I completed a run of just over 20 miles on Saturday. It has been quite a few years since I’ve done that distance. It was good despite the last 3 miles being a bit of a slog and I had to dig deep a few times to keep going. I didn’t give up, felt motivated, and was fully focused on getting that distance completed.
It got me to thinking about why I enjoy endurance sports and where that interest comes from.
I saw my Mum on Sunday, and she had found some old photos for me (some of which I had forgotten about) – some of those may answer the question of why I enjoy endurance events.
I did my first triathlon 25 years ago. Back then very few people took part in the sport and my training was very much trial and error. Back then the internet didn’t exist, so my main points of reference were a book I had bought about triathlon (which wasn’t a huge help) and a few copies of Triathlon magazine (not a great deal of help either as it focused on what races some of the elite had done and what was happening in the USA). I trained for a few months and just hoped for the best on the day.
Looking at those photos on Sunday made me realise that my interest in endurance sports developed years before. There is one photo of me when I’m about 10 years of age having just finished a cross-country fun-run with my first finishers medal around my neck.
My Dad was into cycling and as a teenager I did a few charity rides with him – usually around 50-60 miles (which is a decent distance for a 14-year-old to ride. And looking at one of those photos and how skinny my legs look (!!!) I’m somewhat shocked I was able to ride those distances at that age). This led to being interested in races like the Tour de France (years before Britain even had a winner of the event – just having a British rider on the start line was a huge deal back then).
At school I played football, rugby, (hated cricket), and swam. I was OK, nothing exceptional. Outside of school I canoed for a little while (as part of my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award). I tried out a few other sports as well – again nothing really stuck in terms of wanting to participate long term. I went on a couple of outward bounds trips with the school to the Lake District and for a kid growing up in London that was a real eye-opener. The open space, the hills, the vastness of the place, and the sense of achievement making it up some of the mountains.
I remember going to watch the first ever London Marathon with my Nan in 1981. We stood outside Embankment station cheering and clapping the runners on, and I remember saying to my Nan that I would run a marathon one day (and probably didn’t realise what was involved, it just looked pretty cool to me).
I never joined any cycling or athletics clubs as a kid and at school there was never really that interest or encouragement from teachers to pursue any sports outside of school. I remember watching various sports programmes as a kid and that is where some of that interest really developed – city centre cycling shown on Channel Four, very brief highlights (2-5 minutes) of the Ironman in Hawaii, the Olympic Games in Moscow and Los Angeles (1980 and 1984).
When I was growing up there was a bloke who lived on the same estate who was a long distance runner and as kids we thought he was Superman!!!! We'd see him run off and then hours later (whilst we were still playing football and hitting windows he'd return, and we'd be amazed at how far he'd run!) All of those things have contributed in a small way to the journey I have been on in terms of endurance sports. All of those things have had a lasting influence on this journey.
There have been times when I’ve not entered events for a couple of years and just trained with no end goal or main purpose – but something has always drawn me back into finding an event, entering it, putting in the training, completing it and moving onto the next goal.
When I completed my first triathlon 25 years ago I wanted to see what else I could achieve and over the years went from short distance events to much longer distance events. When I completed my first marathon in 1998, once my legs had recovered, I wanted to see if I could get quicker over the distance.
I remember speaking to people that took part in ultra-marathons (and also reading a few books about the sport) thinking that is unbelievable and not for me, way too far. I think deep down I’ve always looked to push myself on my terms on what I can achieve. Taking part in endurance sports allows me to do that, and it has been an incredible journey and one where I have learnt a lot about myself. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and seeing what is beyond that – both physically and mentally.
I look at that photo of me as a 10-year-old with that finishers' medal around my neck and wonder if someone told me then that in 40 years’ time I would be training to run 50 km what my reaction would have been.
Every time I think that the journey is complete there has always been something else that has drawn me back in, motivated me, fuelled that curiosity, made me wonder ‘what if’, and given me another goal to work towards.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.