Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The only way is up - Part One

Another day, another diet, at worst another con trick, at best another silly gimmick. Diets, diets, diets. Something has to be done to stop people falling for the magic tricks of the con artists who dream them up. It might be time for the B-Plan. The Beevo Plan. The only plan you will ever need. 

But you're not going to like it. 

It won't make any newspaper headlines, it won't be something to wow your friends with. It's not a 4/3, 5/2, intermittent, no carb, protein-only designer diet. It's very boring. You just lose a massive amount of weight in a short space of time and it stays off. Sorry. I wish I could make it more interesting or give it a trendy name.

Fad diets are aimed at people who think they'll run faster if they wear expensive running gear. What little effect it does have is usually psychological. Because you're kitted out with designer stuff, you might feel more up for running and indeed initially you might see a difference in your time or performance. But it won't last.

Just like you might see early weight loss on a fad diet but that won't last, either. That, of course, doesn't matter to the snake oil salesmen who dream up these useless diets. All they need is for you to lose weight in the first week, then when you fail to progress with further weight loss, they can blame you for not sticking to it properly. Then they'll dream up another trick to con you with.

If you told yourself you were determined to lose weight and changed nothing, you would probably lose some weight in the first week. That's because subconsciously your attitude towards food changed. You were, without realising it, more disciplined in your eating. But this will fade and you will then stop losing weight. That's the same way fad, trendy diets work. They make the headlines or the magazine cover and capture your imagination but soon they have no effect at all. And you can't stay on them forever so what happens when you come off? Even without returning to your old bad habits completely, you'll still find the weight you lost creeping back on.

No. Sorry. I'm afraid it's boring and simple. I lost eight stones in 12 months that's a third of my original bodyweight by watching what I ate, what quantities I ate and by exercise. And it's staying off. Tedious, isn't it? There's not even a fancy name for it. Not even some "leading nutritionist professor", from a clinic which probably only exists on the internet, to explain the science ("It must be good, cos I don't understand a word of what he just said"). No Hollywood endorsements. No glamour. Just massive weight loss. Boring.

Boring, but amazing. I'll talk you through what I did and you follow me and the same thing will happen to you. Guaranteed. There's nothing special about me. I'm not prone to easy quick weight loss or I would never have got to 24 stones in the first place.

But that's what I was last January. Then I decided to do something about it. My spur, my inspiration, was the loss of my wife Diane to breast cancer last February. Last January, about this time, it became obvious to both of us she had more than just one of those winter bugs that were knocking about. I think Diane knew then that something was seriously wrong and yet she
kept insisting she was feeling better each day. Perhaps she was terrified of being told the truth.

When she died on February 6, I was not only a wreck emotionally, I was a physical wreck, too. I had watched the woman I had shared over a third of my life with fade away, cruelly snatched from me by this cursed disease.

It took me a while to get my head around what I had to do. In the weeks following the death of a loved one, particularly when that loss leaves you on your own, there are two ways you can go. It's touch and go which path you choose. You might think now, as you consider how you would react in the same position, that you be strong enough to get through it, but trust me you cannot possibly know until you are there. It's scarily easy to crumble.

In the end, I simply refused to allow myself to become The Sad, Fat Old Man Who Lives In The Corner House. The one the kids throw grit at the windows to annoy him and to get him to come to the door, shaking his stick at them to chase him off.

I could have become that person. But how would that have made Diane feel? I had been given the opportunity to spend the rest of my life paying tribute to her and keeping alive her memory. How could I do that if I slid into a self-pitying, self-loathing shell of a man living in a pit of depression.

I realised she hadn't gone. Cancer might have destroyed her body, but it couldn't touch the part of her that made her special and what made us special together. That spirit of me WITH Diane, the woman I adored, was still in my head and my heart. She was still guiding me. And it was still my duty to make her proud. Still my duty not to let her down.

And so, with her help, I chose to look up instead of down. And I joined a gym...


Monday, 6 January 2014

13 miles ... and counting

Twelve months ago, on our 17th wedding anniversary, Diane didn't feel like celebrating. She was still feeling under the weather with this bug she had got over Christmas.
Neither of us had any idea what was really going on inside her body. It never entered our heads that her cancer had returned. After all it was only a few weeks ago that she had come out of the Royal Bolton Hospital's Breast Unit with a broad grin, positively skipping back to the car with the news that she was off the tablets and could look forward to the rest of her life.
We could start making plans again, start building our lives back up now the clouds had parted and fresh rays of light had peeked through. All those years of darkness, now a hint of sunshine. It was the happiest I had seen her for more than six years.
Now all she had to do was shake off this bug and we could get on with our plans.
One of those plans was for her to finally take me to Rotterdam to see where she spent her childhood. Where she lived, went to school, played, laughed and cried. She would show me where she fell heavily from her bike and broke her teeth. She used to tell me how she would jump between the huge barges that were strapped together at the side of the Maas, the giant river which slices through the centre of Rotterdam.
Maybe some of her old school friends were still living in the city, perhaps one of her old teachers was still alive. It would be exciting for her to see how much it had changed. I was excited that I was to see it for the first time.
But all our plans were to be futile.
It wasn't a bug after all. Soon she would be gone.
Which is why I spent our 18th wedding anniversary running my first half marathon around the country lanes of Lancashire. More than 13 miles, the furthest, by some distance, I had yet attempted.
12 months ago, as I sat with Diane and hoped she'd soon be feeling better, I had no desire to run 13 yards, let alone 13 miles. But that was all to change.
I need to do this to help others going through the same pain. For those who hope they can too start to make plans again like we did. And for those, like us, who will see their dreams shattered.
So, here I am a year on. Less than 100 days away from running my first marathon. In Rotterdam. Where Diane lived, went to school, laughed, cried and, yes, lost those teeth.
I will at last see the city that holds so many memories for her. It will soon hold some cherished, precious ones of my own.
I did the half marathon yesterday. Eventually, after nearly two hours and 40 minutes, I passed that 13-mile marker and turned the last corner to the finishing line. I know now that having done that, I'm ready to realise this dream. To run in Rotterdam with Diane.
At last.

