“Pain will change us, heartache, loss, disappointment, they don’t leave us the same.”
I spent Saturday 24th November with an awesome group of people, all on one single mission, to raise funds for three charities and awareness for PTSD and Veteran Suicide. There were 22 of us, marching 22km with 22lbs and knocking out 22 press ups every km - 22km22lives.
Most of us had never met before, other than through Social Media. A lot of the guys are Veterans themselves, dealing with their own demons and as a normal guy it was a humbling to be in their company, walk with them and listen to them. And whilst I could never understand or even be able to equate what these guys would have endured at the sharp end, war has given me my own demons to deal with, in losing Lloydy.
Those demons, that pain, doesn’t leave us the same, but the lesson I’ve learnt over the years is that; every painful time, even though we don’t like it, develops something in us. You take that pain and you flip it, which sounds flippant I know, but you must determine that it’s not there to stop you, it’s there to prepare you (which will hopefully make sense at some point).
Ultimately, you can come out of the other end bitter, or you come out better.
I think, now that I look back, I’ve come out better. Don’t get me wrong, without Caz and Charlie, some of my closest friends and new friends made through the challenges I’ve taken on, and that desire to push myself in tribute to Lloydy, I’m not sure I would have endured in the same way. It’s taken a lot of time and some very dark days/weeks and months have cloaked me during that time. But what is the the other choice, defeat and even more loss and worse still the loss of everything you care about? So you stand, you dust yourself down, you stare defeat in the face and you say, not today, not ever and you find a new passion, a new fire.
“Don’t just go through it, grow through it.”
Whilst I would give everything to change what happened, fate dealt a hand which meant I was given that choice. Although losing Lloydy, will always be painful, I will always aim to do better and continue to be the man Lloydy expected me to be, the man he asked to “not go changing.”
So why am I writing this? Saturday our march started and finished at the National Memorial Arboretum, the last time I was there three years ago, I was still feeling very raw emotionally. Seeing Lloydy’s name on the wall, both at the Bastion Memorial and the main Memorial felt like I was standing once again at the Clocktower and in front of his head stone. Saturday, however, standing in front of the wall, I was a lot more at peace. Maybe it was a result of being in the incredible company I was in Saturday or it was that maybe over time I’ve learnt to process that pain and just deal with it better. I’ve used the notion of pushing myself as a means to channel my grief, to help me with the day to day and those days that mean Lloydy is even more in my thoughts than normal.
Finding your path, when life throws us curve balls, takes time, it’s a constant process of self awareness and improvement. You really have to take it day by day, but that’s an adage as cliched as it is, that’s worth remembering. Take little steps to realise the big picture, and find what works for you, but you can’t go far wrong in the first instance, in getting outside, getting in the gym and surrounding yourself with good people and those on the same mission as you.
Which brings me on to ‘using’ that pain to be successful.
If you use it properly, pain makes us stronger, that’s a fact. A lot of ‘life experience’ is painful, it has to be, otherwise we never truly understand and appreciate the ‘highs’ when they come. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we need pain in our lives to be better people, however, pain at some point is inevitable and how we come through that is up to us, and as touched on previously there are two choices.
I use Lloydy’s example as the minimum baseline I expect of myself in everything I do, which is possibly a daft thing to say, as I’ve always expected a minimum standard of myself. However, because he’s no longer here, it’s become of primary importance that I pay tribute to him in that way and in everything I do, which means, I don’t quit, I don’t take the easy option and in that way I do my bit to keep his light shining bright.
Nothing I’ve ever experienced to date has been as painful as standing by a hole in the ground watching helplessly as my little brother is lowered in to it. Not the many break ups, not the difficult times as a kid, or even some of the other losses I’ve had to deal with. So for me now, nothing I could ever subject myself to, in an endurance or physical challenge sense could ever come anywhere near close to that.
I’ve touched on it before, that with the completion of The 100 Peaks I went into a massive funk, nearly two years of planning and then 25 days of doing, meant emotionally I suddenly had a massive vacuum that needed filling. For months, maybe even a year I struggled to come to terms with not having The 100 Peaks in my life. All other challenges, even marathons and ultras just became things I did to keep me ticking over. I don’t think I shook off the ‘blues’ until I began preparing for Chicago Marathon.
The training for Chicago, gave me a renewed sense of focus and commitment, that I knew had been lacking in the previous year and as such now has driven me on to being back where I was in terms of focus, the winter before The 100 Peaks. To ensure I continue in that vain, it became paramount for me to set a target and with Tokyo already in the calendar, I was hoping like nearly 500,000 others for a place in the London Marathon via the ballot. Of course (for the 11th year in succession) my ballot was unsuccessful! However, The Royal British Legion offered me a place on #TeamLegion which I jumped at (after jumping ship from Whizz-Kidz, so sorry Whizz-Kidz).
Brighton Marathon next year falls on what would have been Lloydy’s 40th birthday, so I couldn’t not register, I’ve always wanted to do Brighton, but to do so on Lloydy’s birthday, means I picked the perfect year to do so. The fourth will be my fourth Milton Keynes Marathon, which was an absolute disaster last year, so I have a score to settle with that one!
But in addition to running the 4 marathons in quick succession (which really isn’t new to me), I’ve set a target of 3:05 to run in London. Therefore, I’ve marked The London Marathon as my ‘A’ race next year, which will take some work as it falls as the third of the four marathons in the spring.
In the last three (London’s) I have improved on the previous time by 20 & 18 mins.
2014 - 4:01
2015 - 3:41
2017 - 3:23
The aim is to match that trend! Furthermore, I need sub 3:05 to qualify for what will be my final Abbott World Marathon Major the TCS New York Marathon. But we all know actions speak louder than words, Winter training as I’ve alluded to in the past is for winners.
It’s in the cold, wet and dark months when you really find out what you’re made of. It’s the time where you have to be disciplined the most, it’s the time where you have to dig deep in to the pit of all you’ve suffered. This is where all that you’ve endured, all the pain you’ve suffered becomes your friend, it evokes that unbreakable spirit that has been shaped and moulded by every disappointment, every bit of hurt, every let down, every loss and tragedy you’ve been witness to or found yourself in the middle of.
I know this winter I’m going to have to draw on that more than I ever have done, running 3:05 is an ambitious target, but then so was taking on 100 of the tallest peaks in the UK in 25 days and cycling between them. If I ultimately fail in that goal, the towel won’t be thrown in, I will keep going until I achieve it, why?
Because I’ve learnt pain can be our friend, it can be used for good, you can use it to be a better version of yourself, it can be used to help you succeed in everything, but first and some what inevitably you must do battle with the demons pain brings, before you use it as a means to fuel and drive you forward.
“YOU CAN’T AVOID PAIN, BUT YOU CAN REFUSE TO SUFFER.”
Always stay in the fight!
I will be releasing details of the fundraiser I will be running in order to support The RBL after Christmas, but for the time being, any support will be gratefully received, the link to my page is below: