By Craig Broadbent
Last weekend I completed my second half marathon. My first was done about 18 months ago. I turned 53 in January this year and about four years ago doctors told me I should stop running as it wasn’t good for my health. I’ve lost 20 kilograms since that terrible advice and learnt a valuable lesson: not all medicos know what they are talking about.
As someone who loves to run and who suffers from moments of depression, the news from that doctor at the time was pretty devastating. My running had saved me from the black dog on more than one occasion and I wasn’t ready to give it up. But given my knee was clearly not ready to carry all 102 kilograms of me around while running, I figured I would need to try an alternative and, as a middle-aged man, what better alternative than riding…in Lycra.
At the time, with my gut hanging over the cross bar, scaring off small children, I rode on mostly flat roads while my knee gained strength and my fitness improved. I also started swimming as a way of doing some non-weight bearing exercise and while I hate swimming in a pool, as I built up to the one kilometre mark I started to enjoy it. After about six months of riding and swimming I thought I would try running again, so I ran three kilometres on the treadmill and other than feeling pretty sore the day after, there were no ill effects. No swelling knee and no soft tissue injury.
I slowly started increasing my distance and frequency, initially running no more than twice a week and always running on a treadmill or grass. I found that if I ran on hard surfaces the knees would get very sore. After each run I would also ice my knees to keep the pain down and ensure there was no swelling. I was very careful to listen to my body and if I felt like I may have overdone it, I would back off for a few weeks before upping the volume. Eventually I was running, biking and swimming on a regular basis.
I’d started to lose weight due to the regular exercise – which my knees were also thanking me for – and some small modifications to my diet. Eventually I went from 102 kg down to an almost healthy 90 (I’m 188 centimetres tall so the BMI says 88 kg is the top of my healthy range) and promised myself that if I got under 90 I would buy a new bike. When I hit 89 kg, I headed straight down to the nearest bike store and bought an amazing Colnago carbon fibre bike weighing just on 7kg with electronic shifters. I think I felt just as good picking up that baby as I had when I got my first Porsche! Well, maybe not quite as good. It was an amazing ride (and is the bike I still ride now).
As I racked up the kilometres on this new black beauty I started thinking that maybe I should do triathlon given I was now swimming, biking and running on a regular basis. I needed some goals to keep me motivated. Getting out of bed at 5.30 every morning to fit in this exercise was hard yards, especially when winter came and the temperature in Melbourne was dropping to around 3 degrees. Anyone want to go for a swim in that cold? Not me. So I entered a race to help with self-motivation on those cold mornings and on those days when the bed just feels too good.
I dropped another 8 kilos and running became easier. So last Sunday I did my second half marathon. I’ve never been a fast runner and I don’t do it to win (though I can be incredibly competitive, I now have to be satisfied with competing against myself). I took 11 minutes off the time from my first race and I think I can take more time off with better prep.
I now weigh what I weighed when I was 21 and feel great. It is proof anyone can do it – and you really can’t use time as an excuse.
If you have been thinking you need to do something, then now is the time to start.