Friday, 3 January 2014

24st to Marathon Man - the story so far

For those just joining the blog, a quick catch-up...

RUNNING anywhere on February 6 2013 was the furthest thing from my mind. My beautiful wife Diane had just lost her six-year fight against breast cancer. She died at 7.20am, before I could get to the hospital.
Fortunately, the previous evening, like every other evening that she had lain in hospital, I had kissed her on the forehead, told her yet again that I loved her and would always love her and said goodnight to her as she slept.
In the final days, she slept most of the time. She looked serene when she was asleep. So I would just sit beside her bed and hold her hand, and watch her.
I hoped she was dreaming. I hoped she was dreaming that she was well again, that we were laughing once more and that the pain had gone. Sweet dreams, my darling Diane.
After her death, I realised that I had to do something to help others who were going through what Diane and I had.
When Diane died, I was in poor health. I weighed nearly 24 stones, had Type 2 diabetes and struggled to get up a flight of stairs. I felt vulnerable and alone. So I decided to get fit.
When I joined a local gym in April, I couldn’t walk on a treadmill for more than a minute. Now, seven and a half stones lighter, I’m looking forward to running my first marathon around the streets of Rotterdam where Diane grew up.
By the time I line up at the starting point I will have lost 40% of my bodyweight, dropped eight inches off my waist and gone down six shirt sizes. All within a little over 12 months. And all inspired by Diane and the need to make a difference.
To make a difference to ease the strain and stress of people going through what we had to go through. And the best way for me to do that was to run and raise cash for Breast Cancer Care.
I discovered I loved running – after 40 years of couch potato life – and did my first 5K round Salford in Lancashire where Diane was born. And Diane ran with me. This wasn’t in memory of Diane or “for” Diane – it was “with” her. She was there every step of the way, driving me on and making sure I did it. Thanks to the generosity of friends and colleagues, that run raised a magnificent load of cash and I was hooked. Now for that marathon …
But there is nothing unique about my experience, nothing special. The heart-breaking scenario, where you are forced to watch a loved one be slowly taken from you, is being played out in families the length and breadth of the UK.
And luckily, the dedicated team at Breast Cancer Care is there to help. Which is why I’m telling you mine and Diane’s story in the hope you’ll support this marvellous charity through helping us.

There are loads of ways you can help. If you're running in 2014, run in aid of the campaign. If not, then just follow us on Twitter and retweet our messages to get them to as wide an audience as possible. And join us on facebook at www.facebook.com/runningwithdiane. 

Let's make 2014 the year everyone Runs With Diane.
This whole experience has transformed my life and now I work on behalf of Diane raising money for Breast Cancer Care.
You can too. Be inspired like I was.
Breast Cancer Care does amazing work for families affected by this terrible disease. More than 500,000 people are living with a diagnosis of breast cancer. 50,000 more will find out they have it in the next 12 months.
That’s 500,000 living with cancer, getting the kids ready for school with cancer, dashing off to work and grabbing a slice of toast with cancer, getting the evening meals ready with cancer, doing the weekly shop with cancer. There’s never anything you do without cancer casting a cloud over it.
More and more people are beating the disease, but too many still aren’t. They need your help.
Once you get that diagnosis, the sky falls in. And it’s too much to face everyday life on your own. Family members can struggle to cope too. You need help, support, guidance and someone who cares.
And that’s why the work of Breast Cancer Care is so important. Because that’s what they do – help, support, guide and care.
If you’re running in 2014, please run it in aid of Breast Cancer Care. Help them help people like us.
Do it for all the brave and courageous women who are getting through each day under the cloud of this terrible disease.
And for all the brave and courageous women - like Diane – who didn’t make it.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Landmark day

Big day today - 100 days to go to the marathon in Rotterdam. Just over three months of training left and this Sunday I run my first half marathon.
Ah, Sunday. Another difficult day. January 5. It would have been mine and Diane's 18th wedding anniversary. Another day when I will share a quiet, private word with her and another day when I will tell her how much I love her and miss her. I'll buy a card, of course. I haven't reached that stage yet where I don't feel the need to. It's my way of telling her she is still as much a part of my life now as she ever was.
It makes Sunday all the more special. Running with her for our longest distance yet, I will cherish every moment.
And perhaps, after we've finished, she will finally believe I can do this crazy thing in April. Just goes to show, anything's possible if you're inspired. Not doing it is not an option. Not hitting every target I set myself is out of the question. I simply have to do it.
And I will.
Letting Diane down isn't an option either.

100 DAYS TO GO!!