Believe what we tell you...
Lets put things into context. I used to hate running. There are days when I still do. A few years ago, I was 3 stone heavier, and couldn't run a mile without aching, and being out of breath. After realising that it really was me who had eaten all the pies, I started on the Couch to 10k plan (absolutely brilliant if you want to get started running), and entered a 10k race. After a couple of runs of about 10k, I began to quite enjoy the distance.
At this point, I thought I was doing things sensibly. I'd read a couple of running magazines and felt quite pleased with myself. Then I started to listen to other people a bit. Am I gullible? Maybe...
A friend at work told me of a group of guys, including one of his mates, James, who called themselves the Delamere Spartans, who would run around the forest on a Tuesday night. On my first run with the Spartans, I completed the lake time trial, and then we ran up Old Pale. It was genuinely the hardest thing I had ever done.
On the way up, James came and ran with me for a bit. I say 'ran', I mean shuffled along. He made the usual getting to know you small talk, and I could hardly speak. Let's be clear, he's a lovely guy, but at that point, I hated him with a passion, because he made this really painful, difficult process look so simple. To add serious insult to further injury to my poor battered ego (after all, until this run, I stupidly thought I had become quite a good runner), James then ran off up the hill. I could barely keep moving at a shuffle, but I did it, and the sense of achievement at the top was immense. I still haven't tired of that view, and I know that when I lead Spartan runs now, I love going up there to share it. I think that sense of achievement may be indirectly responsible for quite a few future acts of madness.
Fast forward quite a bit, and in early November of the following year, I and 30 or so other Spartans find ourselves in a freezing cold lake, part way through the Hellrunner course. Depending on our heights, we were up to our waists, chests and necks. I fell, and went completely under. I finished the rest of the run in just over 2 hours, and I loved every bit of it. The truly strange thing about this is that it was fun. I don't really know why I entered it (can you think of a good reason for getting soaking wet in a lake with a bunch of other men wearing lycra in November?), other than I think I'm quite gullible. But the thing is, that every person I talked to about it beforehand was absolutely right. It's an awesome feeling.
Here's the thing. I got told that a bunch of guys ran round the forest at night, so I went. Later on that year, I was told by the same people who I had come to regard as mates that running in the dark with head torches was really good fun. It was. I entered a handful of races, some 10k and a couple of half marathons. Each race was really hard. Nevertheless, I loved every part of it: the pre run nerves, the camaraderie, the crowds cheering you on, the finishing line, the post race analysis.
People told me that what they did was really good fun. I tried it and it was. As a parent, and a teacher, I occasionally find myself saying things like "If someone said jump off a cliff, would you do it?" and feeling like a complete hypocrite, because I've been the one that jumped on the bandwagon. And I've loved every minute of it. I think that being a bit gullible has been good for me.