PODCAST: Not Another Runner

6 min read

I had the pleasure of chatting with Natalie Hawkins of the Not Another Runner podcast. A podcast about all things running, health & fitness.

This podcast is one of my favourites. It’s a great source of motivation, as each episode a member of the running community share their unique & inspiring story and running journey.

I was really excited when Nat asked if I would like to be a guest on the show. We had a great conversation about my recent Marathon Homecoming and the transformation from overweight new dad to marathon runner. I’m really pleased to share it with you.


Listen to the full podcast episode below:

The episode is available in all good podcast platforms, so you can listen directly here via the player above, or use the links below to listen on your preferred platform:


I made some notes in preparation for our conversation. So I thought I would share those with you, to accompany the podcast episode:

What do you do for a living?

  • Project Manager for a Digital Agency
  • Office is based next to a parkrun location
  • Working remotely from home during the lockdown

How long have you been running and how did you get into it?

  • Started May 2017 (running for 3 years)
  • My Dad inspired me to start running – he ran the first ever Great North Run 1981 & London Marathon 1982.
  • Dad & I ran Great North Run 2017 together to celebrate his 60th Birthday.
Crossing the Great North Run 2017 finish line with my Dad

Great North Run

2017

  • Ran with my Dad to celebrate his 60th Birthday

2018

  • 54 mins faster than previous year.
  • No formal training plan, just from April onwards running 3 times a week and a half marathon PB attempt once a month in the lead up to the event.

2019

  • Best race performance:
  • Negative Splits
  • 8 min PB
  • 25 mins faster than GNR 2018
  • 1 hour 19 mins faster than GNR 2017
  • Surpassed my Dad’s fastest GNR time of 1:35
Great North Run progress

Transformation

  • Becoming a parent fundamentally changes you as a person.
  • Wanted to be a role model and to inspire my daughter. 
  • This is why I run – #InspireGrace
  • 1st Jan 2018 – decided to take a break from drinking and improve my diet by giving up takeaway food.
  • By Aug 2018, I had lost 4 stone in total
  • heaviest: 15st 1lb (96kg)
  • now: 11st 1lb (70kg)
  • However, weight loss was never the intention – it was just a happy accident.
  • Shaved an hour and 20 mins off my half marathon time in 2 years.

What made you decide to quit drinking, what has this decision meant for your life?

  • Haven’t drank for approaching two & half years
  • Drinking was the one choice that led to other unhealthy choices:
    • bad eating habits, 
    • poor quality sleep, 
    • laziness and lack of exercise.
  • Whilst the physical benefits of not drinking are clear, it’s actually the clarity and focus that’s been most beneficial.
  • Thursdays used to be my favourite day of the week. 
  • I am committed to being a positive role model for my daughter 
  • and trying to live a healthy lifestyle for the benefit of my family.
  • Meditation was key to making the positive change. Slowing the pace of the day down, allow a pause to consider an alternative option.

Meditation

  • Started using Headspace in February 2017.
  • Went onto meditate in a daily streak of 365 days in a row.
  • Meditation was a primer, preparing for a mindset ready for change.
  • It massively helped during the first year of transformation.
  • It was a solid foundation, on which new positive habits & routines could be built.

Mindful running

  • I now meditate using the Headspace app less often (particularly during marathon training) and use running as a meditative practice.
  • Enjoying the solitude as an opportunity to connect with my body and ground myself, as I notice and become aware of the nature I run through.
  • 90% of the time, I run without headphones. 
  • When I do run with music or a podcast, it’s for a specific purpose.
  • I seem to appreciate listening to music when running more now, because it’s not the default.  

Breathwork

  • Breathwork is an active meditation
  • I find it easier than stillness and other forms of meditation that focus on awareness and noticing the breath.
  • I have found breathwork to be more intense and powerful too.
  • If this has piqued your interest, I would recommend checking out Richie Bostock (@TheBreathGuy).
  • Read a blog post about my experience of breathwork
  • The following video is free 25 min guided breathwork meditation (+ 7 min intro), which I have found particularly helpful during lockdown to restore and rejuvenate, both body & mind:

Resolution Run (The lightbulb moment)

  • March 2018: The exact moment that changed my life.
  • March 2019: Longest marathon training run (38K), incorporating the 10K event.
  • March 2020: My first ever 1st place finish. 
  • In front of cheering Dad, Daughter & Wife.
  • One of the happiest moments of my life.

