The joy of competing

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The lady in this picture is Dawn Nisbet from Oldham who had just competed in the Oldham Parks 5K run. She was last and came in ten minutes from the runner in front of her. The man behind her is a park-keeper who was tidying up so as to prepare the park for public use after the race.

The sheer joy on Dawn’s face at having finished the race became something of a minor internet sensation. I first heard about her endeavours on Radio 5’s late night show with Phil Williams.

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The thing that came out of the conversation was the sheer joy that she has in running. She said that she was always on the large size and suffered from bullying and jibes about her size. Her size created a downward spiral of feeling that she was too embarrassed to go to a gym or run in public. The lack of exercise led to a “couch potato” existence that meant she went upwards and upwards in weight.

She married and had two children and a couple of years ago she decided that she wanted to stay healthy and have as long a life as possible for them. She took the first tentative steps to jogging a few yards.

For those of us who have trodden the same path and that includes me, the first few steps are the most difficult. I got into running after watching my youngest brother compete in the London Marathon. I stood by a wall in Docklands and watched thousands of people run by me of all ages, sizes and state of fitness and I felt ashamed that I never really did any form of regular exercise.

Within a few days I was attempting to jog around the block in the village where I lived at that time. It felt like a marathon! I felt like I was going to collapse and I got home panting and realising that I had made a start but had a long long way to go.

Over the next few years I competed in 5K, 10K, half-marathons (including the Great North Run) and eventually in 1991 and 1992 I competed in two successive London Marathons.

I have to say that it was not easy by any means but is probably the events that I am most proud of in my lifetime.

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As you can see from the picture above my second marathon was run in 4 hours 26 minutes and 36 seconds. I was not first and I was not last. I collected money for charities in both races. I was exhausted at the end. I could hardly walk up the stairs to get to a train to collect my clothing. But it was so so worth it.

In the process of running I stumbled many times, grazed my leg, had to have a tetanus injection, hurt my arm, leg and shoulder. I ran in pouring rain and people stared at me as if I were completely mad! (it helps).

The highs though of finishing and achieving your aim of competing makes it all worthwhile. I also lost weight and became the fittest I have been at any time in my life.

I applaud anyone like Dawn who is willing to take the first difficult steps. I understood only too well the sheer joy that can be seen in her photo at the end of the Oldham 10K and look forward to seeing her photo when she completes her London or New York Marathon.

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