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It's time for change... by Damien Marshall

Like most average people on January 2nd 2017 I felt fat, bloated and hungover from all the recent Christmas and New Years festivities. So I stepped on the scales... to my horror and utter distain I tipped the scales at almost 16st. At 35 and 5ft 11, my BMI would tell you I was morbidly obese and although I generally discard BMI as a measurement, this was the first time I genuinely felt it. To be honest with you, I felt disgusted with myself that I'd gotten that heavy and I felt a genuine urge to do something about it.

At 35, married and with a young son I think it's too easy to neglect yourself. To hide behind the excuses of being too tired or not having enough time. To eat take away and convenience food all too regularly and to spend the moments your son goes to bed sat on the sofa watching TV with a bottle of beer in your hand.

It was time for change, a real change because the way I was going I was only ever going to get heavier. So I set about committing to a New Years resolution, to get fit, lose weight and generally live a healthier lifestyle. To be honest with you, it wasn't the first time I've set myself that goal but usually by the 3rd Jan I'm tucking away the last of the celebrations and I think 'sod it, I've ruined it now, maybe next year'.

But this time was different. This time I set myself a challenge, something to aim for and that challenge was the Reading Half Marathon. As a life long resident of Reading the annual half marathon is a big event for the town. Lots of my friends and people I know have run it over the years and to be honest I always thought they were slightly insane. I couldn't understand it, didn't want to understand, why anyone would want to run 13.1 miles for 'fun'.

Despite that I signed myself up. I also decided to run it for Charity. The marathon was in March and training had to start immediately if there was any chance of me finishing it. Otherwise I'd not only be letting myself down, I'd be letting my charity down. The challenge was on.

So on the 3rd January I went out for my first run. It was cold and dark but I aimed for 3 miles and to my surprise I did it in just over 30 minutes. I don't know whether it was my newfound will to lose weight, or the fear of failing, but I gave it my all and felt good about myself when I got home.

The second run was a different story. It was cold and raining and I had a real mental battle to get out of the door. Was that it? One run and my motivation was gone? I had to literally force myself out of the door and when I did, my run was awful. I say run in the loosest sense of the term because there was a lot of walking, heavy breathing and choice words with myself. Chiefly, why the sodding hell have I got myself into this. A 3 mile run had taken me about 45 minutes and my morale had all but gone.

Still, whatever the reason I did go out for the 3rd run and the 4th & the 5th and slowly but surely it got easier to get out of the door. I started seeing results on the scales too. Within a month I had lost a stone and my confidence was increasing. I was starting to feel good again.

After 6 weeks I actually started to enjoy my runs. Unbelievably I even started to look forward to them. I started to set myself goals, I started to increase the mileage and I actually started to get quicker. I was amazed how quickly a little bit of effort and application could affect change.

Race day came around before I knew it. I woke up early, excited and raring to go. In the time I was training my brother and father in law also signed up for the marathon so I headed to the start line with them. We got there early so we could soak up the atmosphere and I felt I real sense of accomplishment that I'd even come this far. But it was still my first time and there were still a few inevitable doubts. Had I put enough miles in? Was I confident enough in my pacing? Had I drunk enough? The answer to the latter was - too much!!! I had to pee... several times!! One lesson learned!! Thank god I got there nice and early as it appeared I wasn't the only person that may have had this issue.

When the gun went off I put my headphones on and went into a zone. I use big overhead beats by dre headphones when I run. Not the choice of headphones for most runners but it works for me. It allows me to block out what I want to block out and be at one with the music. I feel better running and getting into a steady rhythm that way. It worked for my training.

Within a mile or so it would become apparent that I wouldn't necessarily need them this time because the support was incredible. All the way around. The people in Reading had come out in force to support their runners and the lift it gave you to push on was amazing. I felt comfortable the whole way, the adrenaline was pushing me on. The finishing line at The Reading Half Marathon is inside the Madejski stadium the home of Reading Football Club. When I entered the stadium the roar and cheering from the crowd was amazing. It really did give you a lift for the final 100 metres.

When I crossed the finishing I finally understood the sense of achievement. The 'why' someone would put themselves through 13.1 miles of running. When I looked down at my run app and saw that I'd crossed the line in 1hr 45mins I couldn't actually believe it. Beating 2 hours for your first half marathon is the fabled goal and I'd gone 15 minutes under it. I was amazed and happy. I'd done it. I went to see my family who had came down and supported and I could see the pride in their eyes. I felt even better and off the pub we went for a well earned couple of beers to celebrate.

When the euphoria died down and it was back to pounding the pavements I realised I couldn't let the hard work go to waste. So I've upped the ante. 3 half marathons and the London Marathon 2018 on behalf of Whizz Kidz. Yeah, that should do it!

I think the important thing here though is now I want run. I've done the one thing I thought would be impossible. I've got the bug and fell in love with running. I've now pounded the pavements in Reading and I've run up mountains in Mallorca and I can honestly say it's the best lifestyle change I've made. I now weigh 13 stone rather than 16 stone. I feel fit and healthy and my mind feels right. I have more energy to do the important things like play and keep up with a very energetic 3 year old boy who I love more than the world.

The amazing thing about running as a fitness activity is that anyone can do it. All you need is a pair of trainers and a willingness to get out the front door. It's cheap, it can be done in your own time and your schedule and if you stick to it you will definitely see results and improvement.

I would now recommend it to anyone.

On Sunday 8th October I am taking on my next challenge - The Bournemouth half marathon and I really can't wait to get going!

Damien Marshall
@DamoMarshall81

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