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He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

Free

"If you loved me, you'd….."
"You're not normal."
"You must have some sort of problem to do something like that."
"You're suicidal? You fucking coward."
"You would've run that marathon quicker if you weren't so fat."

These are the words of a narcissist.

Initially they idolise you.
Then they devalue you.
Finally, they discard you.

They want to control who your friends are, any interaction with your family, your thoughts, finances and social media. It'll never be a partnership because it's all about them and you'll be punished for anything that makes them look bad. It's day-in, day-out psychological, emotional, financial and (sometimes) physical abuse.

Just remember that there's no way you can bargain with a narcissist because they'll be looking for what they can get out of any interaction with you. You're not worthy if they have nothing to make use of you for. Be prepared to be forgotten about when they move on to the next person who supplies what they want.

The only way to win their game is not to play. Leave. Block all contact. Forget they existed. Get therapy. Live your best life. Move on.

I left nearly 18 months ago. Whilst I miss my son a lot when he's not around, I otherwise have no regrets and being free from that abuse feels like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. I'm happier and can make my son happier as a result. It's been good to be free.
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The Road To Hell

It's been about four months since lockdown started in the UK and the fog of the pandemic is starting to clear. The pubs opened up last weekend, most businesses are trading again and life is reverting to "normal", whatever that new version of normal is going to be.

That whole period at the beginning of March when things really kicked off seems a lifetime away now because January and February were so different. It was a new year with a new start. I had a little trip away to Dublin for a few days in February and not long after I came home things quickly exploded. Lockdown happened. Shit got real.

I remember that surreal evening when Boris Johnson announced the lockdown. It didn't take long before people were proudly declaring projects and intentions in the face of this new-found adversity. They were going to get super fit with Joe Wicks each day, write that book they had never quite managed to complete, learn a new language, play a new musical instrument and be a domestic goddess. The list was endless.

Good intentions are nice and all that, but I wanted to be a bit more pragmatic when the lockdown commenced. However, if there's one thing that really makes you want to do something, it's having the right to do it removed from you. Deprivation is a bugger of an incentive.

Despite those good intentions, I spent the first three-ish months of the pandemic in my living room. I ate there, played there, worked there, talked to family there and watched the news there. It was all-consuming and most of the time, I only left the house to pick up a shopping order, go for a ride/run or have a distanced chat with my son. Some days were a struggle.

But here we are, coming out of the other end. If all the drunken people don't trigger a second-spike, the worst has hopefully passed.

And in a tweet, here's what I achieved during my three months of lockdown:


So I've not written a sonnet, lost seven stone or mastered the trumpet - but who cares? I have a parrot who gives me high-fives and also comes to any spot I point to just like a dog, which can't be bad. I'm lucky. I still have my job, I've not been ill, I have a roof over my head, food in my capacious belly and my son is fine - and for this I should be grateful.

We've all been guilty of it, guilty of putting ourselves under pressure to achieve. However, we must remember that this is an odd period that none of us have experienced before. We are our own harshest critics and in all honesty, it's not going to do your mental health any good if you're going to punish yourself for failing to achieve unrealistic expectations during a time of great stress and worry. The objective for those of us who weren't in hospital and ill was to avoid getting ill and ending up in hospital ourselves. Basically, don't die.

If you managed to do that, then literally anything else you've achieved, even if it's just getting up in the morning can be considered a win. Give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back, you've made it.

And remember that book you haven't yet finished? It can wait. There will be a better time.
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A Reminder

This is a picture of my son and I, taken during the summer of last year. It feels a universe away now.

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As the Easter bank-holiday finishes and the UK death toll for this pandemic passes 10,000 I have to remind myself that this awfulness will come to an end one day. Without wanting to use The Queen's Vera Lyn reference, I'm holding on to a future time where we'll be able to do this again, to be like we were in this photo. It's been a month since I last gave my son a hug, but self-isolation is what the UK population needs to do at the moment. It's hard, but how I'm feeling right now is minor in comparison to the people who've already lost someone. It's the sacrifice that we've all got to go through to ensure that things will be OK again in the future.

I'm no Conservative and I'm definitely no fan of Boris Johnson, but please do what the blond buffoon says and stay at home. Thank you.
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M.I.N.D. Over Matter

Well, I'm pleased to say that January is finally over. My total running milage for January was:

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As you can see, I managed to reach my target of 100 miles. Am I chuffed? Definitely - and despite my legs feeling a bit tired, I could've carried on for a few more days. As the end of the month approached, I started to get faster again. My resting pulse is now insanely low. Nonetheless, some sports physio to soften up my calfs of steel before my next "thing" would certainly be a good idea. If there's something I've learned during the last month, it's that a normal training regime needs rest days. REDJanuary ended up not being tough because of the distance, but because I had to go out every day, irrespective of the shitty January weather.

It's at this point that I'd like to thank anyone who's pledged sponsorship to MIND (click the link, there's still time) and gave encouragement and support, especially my virtual-running chum @LeoLasagne. He kept the motivation coming and really made me feel like he was running with me, despite living many miles away. Well done to everyone else who took part too. At the time of writing it looks like MIND have raised over half a million pounds, which is amazing.

I'm now going to take a break for a couple of days and then start gearing up for my first half-marathon of the year. Thanks for your support!
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Chasing Unicorns

On this day five years ago, I started running.

Why did I start? Well, the answer is simple. For the previous ten years, I'd been clawing my way through the grades in ju-jitsu and my second-dan grading loomed on the horizon. What harm could a bit of extra cardiovascular work do? I wanted to smash it and feel more in control.

Little did I know what I'd started and how it would snowball in to something bigger.