The main difference between these 3 photos above is belief.

  • In 2018, I ran a 10K under an hour for the first time. 
  • My wife took this post-race photo and I didn’t recognise myself. 
  • I later discovered I had lost 2 stone and 6 lbs.⁣
  • From this moment, for the first time, I seen significant progress and started to consider, what if? I started to believe.
  • I began to consider what was possible.

Marathon Homecoming

  • Social distancing (or physical distancing) home marathon
  • 26 x 1 mile loop – starting and finishing at my front door.
  • As a dedication to my baby boy arriving in June.
  • Originally trained for Edinburgh Marathon
  • Raised £700 for NHS Charities Together, donation page still open:
    JustGiving.com/MarathonHomecoming
  • As an alternative option to a donation, I asked if the running community wanted to show their support by sharing a photo of themselves being active, to inspire others.
  • I was overwhelmed with the amazing response and support from the community:

Seeking help from a mindset coach

  • During my marathon training, I enlisted the help of mindset coach, Duncan Foster, of DSF Coaching.
  • I was soon to discover that mindset is everything.
  • When you are entrenched inside a marathon training block, it is easy to develop a tunnel vision towards the single goal. This sometimes can make it more difficult to see things from another’s perspective.
  • I needed a fresh pair of eyes; from the outside looking in. An impartial sounding board; to listen. Someone to pose the right questions, that would prompt further reflection.
  • Ultimately, this would lead to brainstorming, trouble shooting and creatively reaching a solution.
  • I struggled with uncertainty of event postponement.
  • My ‘race day’ vision was evolving and changing on a day to day basis.
  • Lockdown and pregnancy added extra layers of complexity and difficulty to training.
  • Made it more difficult to involve my family in the marathon training.
  • Not completing the full 18 training plan would be deemed as a failure to myself.​

Mindset hack:

  • An outcome of my work with Duncan was to define the reasons for the marathon.
  • I wrote my 6 reasons on my gels to periodically remind me during the race:
    • BOY
    • GRACE
    • COMMUNITY
    • NHS
    • BEST
    • LEGACY
6 reasons for running my Marathon Homecoming written on my gels

Video Highlights

Watch the Marathon Homecoming video highlights:

Watch the IGTV video highlights of my Marathon Homecoming

Lessons learnt

From marathon event day:

  • Duality between being the best athlete and best human/parent
  • Run for meaning over time
  • Letting go of expectation

From training block:

  • Embrace flexibility in the training plan.
  • Goals are fluid & changeable.
  • Cutting 3 weeks off training plan is not a failure – it’s adapting to all influencing factors.
  • The outcome of being adaptable is a better solution…
  • A unique and personal marathon experience that allows it to be shared with my family, without risking their health, whilst also honouring my training to see what my best looks like.

Simplicity

  • Watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix around the time started running (June 2017),
  • Started to streamline and simplify my life.
  • Donated approx 70% of my possessions. 
  • Removing distractions and the excess created more time and space for reflection & growth.
  • This helped me to plan & prepare and focus on what is important. 
  • I am in no doubt that, simplicity has significantly aided my running progress and transformation to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Simplicity helps step out the door & start running with as little friction as possible.

Project 333

  • Project 333 is the minimalist fashion challenge by Courtney Carver, that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.
  • After adopting minimalism, one of the biggest changes was to my wardrobe. Whilst losing weight and improving my health & fitness, over the course of a year, I slimmed down from wearing an XL to a medium.
  • I used Project 333 to become more intentional with the clothes I wore and purchased. This meant donating the clothes that no longer fit me. My body was changing at pace so it didn’t make sense to replace the clothes quickly. 
  • I now own less than 33 items of clothing, which are mostly dark, neutral, keeping things simple and avoiding colours requiring additional items to match. Investing in quality over quantity.
  • Eventually, I replaced the full size wardrobe and draws with a simple clothes rail. 
  • Read the full blog article on Project 333.

Runner’s Capsule Wardrobe

If you lived by a quote what would it be?

White space is where the magic happens

Brian Gardner

Who would you love to hear on the podcast?


Listen to the full podcast episode below:


Not Another Runner podcast is available on all good podcast platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

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