June 2007 - by Phil Thomas

I’m bored, sat at home on a Sunday morning with nothing to do. I’m bored, so I’ll go for a walk into town. It’s a nice warm day, so why not head out for a bit? I start walking down the hill towards Hanley when suddenly a runner flies past down the road, sweaty and breathy, hot and clammy! Then it goes quiet and much to my surprise two folk stood at their door started to cheer me on. Now I’m no runner but out of sheer embarrassment I picked up my walking pace, smiled and said thanks. Once out of sight I slowed back down to my steady plod and walked through Central Forest Park towards Hanley and off the race route, which by now I realise must be the local half marathon. Now it may have been the sunny weather, but I had a strange idea that I should now run this race in 2008. I was so embarrassed to have people clap me and think of me as a runner.

I always warmed up at the gym with ten minutes on the treadmill so in the voice of the former Top Gear presenter “How hard can it be?” I got to Hanley and realised the place was full of runners and there was no chance of a quiet pint. So, I headed home to mull over this new idea to run.

The weeks became months and the summer gave way to autumn and I’d all but forgotten about that day in June. I was bored (again) so I flicked the TV on. It was wet and a tad windy. Typical September weather. As the TV came on and flashed into life I was greeted by an aerial shot of some sort of race. It showed the people competing flooding over the Tyne bridge. I sat there transfixed by this race and then remembered the Potters ‘Arf and my somewhat strange idea to run the following year’s race! It was September now and so I figured I had time to train.

I picked up a pair of running shoes that week and on the Sunday after watching the Great North Run I ventured out into the world and plugged in my MP3 player, we didn’t have iPods back then – or I didn’t. I’m not sure how far I went, but it was a start and each Sunday then became my running time, what I later got to know as the ‘long Sunday run’, though for about four or five months I stuck to a 10k route and I ran that same route each Sunday and that became my routine which became my habit. I’d always say to anyone who is starting out on a new thing, be that running or not, is to make it a routine which in time becomes a habit.

Come February 2008 I was running up to 8 miles and then I slipped over, turned my knee and was out of action for much of 2008 with a torn ligament in my left knee. Months of hard graft with the physio and in the gym and I was resolved to run in 2009. My Potters ‘Arf time was 2:12 in 2009 and I was also lucky enough to run the Great North Run the following year in 2010. I’ve ran the GNR six times so far and ran in Spain, Ireland and the USA, as well as most parts of England. I owe those two people who cheered me on as I walked into town that day in June 2007!