Last updated: 20-Aug-18
By Dan Mayers
Success in a chosen sport rarely comes easy; it comes about through hard training and constant dedication. Progress can be slow at times, but one by one, as you challenge your limitations, setting the bar higher and higher for yourself, you become greater than you ever thought you could…
… unfortunately, I did this with drinking.
In what can only be described as a ‘comically stupid chain of events’, it took a little while to get good at drinking in my younger years. I was hindered by a couple of minor issues. Firstly, I didn’t really like the taste of beer. Imagine the embarrassment if my mates ever found out about that! I’d be a laughing stock! I decided it wasn’t worth taking any chances, so I kept it a secret and soldiered on regardless.
Eventually, I powered through this dilemma and learnt to tolerate the taste. My next nagging concern was that I never needed to drink very much to have a great evening and be ready to go home… Well this won’t do, obviously! My mate Barry told me at the time that he could drink 15 pints in an evening if he wanted to and my mate John said he managed 18 pints once and still managed to be up for work at 6am! … I never saw any of this, but they were both pretty adamant it definitely all happened. I clearly had a lot of work to do if I ever wanted to be taken seriously by these people.
Over the next couple of years, I had myself set up on an advanced-drinking training program where I would steadily increase the units by about 10% a week until I was a little more satisfied with the volume. By the end of my time at university I could now quite happily manage to be drunk six or seven times a week, with Tuesday as an occasional ‘recovery day’ if I was feeling sensible.
Training was hard at times, but the results were now clear to see; I’d successfully piled on about four stone of body fat and would probably get out of breath if I thought about exercise for too long. If only Barry and John could see me now! They’d be well impressed I imagine. I had finally joined the big leagues and I couldn’t be more proud!
I suppose in a way, this could be described as a low point of my life. All this drinking and socialising can be terribly distracting. It can even fill the voids created from other parts of life not going so well. For the record, I never at any point felt like I suffered from alcoholism… I enjoyed every minute of it if I’m honest.
It’s funny looking back now; I remember lying on the sofa on a lazy Sunday afternoon, hungover with a family bag of Doritos in my hand, waiting for the next episode of the Hollyoaks Omnibus to come on. All the while wondering what on Earth I’d done wrong to have lost so much fitness. It was a real mystery.
I do remember vividly, the precise second in which I reflexively resolved to do something about my withered fitness. It was during a kick-about with mates; chasing down a football that I think was about four or five inches away from me and having to stop for a rest at the halfway point. That certainly jolted a few alarm bells! I knew I’d put on weight, but I hadn’t quite realized the full extent of how unfit I’d got.
Taking up running as a direct response felt surprisingly natural all things considered. I think the mind-set of a long distance runner is not that dissimilar to that of a heavy drinker in a very tenuous way. It’s an incredibly stubborn mind-set. Much like I never used to let hangovers or lack of money get in the way of going to the pub; now I didn’t let weather conditions or memories of exhaustion get in the way of my next big run.
Initially, I only planned to use running to get back into better shape, but pretty soon I found myself desperately wanting to get better at it at any cost; even drinking less! I always wanted to run further than last time, and every time I broke my distance PB, I experienced the kind of elation that I previously only found at the bottom of that tenth Jägerbomb. Only this time I could remember it with some clarity… and probably made less of a spectacle of myself in the process.
So there we go, I had a new drug now! Only this one seemed to provide a few more long-term benefits. Now if I had any problems or life wasn’t going very well for whatever reason; rather than drowning my sorrows on cheap supermarket cider, I would now go for a long trail run instead. Both of which offered a great temporary solution, but only one of them leaves you with a ‘clearer’ head afterwards.
I think we are absolutely blessed in the UK to have so many great running events available to us, from park runs, to marathons, all the way up to huge multi-day ultra-marathons! I have also had some great experiences from my own solo/unsupported running for charity, including a run up the length of the UK for Sport Relief last year, which was approximately 1,000 miles.
I think it’s safe to say that running has been very kind to me these past few years. I’ve met some amazing people at events all over the UK, had some awesome experiences and when I think of all the abuse I put myself through prior to getting started, it shows that the fortitude of the human body is something to marvel at! So much so, it’s the reason I chose to become a personal trainer to help others do the same.
I do sometimes wonder what the lifespan is on a hobby like ultra-marathon running; probably not forever. I guess I’ll find out one day, but I’ll hazard a guess it’s a lot longer than the lifespan of my previous hobby.
Now I’m sure the cynics out there will tell me (and they do tell me) that all I’ve really done is swap one addiction for another, and to be fair that might even be true. Maybe they think that in ten years I’ll be writing about how I beat my terrible addiction to running by taking up heroin? I think that with any activity that can be addictive, there are some that are better than others, and when I think of all the copious things I’ve been addicted to in my life: booze, caffeine, fast food, Hollyoaks etc… I think that this is one I can probably live with.
So that’s essentially how I dragged myself up from being a fun-loving, drunken layabout, to a very health conscious personal trainer and ultra-marathon runner! You can read about all my other adventures/mishaps here or you can find me on twitter (@danmayers84).
It’s always great to hear from you all!