If you want to stay fit & healthy pick yourself a fun challenge…


If you want to stay fit & healthy pick yourself a fun challenge…

In September 2012 I attempted the Sydney marathon…. It was a personal challenge and the training sessions were hard, I won’t deny it but I achieved much more.

I picked this challenge as I had let myself go. Yep I put my hand up, too much of the good life and focus on work. Christmas 2011 I weighed over 20kg more than when I as an athlete in 2008! My wife and friends said nothing; to them it was an irrelevance. After my sporting career ended (car knocked me off my road bike) I decided I needed to reapply myself to my new job and life, but by focusing so heavily on work I slowly put on the weight. It may sound silly but it was in shock when I realised how much I had put on, in my head I still thought I was an athlete. But by never putting myself in training situations or physical challenge it took time for me to realise.

Over 3 months I dropped just over 10kg. The fitness I once had had well and truly gone, and I worked hard on my diet. My friend said he was going to enter the Sydney Marathon, so I thought why not kill two birds with one stone. I needed the ‘kick up the bum’ to lose weight plus I knew if I voiced my intentions to friends and colleges I had to see it through. In my sport I used upper body power, sat in a kneeling position. Even as an elite athlete I rarely ran, if did my calf muscles blew up and I could not kneel. My legs were stuffed from years of neglect. For my long term health I needed to rebuild my leg muscles. Plus too much wine was something that had to slow down. Plus distress from work… So the challenge made sense, even if a little extreme.

With my entry I got a free training plan from Marathon Guru – Lee Troop, But I struggled to find time for the standardised plan, missing sessions, so emailed Lee for advice and to my surprise he responded to my personal email outlining the basics and said ‘good luck’. As I had never attempted a half marathon, in fact the furthest I had run was 10kg! (laid in a bath for hours after that and could not walk for days). I wrote my own training program that played to my strengths, pushed my weaknesses and stuck to Lee’s core ideals, making a plan that made sense to me and that I could fit in around my commitments. I had 11 weeks until the race, but in week 5 in I got sick and lost 2.5 weeks training! Disaster.  I trained with a 20% buffer zone! (Ha, I bet you don’t hear many trainers include a buffer zone!) 8 days before the race I wanted to run 35km, against all known training programs, I needed to know I was going to make it psychologically. I made 33.5km and died, cramped in pain I had never experienced. Distraught I panicked. I did the math and re-adjusted my pace, after all it was just to finish.

I told my wife to stay home with the kids, I didn’t have much hope I would finish, although I was going to do my best. I caught the train to the Start under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, meeting many runners, like me alone, all friendly with anticipation of what was about to happen. At the start, slowly walking then running building speed without trying to trip over the person in front, it took about 2 minutes just to cross the start line. I was surprised as many sprinted past me, I was confused?? Was I being too clinical? What secrete did they know? I stayed at the back, found a realistic pace maker and found my team of people that just wanted to finish.

I met so many people on that day as we slowly passed the time exchanging stories, I won’t tell you them, but they were eye opening! I met some great people from around the world including my pace maker, a lady completing her 100th marathon, I was in awe!… until I met an old British man running his 497 marathon. I was dumbstruck when he told me. I asked for advice and he said ‘head up and keep running’. Simple and indeed wise words, it was a truly humbling experience!

(The last 2km, I some how managed to smile…  The flash off the guys camera nearly blinded me!)

As I reached the last 10km of this 46km journey, I felt good and strong, so I left my pace maker. I would finish and wanted to give it my all. So many people in pain as I was the previous week, lying by the road, as there expectation crumbled. I noticed many people had headphones and were in ‘the zone’ isolated & suffering… many never embraced the moment or truly enjoyed what they were doing. Occasionally someone would cheer ‘come on guys, not far now, heads up’. Spectators were cheering and pushing us on. Not to win, just to finish. It was a great feeling of camaraderie.

I completed the Marathon in a time sub 4hours 30mins, after just 8.5 full weeks of training. I was being optimistic and didn’t think I would make it so I was truly so happy to finish. I was gutted my wife and kids were not waiting at the finish line to greet me, staying at home on my request, I kicked myself for saying that. So the feeling as I finished was all mine, even hobbling to the station to catch the train home!

It is ok to have an unrealistic goal, in fact I recommend it! If you put enough training into it you will do it, just give yourself a 20% buffer just to be sure! Have no expectation on what you will achieve, enjoy it as it happens and be confident the processes will give you what you need.

Any change is uncomfortable and although at the time you may not enjoy moments, the knowledge of knowing what and why you are doing it will carry you through.

I said in a recent post, success has no concept of failure… I hope now you can understand my point more. I took on a challenge and the process gave me success… Find a challenge and look past it, do the research and find the people to help you… but most of all stop procrastinating and ‘get on with it’!

Focus on the training each day and enjoy what happens! Keep it Simple.



Stuart McIntosh

About Olympian Stuart McIntosh - My Fitness Mentor

2000 & 2004 Olympian. Elite Sport Coach and Personal Trainer. Urbanist
This entry was posted in Diet, Fitness, Mens Health, Motivation, Personal training, running, Weight loss and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to If you want to stay fit & healthy pick yourself a fun challenge…

  1. Tony says:

    Congrats on your achievement. I am a former runner and while I agree with your ‘nose to the grindstone’ point of view, i am not convinced it is healthy to put your body through the ordeal of a marathon. I have known a lot of folks whose bodies were worse off after completing one.

  2. Pingback: Exercise & beer with mates – Cripple Creek | My Fitness Mentor

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