|Craig Sharp is a runner with an incredible, inspirational story on achieving goals and the motivation to be found in running.|
My journey started when I collapsed in front of my 2 youngest children. I was 37 years old, 280lbs (127kg) and lived off junk food and alcohol. I had a stroke that scared my then 7 & 4 year old daughters. Luckily for me, 2 paramedics were close by and came to my aid. When I was able to understand what had happened to me later that day, I decided there and then that something had to change.
Obese to marathon was my first ever goal. I know this may be a little ambitious for some but I did it, which means that anybody can achieve more than they ever believe is possible.
I started out at 280lbs (127kg), physically struggling to play with my own children due to the state of my health. I had bad asthma, was constantly breathless, I waddled when I walked and struggled with daily tasks. I had given up on the thought of life ever being any different. I had every excuse under the sun and if I’m telling the truth, I was entirely ashamed of myself.
Before this event I knew I needed to change, but every day the standard excuses crept in and took over my mind “I haven’t got time”, “I haven’t got the money to join the gym”, “I’ll start tomorrow” “its quicker to take the car” etc.
But that day sat in the doctor’s surgery I made my mind up. . I was advised to take it easy and rest and take these tablets etc.. and to stop thinking about a marathon. I was heading towards 40 and would never run a marathon. And that was all I needed to hear. I went home, weighed myself and set out a plan that would last a week, just 7 days to make some changes. I would cut out all junk food, all alcohol and run/walk 4 times.
I can honestly tell you that it started off as the hardest things that I have ever done. It went against all of my natural instincts. When I started my legs chaffed against together causing burns and bleeding. I had to run when it was dark and with my hood pulled up as I was so embarrassed that somebody may see me. But I was just determined to see out these 7 days.
I was a mess and I was sick of it. I wanted to improve me. Not just for my benefit, but also for the benefit of my 4 children too. I wanted to be a positive role model to them but knew that things had to change drastically if I was going to inspire them. I realised that you don’t have to run a marathon to inspire your children but that you do have to show them that you are not afraid of hard work or trying new things. When I got home after my final run at the end of those 7 days. I locked myself in the bathroom and sat on the edge of the bath for 45 minutes before I dared to step on those scales. I was worried that it would still be the same, or the loss be so little it would end my determination. The negative thoughts were overwhelming and I will never forget it. But I stood on them and I had lost 8lbs (3.6kg) in 7 days and I sat there crying.
Now I knew I could do it. I went downstairs and contacted a charity and signed up there and then to run the London Marathon, my furthest run had been 1.6 miles and I stopped half way around for a rest. But I knew I would run London and the plan was to do it non-stop.
I increased my runs gradually over the next 3-4 months. I was also doing a home workout DVD for 25 minutes, 5 days a week. I educated myself in nutrition and changed my diet. The weight came of gradually and as my body became stronger and started to repair itself, I became fitter and was able to adjust my targets and goals accordingly. I ran The London Marathon in 3 hours 49 minutes weighing 178lbs (80kg), I lost over 100lbs (45kg) in around 7 months As my fitness increased, I wanted to see what else I was capable of.
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In 2018 I switched to a plant based diet. Losing weight and changing the way I eat has helped me completely get rid of my asthma. I no longer have hayfever, back ache, headaches. I have not been to the doctors in nearly 3 years. In a way, I wanted to make myself immune to anything that life would throw at me. I made little, easy to reach goals, that created a path to a bigger goal and my bigger goals all lead to my main goal. Someday I will run a Boston Qualifying Time which I need to run a Marathon in under 3 hours. On June 4th this year I will start to work on that dream becoming reality. Making a commitment and setting targets towards a goal is very motivating. When I have a race date in mind I design a plan and stick to set training days. I tick the days off on the paper plan so I have a visual representation of my progress and a countdown to the big day.
Achieving your weekly goals boosts your confidence and makes you feel accomplished. Fulfilling your commitment to a plan is satisfying.
I track all of my runs on Strava. This captures lots of different data and allows me to analyse my runs and see if I am getting faster and fitter. It also allows me to follow other runners and talk to them to offer positive comments or ask for advice. There is a massive running community out there and I have made friends from all around the world through my passion for running. Talking to like-minded people increases your motivation as it inspires you share advice, tips and training ideas. Lockdown has forced me to run alone but I don’t feel isolated because I can still see what all my fellow athletes are doing. The community on there is the most positive place I know. It is full of hard working, inspirational and genuinely amazing people.
I make sure all of my data on all of my runs is there for everyone to see, I state my goals and what I am training for which to some people is a little crazy in case you fail, but I always believe we only learn when we fail. It holds me accountable and I do feel a little pressure but that is what gets me up and out in the morning. It’s what I do now. The support and advice and the encouragement I get from people online far outweighs the pressure to hit the targets I set myself. If people can learn from my mistakes or gain a short cut from seeing something I have done then that is great. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is one of the best I have done.
No matter what our level, we are all athletes and we always lift each other up.
There are some days where I don’t feel like getting up to run but this is when I have to remember that I have never once regretted going out for a run. Even “bad” runs are valuable as you learn from them. I always plot my route the night before so that I am prepared for the morning. My kit is laid out ready. It has become part of my life now. My children all run, my partner runs. My friends all run.
There is some quote somewhere I forget how it goes but it’s something like “Don’t let your situation define you”
Being in lockdown has made me even more motivated. I have more time to dedicate to getting things right. More time with my children. More time to be a better me. I always aim to be better than I was yesterday and the fear of slipping back to the person I used to be is my greatest motivator. I want to come out of lockdown fitter and stronger than when it started.
Hoping my journey is enough to inspire just one person to get up and try that first run/walk and they fall I love with that amazing feeling you get, which in turn kick-starts that change. Then it’s all been worth it.
By Craig Sharp