m not actually telling you a story about how I peed myself in public.
Turns out I hadn’t actually tightened my water bottle properly and it was trickling down through my bumbag.
I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing. The fact that I thought I had wet myself or that I’m admitting on the internet I wear (and love) a bumbag.
Long story short, we did the half marathon and at the finish line we were met with friends and family who cheered us on.
I’m not too proud to admit I shed a tear as we hugged and crossed the finish line together.
It felt incredible and I braced myself for Ciara’s next suggestion which would inevitably be to tackle a full
marathon (I’m not convinced just yet).
After that, the original 10K in Dublin didn’t seem like such a daunting prospect after all.
If someone had told me in January that we would be planning a summer of running events I would have laughed in their face, took another glass of wine, had a nap, woke up and laughed some more.
But we are.
To be completely honest, we’ve been a bit lax since Dublin but we’ve events on the horizon that’s going involve me having to get up off the sofa again.
And truth be told, it’s not that bad.