As I am sitting here listening to the rain pelt down outside less then 24 hours after probably the hardest run of my life, I feel like reflecting. Maybe it's because I want to look back on this moment in 5-10 years and remember everything about it. Maybe it's the immense pain I feel in my legs when I stand up or maybe it's my shirt sticking to the open wounds on my back from the broken skin caused by a not-so comfortable Camelbak water bag I wear for my bloodclots, but I just feel like sharing what it's like to put your body to the test (as a normal person, not some world-class athlete). This one is for my boys and who knows, maybe my grandchildren one day.
Basically, I finished a marathon yesterday. And it was tough. Some back story…
In 2020, right as Covid was just about to change all our lives, I got bacterial pneumonia. I’ve never been so sick in my entire life, easily lost 10kg and ended up getting taken to hospital by ambulance just after our first lockdown in Melbourne had started. Of course, I was swabbed upon entry to hospital as my symptoms were basically Covid symptoms and it came up positive so I went straight to one of the first Covid wards in Victoria (possibly Australia). Full hazardous waste suits for all doctors n nurses, total isolation and I was hooked up to lots of tubes to get vital fluids and foods back into me.
Joh took a pic of the door that seperated me from the rest of the world when I was admitted.
Within a week I was out (after repeated negative swabs - they didn’t know how to do them then so they basically swabbed my brain through my nose) and I came home to our first lockdown (most of you remember that one). The world was going to hell in a hand basket (at least Melbourne was) and there was this eerie apocalyptic vibe permeating throughout the city.
I came out right as school holidays were starting (up to my hospital stay I was pretty much doing Teams lessons online for students from my bed as I was so sick). So this meant family time, which I was really excited about as our boys were getting older and this meant they had to hang with us. I’m sure they weren’t as excited as my wife and I were though, but pandemics trump teenage zest.
A family selfie that Joh took on that first walk (I still hadn't shaved from my week in the hospital).
So day 1 post hospital, we decided to take the dog for a walk. Mind you, I’d just gotten out of hospital and seriously lost 10kg (muscle and fat) so on that first family walk, I would’ve made it 100m tops (there and back). As the pneumonia had destroyed my lungs, I was out of breath and had no energy at all and, as a fairly active dude, this pissed me off to no end.
So that night, knowing my gym was closed, I decided the next day I’d go for a run to whip myself back in shape.
At this time, remember that we had a 5km radius we were allowed to go out to from our homes in Melbourne (not that I planned on getting that far…yet). So I set out the next day with my youngest son and our dog for a run (I should add that we live in foothills, so it’s quite “hilly” around my place).
On this run, I was pleased with the fact I made it about 1km (so much better than my walk the day before but still much less than my normal 5km runs on the treadmill at the gym). Still, I was slow but with us being on lockdown I knew that I’d just head out again the next day and try to go further.
I told my mate, who is a beast with running as he also does triathlons competitively, and he suggested I get on this app called “Strava” so I can keep track of my runs and talk crap with him. So I got it and this made it easier to see progress, because the next day when I ran, I did 2km. Day after, 3km. Within that first week I was back to my regular 5km runs (all with my dog as my running partner…as my son was not interested running with a 45+ old man).
A regular site during Covid lockdowns: Me and Phoebe out for a walk, run or coffee trek.
Then, when school came back (I was teaching online), our school tried to keep us all connected and one of their ideas was to start a Strava running club. I immediately signed up.
This was great as we had weekly goals and a leaderboard and I am 100% a competitive beast. Within a month (only 5 weeks out of hospital), I was starting to do 10km runs per day 5-6 days a week (it really did happen that fast). I was finding trails through our hills (we’ve lived out this way for 15 years) I never even knew existed. I was running before online classes, in between online classes or after (rain, hail or shine). All with my trusty sidekick Phoebe (our lab kelpie).
Anyways that kept up long into our first lockdown (and through all subsequent lockdowns for that matter) and my runs started turning into 15km and the 17km runs (Phoebe was no longer running with me by this point - too far for our old girl).
Then, one day, I just kept going and did my first half marathon. That was probably 5 months after coming out of hospital, with absolutely zero muscle when I started, so I guess I had become somewhat of a runner and had built my legs back up. Mind you, I was, and still am, a chubby runner. Lol!
A screen shot of my first Strava half-marathon I ran in 2020 (Melbourne had definitely opened up by this point during one of our breaks between lockdowns).
Did my first official (non-Strava) half-marathon once Melbourne opened up officially in 2020 and it was totally surreal finishing at the MCG and seeing my family in the stands cheering me on. Loved every minute of it.
So great doing my first official half with my best mate (obviously finishing way ahead of me) and my family there to see it all. What a day to be alive!
Fast forward 5 months and we’d just got back from our 20-year wedding anniversary trip to the Whitsundays with our sons (as we’d been married on Whitehaven Beach back in 2001) and almost 2 years to the day I did that 100m walk with my family that almost killed me, I tripped on a fairly fast 16km run I was doing (on a Sunday) and kind of twisted my ankle somewhat. Nothing too bad so I went to work the next day thinking nothing of it.
