If you look at my race results for 2019, it has been a disaster. No legit Personal Bests anywhere, two atrocious road marathons, 2 failures to make the GB team, and even a few DNFs (Did Not Finish) next to my name.Thankfully, the results aren’t what I remember. Well, of course I remember them, but they are not as important to me as all the adventures I’ve had. It has been an incredible year for adventuring, both in running, in life, and in… Click To Tweet
2019 starts really well for me. Being named as ambassador for ON and Noble-Pro feels brilliant. I am also really excited about taking over the world with my Drone Running (Drone Running is where I run around the hills with a drone following me and filming. Completely my own genius idea which will surely bring me instant fame and riches).
My racing picks up quickly, I run my 2nd fastest ever Half Marathon on a windy day, and off a 100 mile week. I get big PBs in my local parkrun and National Road Relays.
Brighton Marathon is being sponsored by ON, so I run it. It goes terribly. I try and be clever and run my own race. But end up running the whole race completely isolated, into strong winds, and pulling my calf in the process. 2.28. Not so clever then.
London Marathon two weeks later is a very quick turn around, but I have nothing to lose. I give it a shot, fully commit, but despite all my positive self-talk, my calf goes again. I’m proud to make it to the finish in 2.35.
I haven’t done any serious damage to my calf, and find that my fitness is still high. I start bending my attention to the GB Mountain Running trials, which are being held as part of the Snowdonia Trail Marathon.
I am so motivated about getting my first GB vest and running the World Champs in Argentina, that I tell very few people about my aims. My races are all aimed at improving my chances in the trial. Things start to go really well for me, with some promising race results, including 2nd place at Snowdon Uphill race, where uphill is not my strong point.
A few weeks before the race I start to feel really weirdy and fatigued. I know the tough races (when I say tough, I mean ‘nosebleed and blood-piss inducing’ tough), 30 mile training runs, and 110 mile weeks have taken their toll.
But I still manage to pull myself together and give the race a good crack. I’m up in the lead till mile 18, where things fall apart, and I go through the most horrific race experience of my life on the moody slopes of Snowdon. Get down in one piece, still finish 10th, but leave a piece of my soul up there. Bit dramatic.
Find it very difficult to find my mojo again after this crushing defeat. Drop out of a race, and am constantly thinking of quitting during races. I’m not used to negative thoughts.
My little squad of runners at Track Tuesday Treborth is growing and I’m really enjoying feeling part of something good. It keeps me turning up week in week out and I have an unexpected great result in the short course GB Mountain Running trials, with 8th place on a very hot day.
It starts to become apparent that I am not going to win the internet with my drone footage such as it is. After a year of agonisingly difficult skill acquirement, I realise the technology is just not good enough yet.
I start coaching training partner and good friend, Tom Roberts, for his debut marathon, Marathon Eryri. We work well together, and Tom gets into serious sharp shape for the race. On the day, if Tom ran sensible, he was good enough for 2nd place. But he wasn’t interested in 2nd place. He threw his chips in the air and went for gold, running a 5km pb during the race! He did incredibly well to hold on for 4th, and he gave the spectators one of the most thrilling races ever. Thanks for the heart attack, Tom.
Callum Rowlinson, winner (left). Tom Roberts (right)
I am getting a bit perplexed with my blog. I love blogging. But it’s been 3 years now and my stats seem to have plateaued. It is not wrong to enjoy external validation. No matter what I write, I get roughly the same number of loyal readers (love you guys), no more, no less.
I decide to change the tone and put out some comment. I write a post about the Nike Vaporfly Shoes and instantly my stats are booming. I get loads of comments, lots positive, some negative, but I enjoy doing something fresh and different.
I am getting into good shape in training, and run a PB in Dulwich parkrun off some high mileage, but I want to back the Vaporfly blog post up with something bigger and more audacious. I go all in, and spend a ridiculous amount of time on the Farah & Salazar post. I write over 100 pages on it, then boil it down to 25. It consumes my life for a period. I’m working late into the night, eating junk, not getting enough sleep. I’m a big believer in sleep. It’s no surprise to me that I pick up a calf injury and am getting grouchy and quick tempered.
I’m proud of the post, and stand by it. It gets 10,000 views, not much more than a normal post. Even though I have worked so much harder. I was hoping for 100,000 or a million. Newspaper editors are not banging down my door asking me to write for them. There is no book deal. I have not broken through. I am left fat and out of shape, with my calf injury, and a lot of making up to do.
Then, on Christmas Eve, the most astonishing thing happens. I walk into a shop in London and the guy behind the counter instantly recognises me. He remembers me from when I worked as a Teaching Assistant in his primary school. I used to coach running there, 16 years ago. Just play-time at first, then lunch, then after school, then travelling to tournaments around London, often without pay. It grew and grew. We started winning competitions. We had to build a trophy cabinet. After 3 years we had the best runners in Southwalk. I worked really hard coaching those kids. I would arrive early, leave late. But I never thought of it as work. I loved it so much. I didn’t know why, I never needed validation. I just did it for the joy of doing it. To have this guy recognise me like that, 16 years later, it reminded me what a special thing we had built back then.
Even though this guy is 6″5 and 26 years old now, I can remember him. He can’t wait to tell his friends he’s met me. They are still “inspired”, and go running around Dulwich park some weekends. He tells me their names and I remember them too. This blows my mind. These guys are not in the demographic you would expect to see running around the park for fun.
I tell him I’ll be running the London Marathon, he says he will come and watch. I have to rush cos Nina and the kids are waiting in the car. Also, I don’t want to say anything stupid and ruin the moment.
I’m still glowing from it now. It’s a deep glow. A lot lot deeper than getting likes on Insta.
My most liked post on Insta this year, over 1000 likes, if you’re interested. You can see my foot is blurred cos I have just literally jumped onto the rock before the auto-timer
I might have some talent for writing. But I don’t think I would enjoy being a full-time writer. I don’t enjoy being couped up indoors for hours and days on my own, with my thoughts. I love working with people, outside, and getting them running. Because running is so good for us. I believe in it.
I don’t believe in fate. It was a coincidence I met an ex-pupil that day. I wasn’t in the midst of some depression that his words pulled me out of. But it just goes to show… small pebbles can create big ripples. Or something profound like that.
If I have a New Years Resolution for 2020, then that is it?
Non-Running Related Highlight of the Year
I leave my job as a builder to go full-time on our project. Turning a massive, long abandoned Chapel House into an AirBnb business. We are nearly finished, taking bookings from Feb. Wink wink plug plug. See our listing here
Also my Brother in Laws wedding in France. Beautiful peoples, views and vibes. Perfect weather, food and location.
Movie of the Year
Song of the Year
Imagine Dragons – Zero
Series of The Year
Fleabag Season 2
Book Of The Year
The Fox Of The North. General Kutuzov- Roger Parkinson 1976