As the months went by, my fitness improved. My legs, stumpy as they were, started to bulk up. My calf muscles expanded such that I struggled to fit in my usual size of trousers. The infamous "loose-fit" was required to accommodate them. Undeterred, my distances got longer and in the October of 2013, I ran my first half-marathon in Cardiff.

I passed my grading and felt pretty damn good at the time. But why stop running now? Why let all that progress go to waste?

Whatever you've run, whether that be a 5K, 10K, half or full-marathon, you've thrown down a gauntlet to yourself. Can I run faster? Could I run for longer? Should I start raising money? You keep pushing yourself to see what you can do. Running can be a seriously competitive affair, but the competition is in your head.

Covering over 3,000 miles during that five years hasn't stopped me looking for new challenges.

During the course of January, I shall be running every day as part of MIND's RED (Run Every Day) challenge. My distances won't be huge, but that's not the point. As you'll have seen in some of my previous posts, I've mentioned how good running is for boosting one's mental health. When I took my first steps in the park five years ago, little did I know that I'd inadvertently discovered something that was a form of natural medication, but without all those nasty side-effects.

Note: I still believe the "runner's high" is bollocks and about as real as unicorns.

Running every day is a challenge and the barriers are many. Bits of you ache on a regular basis. The great British weather will be bobbins. You keep smelling like a dead horse. However, if you can get over the obstacles in your mind, you've already done the hard bit.

During the course of January, I'm aiming to run 160KM/100 Miles. I completed day 5 today and am feeling quite positive so far, despite how tired my legs already feel. Whilst something of a personal challenge, I urge you to donate to MIND. There are many other idiots like me around the world, doing this and generally getting achey, wet and smelly. Mental health is woefully under-supported in this country and is a cause close to my heart. If you can manage a donation of any sort, I'm sure many people will thank you, albeit indirectly.

I'll let you know whether I break my 100 mile target at the end of the month.
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CALM

This weekend I’m running another half-marathon, the Imerys Trail near St Austell, Cornwall. I was recently pondering the events I’ve entered since I started running and it dawned on me that this is my twelfth.

Bloody hell. A dozen of the buggers.

That puts a smile on my face, because when I was back at school I was shite at sport, which commonly translates to "lacks confidence" in school reports. I was the wobbling and puffing kid at the back of the cross-country group. "Sport" was just not my thing.

If only my P.E. teacher could see me now. What I lack in speed, I make up for in sheer bloody-minded determination.

I’ve been running for nearly three and a half years now and it's gone far past my original intention, which was purely to get fitter for my second-dan grading back in 2013. However, when I completed my first half-marathon that was the turning-point. Not wanting to lose the vastly improved fitness that I’d gained (or go through the pain of getting back up to half-marathon fitness again), I continued to enter more events.

There was another side-effect of running - I felt happier in my own skin.

And so this is the point where I lay my cards on the table. I’ve occasionally had poor mental-health over the years. I’ve had bouts of depression that have come and gone like an unwelcome, incontinent lodger who sleeps in your bed, drinks your beer and emits his gas in your face. At times, the irksome oaf has lurked around for years before finding other digs.

My unwelcome guest has visited me several times, my first being when I was around thirteen or fourteen, a time when I was probably too young to realise what it was. A combination of bullying at school and my parents separating started it all off, returning again when I was in my mid-twenties and a third time when my mother died. For me, depression is a disease which doesn't have a cure, but seems to come and go in episodes.

But I've been "free" for a while now - and that's jolly good.

The amount of evidence supporting improved mental health through running continues to grow. Studies aside, I find that it takes approximately 45 minutes for the benefits to kick in afterwards. It’s been said that there’s a “runner’s high”. Whilst I still think that's bollucks, whatever endorphin release happens during the activity seems to keep me going for a few days - and that’s got to be better than medication, with all the nasty side-effects that go with it. A run every three-ish days seems to do the trick. If I've missed one or been inactive for four or five days I start getting irritable - it's time to get another session in.

So if running does something for my wellbeing, then it seems reasonable to use that boost for the benefit of other’s mental-health too. Unfortunately, the subject is still an uncomfortable one for many in this country and I’d like to do something (however small) to address that. Over the years I've had varied responses to the condition, ranging from "Cheer the fuck up" to things a lot more supportive. It's only through support, openness and a willingness to change the stigma attached to mental health in this country that we'll ever address it. Us men are not good at talking, but if the stigma can be removed then we'll find it easier to talk about it.

Over those twelve half-marathons, I've seen a lot of people wearing running shirts advertising the charity they're running for. One charity has resonated with me more than any other, going by the name of "C.A.L.M" or the Campaign Against Living Miserably. They give advice, counselling and crisis support and the organisation aims to reduce the male suicide rate, particularly in the 20 - 45 age range - the biggest killer of younger men in the UK. There have been times in the past where I could've been a statistic.

I've decided that my thirteenth half-marathon will raise money for this charity. Getting through depression is a struggle. Because they're not obvious, mental-health issues are such a hard thing for some to comprehend. Your brain isn't in a plaster cast. To the average person on the street who sees you, you look fine. And yet, on some days, just getting out of bed is a struggle in itself. If I can raise something through completing an event and indirectly prevent a suicide, then I guess that adds something positive to my life too. It gives me some purpose when I'm clocking up the miles. Indirectly, whilst improving my own mental state, I'll be helping somebody else's.

I'm not sure what my next event will be yet, but Bristol Half-Marathon is in September and would allow adequate time for me to badger the likes of you reading this for money in sponsorship. Once the event details are finalised, I'll post a link here as well as a pinned post on Twitter and naturally would be very grateful for any contribution you can make. I'll post again in the next few weeks, once my legs have stopped hating me after tomorrow's event.

Thanks for reading.
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Ear Worms

Star-Trek, mental health and The Who - just another average blog post. Read More...
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