Our 20-year anniversary holiday to the Whitsundays and the beach Joh and I got married on. Such a trip!
Driving to work, I noticed that my left leg was really sore. Too sore. Anyways, by the time I got to work and stepped out of my car, my left leg was in more pain than I had ever experienced. This was odd! I mean, before work, it was a bit sore but nothing too crazy or bad enough to make me think I needed to see a doctor. But it was throbbing now.
So I went straight to our school nurse who made me take my sock off and pull up my pants and even I could see my leg was swollen. It had swollen up pretty bad in the course of an hour so she suggested I go see a doctor immediately. Especially after I told her about my history with blood clots (and a large DVT) which stemmed from a brain tumour which was removed back in 2004. I’m literally a walking medical condition book.
So I booked in with a GP, drove back out my way and within 2min of looking at my swollen leg he did an ultrasound and it clearly showed I had a fairly large blood clot in my leg. I should add that this isn’t weird to me as my DVT has reared its head around a few times post brain surgery but usually only after long flights if I haven’t taken my shots. This was NOT one of those times.
So it was off to the local public hospital where (after 12 hours, for real, in the waiting room where I was sweating and obviously in discomfort) a doctor finally took pity on me and read my medical history with DVT’s and admitted me instantly. Then, they did a proper scan of my leg and I had a blood clot from my crotch (sorry ladies) to my big toe in my left leg. It was massive!!! Literally, they were calling doctors in to look at my clot before they admitted me officially. What a Monday!
After shooting me up with blood thinners and another scan, they sent me home the next day. I spoke to a hematologist at the hospital before I left with 2 specialists to call immediately (one being a vein surgeon and the other being a top blood doctor). Both informed me I wouldn’t be running any time soon (bugger) and I was on blood thinning medication immediately. Still on it, too. Boo!
I wasn’t allowed to run for fear that the clot would break apart and enter my blood stream and that could lead to it getting to my brain or heart or anywhere that could kill you or at the very least cause a stroke.
So I got fat again. Not obese, but I definitely put on the kilos. And this is the catalyst for me running a marathon yesterday (my first and probably only marathon).
It took about a year or so before I could officially start running again and around that time, I ran into an old mate (who actually lives close to us but we never seem to cross paths other than the occasional dog walk).
So it’s about late-2022 by this time and my mate who I mentioned, Justin, ran into my wife and I at the shops and he mentioned that he was thinking about doing another marathon. Well, I just thought that was the perfect thing to jumpstart me getting back into running. A running partner. I’d never had one of those before and Justin is cool as.
We’re the same age and live 3 blocks away from each other. So soon after this meeting, Justin devised a plan for us to run Melbourne Marathon in 2023 and created a bit of a running program for us which has consisted of 2-3 5:30am runs a week before we both go to work (he works from home, I no longer do) and a longer weekend run at a more appropriate time because of my late night gigs.
Well, we pretty much kept to this schedule til the end of 2022 and all through 2023 (rain, hail or shine) and it’s been one of the most rewarding workout routines I have ever followed. In the lead-up to Melbourne, we both did a couple of half-marathons and it’s been a blast.
Some of the runs in the lead up to this year, plus some well deserved recovery post Mornington half-marathon. Whoop!
So yeah, I did a marathon yesterday. It was really tough, especially when my legs cramped up about 36km into the run, but I did it.
A stack of pics from yesterday from my boys who made it out to watch me run (slowly) into the MCG and then assisted in getting me home. Also, big ups to Izzy & Coby (our good friends from California) who made it down to wish me the best (legends)! Had to do all this whilst face-timing my wife in Bali (lol). Love you, babe!!!!
Of course none of it would’ve been possible without the support of my wife, who had to put up with all my running and usually/probably waking her up at 5:15am on a Tues & Thurs mornings with it pouring rain outside…but she’s my biggest supporter. My best mate Spiesy gave me so many tips and was also huge in helping me with training, eating n drinking tips. But Justin was my main man throughout the whole ordeal (he had to pull out of the marathon, but kept training with me as if he was doing it - such a legend).
This isn’t supposed to be some self-help motivational story. I ain’t Tony Robbins. Just sharing what has been a fairly interesting past 4 years and I’m pretty stoked with actually doing it. Justin used to say to me all the time on our runs that only 0.01% of people on the planet will ever do a marathon. I had no idea if this is true, but I looked it up and it seems fairly true. I don't reckon it's because they can't, I just reckon it's not having the time. But you know what? You can find the time if you want to do one for yourself. Because it's a pretty great feeling knowing you challenged yourself to do something the body isn't really meant to do (I guess).
I'm in there somewhere (nowhere near the front though).
I’m a fairly motivated dude, but with the pneumonia, blood clots, being a bit overweight, about to turn 50; yadda yadda yadda, I never even dreamed of doing a marathon. Why would I? But I did it.
Hell, after my brain tumour I had to learn how to walk again so I was pretty stoked to just be living and planned on getting old and fat like the best of em. But I figure there’s a bit more to life than that, don’t you?
If you are thinking about doing one, do it! The only thing it’ll cost you is time. Seriously, this is NOT a flex at all...if I can do it, you can do it!
Now, I hear these triathlons can be fun…