Blog No.1 – Why am I doing this?

So, I am running the London Marathon?

I thought I would do a blog from here until April and keep you up to date with the hilarity of me attempting to jog 26+ miles. It’s a rather daft idea really so I thought I would answer the question that I am being asked most regularly, which is – ‘What the bloody hell are you doing that for’?

Life has changed lots for me over the last few years in some good & bad ways. I reflected a lot and I came close to getting lost down that worm hole if I am being honest. I’m a professional actor and I’ve been on tour for what feels like the last 2 years so I was often in new places and it was easy to isolate myself. During that time – I think it’s important to keep that spotlight on you and the choices you make/made and I did that over and over again. I did that with a Strawberry & Lime Rekorderlig (usually 3 to be fair as I couldn’t resist the 3 for £5 offer and some sweets or chips, burgers, nacho’s – just whatever I wanted. You can guess where this is going.

To set the scene. Its September ‘16. I am at my good friends Bicy’s wedding in Drogheda in Ireland. It was a cool wedding, part Sikh/park Catholic. There was a little gaggle of us at the wedding that were old school friends. One of them was Rachael who bought her little boy Fraser who was about 4 months old. He’s very cute and has the best quiff since Elvis. After the ceremony, Fraser and Uncle G went for a walk around this beautiful Irish garden and Rach took a picture. That evening she sent it to me I couldn’t believe it. I looked like I was going to eat him. It was like being hit in the face with a hammer. I came back from Ireland with a real sense of shame.

Along with that shame – rung the words i’d heard from a gentleman named Chris Harper a few months earlier. At the time I was touring a show called ‘Invincible’ and Chris was my director. My character was a ‘beer swilling’ neighbour who had let himself go and the belly hung over the trackies etc etc – so the lack of looking after myself was genuinely quite justifiable. ‘It’s for the character’. I said that to myself a lot. After a show at the Yvonne Arnuad in Guildford around May ‘16 – we went to the pub post show. After an hour or so, I think Chris may have been a little tipsy – he brought up my weight. Brave move. He barely knows me and he’s a good looking, blonde haired, blue eyed, slim and sporty bloke. I remember thinking he was on dangerous ground. He then very bluntly told me that I was too fat, I was a good actor and I would lose out on roles and just be a typical ‘funny fat man’ for my career and he thought it would be a shame. I acknowledged it but didn’t really take it in until . . .

. . .The second week of September, I am looking at this picture of me and Fraser where I look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow bursting out of a Jacamo suit that I thought made me look like Freddie Flintoff and then Chris’s words suddenly resonated. Additionally, I so desperately wanted to be a useful engine for the most beautiful boy in the world so I decided that I needed to do something so I did.

On September 12th 2016, I weighed myself when I woke up. 24 stone, 10lbs. That’s the biggest I had ever been. From then, I was going to use the limited mental strength I had left and turn it into discipline for my well-being. I don’t want to call it a diet because I think that word has a negative stigma attached to it and it becomes a chore (I’m sure I’ll blog about that another time). This was a simple lifestyle change and I had 5 rules.

  • Eat no more than 2000 calories a day
  • Eat my 5 a day (or at least 4).
  • Go the the gym 3-4 times per week
  • At the gym – run 5k (3 miles) and do some weights
  • Do this without fail until 6th Jan ’17 (as I was going back on the road with Invincible after that).

6th Jan ’17, I weighed in at 20 stone, 10lb. I’d lost 4 stone. I couldn’t believe it. This pushed me on to want to keep going. I set myself a new target of hitting 18 stone by Easter. To hit that, I knew I had to do more cardio, less weights but the mad truth . . . . I really don’t like running. I didn’t want to street run so in the gym I ramped up my jogs from 5k to 7.5k (4.5 miles) and hated every second. I also had to be careful because I was still on tour as a fat man and the poster was me at 23+ stone mark. This did become an issue but luckily my director(s) & artistic director of the company were supportive and there were a few tricks played to keep the fat man illusion (must’ve still worked as I did a live radio interview in April ’17, where the host ‘James Watt’ asked me to my face – “did you have to put weight for the role or have you always been a fat slob” – if only he knew). Due to this, I had to slow down a tad and didn’t hit my target by Easter but I did hit it by May ’17. So, I had lost 6 stone, 10lbs in 8 months.

Then amazingly, the play I was in transferred to New York! I was going to live there for around 6 weeks and I didn’t want to put on the weight I lost but I didn’t want to miss the amazing foods of New York – so my logic came simply, I need to ‘earn’ treats. Simple as. Our apartment was 90 seconds away from ‘Central Park’. Unreal. The first day I was in New York, I told myself I was going to run around it, in its entirety. Just over 10k (6 miles). I’d never jogged that far before. Considering the views, you were looking at and the experiences – time flew. I loved it and ended up jogging around it many different times – from first thing in the morning to midnight. I ran it in 35-degree heat and in the pouring rain. The magic of where I was never left me and before I knew it – I was jogging 10k nearly 4 times p/w. Then I saw there was a charity 10k run called ‘The Running of the Balls’ for testicular cancer and I signed up and was running around Roosevelt Island twice with a number on my chest. I did it (Slowly! 1hr, 7 mins) but what did I care?! I ran my firs ‘proper’ race in NYC.

I got back to the UK and I had put on 2lbs. I was over the moon, I thought I’d put on a stone! From there – I turned into Forrest Gump (not addicted to Shrimp, Ice Cream and eating other people’s chocolates) . . . “I just felt like running”. I stopped going to the gym as much and started running. Around the Black Country, Birmingham, Worcestershire, Suffolk, Norfolk & London. I was running anywhere from 8k to 13k. I felt alright. I still didn’t love running but it was ‘ok’ and I found it interesting how you hit ‘walls’ and how the timing of ‘wall’ changes with the increase in stamina and the velocity of the ‘hit’. In July I managed to get another acting job in big UK Tour of ‘Wait Until Dark’ and typical me . . . in the 5th show of the tour, I managed to tear 90% of my bicep. Bad times. However, this was good for my running because I couldn’t do any weights at all but I could run a lot. Whilst playing in Exeter, Cambridge, Salisbury I ran 16k (10 miles) at least 4 times in 6 days. Granted, I then walked like I had a severe case of piles but I started to ‘kind of’ enjoy jogging (or at least get annoyed when I couldn’t jog).

It was mid-October, I was weighing 17 stone – I’ve lost 7 stone, 10lb in 13 months. I am the smallest I’ve been since I’ve been 18-19. I then saw the advertisement for ‘Birmingham Half Marathon’. Was it possible that I could bash through that extra 3.3 miles? Well, why not try? So, I signed up and on Sunday 15th October, 5 days before surgery and a bicep on the brink of a complete tear – I ran the whole thing (in 2 hours, 9 minutes). I got a medal and felt such immense pride. 2 days later, I went on a jog to get some blood flowing in my legs and ended up running another half marathon around Walsall! I don’t know how that happened. Then as I lay in the bath I thought ‘You’ve just run a Marathon’ across 3 days and that then led to me thinking ‘could you do that in one go?’. I didn’t know the answer to the question and two days later I have signed up for the London Marathon and will be representing an amazing charity – the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) that have a lovely tie in to my early family life growing up in and around the deaf community and my ‘non-acting’ job of working with children’s services. However, that can all wait for another blog because this is turning into War & Peace. I promise most blogs won’t be this long in future but I wanted to set the scene about why I am doing this.

So, the initial question. ‘Why am I doing this?’ – I am doing it for me.

However I hope I can earn a superb charity a decent amount of cash along the way! That’s enough I will drop in with another blog soon. Thanks.

G.

 

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