This time last year I was obese.
I don’t really remember what exactly made me want to make the change. It was after I arrived home after a night of excess consumption and I got angry. Very angry. Punch-the-wall angry. In a scene that I’m willing to say could come from any schmaltzy attempt at an uplifting movie, I had a little word with myself in the mirror to say enough was enough.
In just over a week, I will hopefully have finished my first and probably last marathon. My desire and determination to actually give this race a lash was fuelled by people telling me I’m stupid for trying. Worse than that were those closet to me who subtly told me that it might be better to maybe try next year when I’m more experienced. Their concerns are probably well warranted.
Before this year, the only exercise I actively engaged in was a walk to college or the occasional sporadic, sweaty and slobbering attempt on a treadmill where I would feel like a true martyr to the cause after a few minutes. I stand at the less-than-average size of 5’5” and, when still in college, I weighed nearly 14 stone. It wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t healthy and I knew it. I just never did anything about it. A college diet of cheap food, bad beer and take-away did nothing to help matters.
I’m still surprised I stuck to my word. I spent the next month-and-a-half off alcohol and take-away free. I started running frequently on the treadmill, but never lasted long. Still, I plucked away without any aims of distance or time and kept on going until a lack of breath forced me to slow down or stop. I always consigned myself to run in the gym. I was okay with looking foolish running in front of a handful of gym bunnies, but the thought of waddling along the streets where potentially hundreds of people would silently pity me for my poor attempt at running made me break out in a cold sweat.
In January, I worked up the guts to run outside. From the time it took me to run from my apartment in East Wall to the Samuel Beckett Bridge, I was sweaty and cramping. Every day or two, I kept repeating and kept getting further and further, but I needed inspiration. In a move that was either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid, I signed up for a half marathon. The race was in May, so time to prepare was not a problem. Gradually, as the distance I was able to run without stopping increased, my waistline decreased. People were noticing too. It felt great.
My first half marathon was a great experience. The Great Limerick Run had my name printed on my race number and the amount of people who would clap and say “Well done Jason” or “g’wan Jason, you’re nearly there” made the world of difference. One of the best moments was when a string of kids held their hands out for high fives when I was running. I ended up finishing the race in around 2 hours and 15 minutes and raised more than €1,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. I’ve taken part in four half marathons since then.
The furthest I’ve run so far is around 30km in 3 hours and 15 minutes. My diet could be better. I still devour a sneaky take-away, probably more often than I should and have long nights out, but the difference between this time last year and now, is gratifying. I’m now close to 10.5 stone and all my clothes are medium.
The thing about marathon training though, is I feel lazy when I see anyone out running when I’m not. Runners’ guilt, I call it. I’ve also come to accept that people around three times my age who have taken part in more marathons than years I’ve been alive will always pass me out in a race.
Last year I watched my friend Seamus pass the Dublin Marathon finish line and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do that. Maybe I could give it a lash someday,’ before taking a bite out of some form of pastry I had at the time. Around a year later, I’m full of nerves, incredibly apprehensive and very, very excited.