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Jun 22

Posted by: ACHA
6/22/2012 1:03 PM  RssIcon

By Paul Willgoss

Forgive me—I’m in a contemplative mood. Put it down to how far I’ve come and how far I have to go…

First up, I’ve just done my hardest half marathon.

And despite the vomiting, the aching thighs and suspicion I should do something easier for a hobby, I enjoyed it hugely. Trail running in the U.K. is normally organised by small groups who for very sensible safety reasons have time cut-offs that I couldn’t meet, so when Great North Run (who put on the largest half marathon in the world) branched out it was time to do something I’d always wanted to try… The full details are here.

3:35 is slow, but with 2,500 ft of climb (including over 500 ft in less than a mile at one point) and my weird spell to take into account, I’m rather chuffed with that!

It also took me well over the halfway point in this year of 2,012 km—with 10 days until halftime I’m at 1,050 km. This sounds a bit close for comfort, until I remember that the last six months have been the training, the preparation for what is to come.

Over the next couple of weeks I put the finishing touches on the training plan for this year’s grand adventure, an ultra-marathon. Going beyond the 26.2, seeing just how much I can push myself. My friends who live north, south and east of me (west is the Irish Sea!) have been lined up to drop me off so I can run home… Two of those drops will be 25 miles away—after work—and I’m probably going to need to get used to running in the dark, even in the middle of the summer.

That’s what I’ve trained for, to be able to do the training, to go that extra five miles in October, up the cobbles to Nottingham Castle.

Does that sound blasé? It’s not meant to be. One of the mental disciplines my heart condition and the diabetes force on me is the need to plan my escalations in distance, plan my checkpoints and know just what I can do. I’ve hit or exceeded all of my marks this year so I’m in good shape, probably the best shape I’ve been in since I was at school.

What has been a surprise has been my personal bests; I’ve shattered all of them from 5 km to marathon. I’ve gone out to try and break them, and also done it at times when it has surprised me more than anyone else.

But the 3:35 brings me full circle in some ways, as my very first half marathon was one I walked and took around 3:35. That was more than 10 years ago, and since then I’ve learned how to run, knocked an hour off that time and sought out new and less sane adventures.

I’d love to say there’s been a 10 year plan, that every step has been mapped before I took it—but it hasn’t been. There have been plans for specific events, training plans to get me further and faster and challenges to cover entire years, but no big plan.

Why no big plan? Partly because I don’t know. None of us adults with CHD know, what lies around the corner. I’d love to be able to plot out a plan to take me to the big 50, and something huge and fantastic to do to celebrate that milestone.

But I won’t, I can’t, my focus is broken down to the next runs—the British 10k, the 12-mile trail run in the Peak District, the annual trip to Newcastle and the Great North Run and looming over them the 50 km…

But it’s not all running to look forward to—reporting back on two years’ work with other European CHDers in Copenhagen, a trip to the Festival in Edinburgh (where I’ll be a part of an art installation) and my usual collection of distractions from running (like the day job and the arts course I’m doing).

So it’s time to stop navel-gazing, and get out there. I have miles to do, awareness to raise and fun to have.

Marathon runner, GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease), long-distance hiker, charity trustee, patient advocate and whisky lover—Paul Willgoss is all of these and more. A member of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire, his efforts both in front and behind the scenes for those with congenital heart defects have been recognized at the highest levels in his native U.K.

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