Finding your true potential.

The passing of Stan Lee earlier last week had more of an impact on me than I might have expected. You see, Stan created Spider-man (and many more heroes and villains) – a character we all know and love and who I lived vicariously though during my childhood and teenage years.


He is a nerdy teenage boy lacking self-belief simply trying to find his way in life until a Spider-bite changes his life.

Lately I have learnt that life is just the story we tell ourselves and all too often people pigeon-hole us by telling us who we are, what we should do and what our potential is.  Clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always been enamoured with the concept that there is a hero in us all and our true potential is there to be realised when we believe in ourselves.

Sometimes it may take someone else to help us realise that potential, as happened to me recently at my local park run.

A few months ago I turned up to my local park run in Cardiff flustered and a little late.  Having been awake since 5am and with the song ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ literally haunting me I was desperate to escape the toddler chaos building in my living room at home and hurriedly bid my wife and children goodbye.

I was pleasantly surprised on arrival that the run was introduced by the double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, who while working in Cardiff apparently couldn’t resist an opportunity to enjoy a morning run around Bute Park.

As she took to the tanoy she spoke passionately about the park scheme initiative and  the incredible community it now represents – motivating people to enjoy exercise and running.

Feeling inspired by her words I set off around the course along with the 700 other participants to enjoy the fresh summer morning air. As I began to near the end of the course I had started to envisage my morning coffee and breakfast and I was somewhat taken aback and if I’m honest awestruck to be greeted by the Olympic champion herself.  At full flight it was difficult to offer any means of polite conversation, however ,within a few metres my feelings of awe were replaced  with one thought

‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could beat Dame Kelly Holmes – a double Olympic gold medal winner?

‘What a story that would be for my children’, I thought.

Sadly, my thoughts didn’t hold much place in reality as within seconds I was left in her tracks as she took off into the distance.

At the finish line I was lucky enough to meet her in person as I collected my running token and time and she kindly agreed to an obligatory selfie.

Later than day I cheekily tweeted Dame Kelly Holmes asking her to follow me on Twitter as I hopelessly aimed to beat the park run time she had achieved that morning.

Unbelievably, not only did I receive a reply but a challenge that inadvertently led me on a journey of discovery and self belief.

In order to acquire a ‘follow’ I would have to run a sub 19 5km and whereas previously I thought this feat might be as achievable as me waking up with hair like Chesney Hawkes this tweet had now become my metaphorical Spider-bite.

Every run I set out on from this point took on a different meaning.  Running offers so much to me already only had now started to believe what was possible. My legs seem to have more spring and my tolerance of pain increased significantly.

Mentally I began to visualise racing and beating all the anxieties holding me back in my life and my Strava times slowly started to improve.  I would also add that going for a run at slightly inopportune moments can vastly improve your running times.

For example if I leave the house just as my children begin drawing on the kitchen wall first thing on a Saturday morning I know that I need to be back in a very good time before the house falls down and my wife decides to leave me. I have achieved many a personal best with this technique!

My park run time slowly began to make significant improvements and with it so did my attitude and belief in other areas of my life.

The inspiration and belief I gained from this chance encounter has in turn driven me to inspire others through the inception of Welshrunningdad.

I began telling myself  that it really doesn’t matter that other people place limitations on us because ultimately if we really want something and believe in ourselves then our goals are entirely achievable.

I realise that we might not all be fortunate enough to be bitten by a Spider like Peter Parker or bump into an Olympic legend at your local Park Run.

However, I believe that Stan Lee creations and Kelly Holmes personal challenge are examples that with a little self belief anything is possible.

Who knows I might even wake up with a full head of hair in the morning.

As far as the Park Run challenge is concerned I seem to have aquired an extra follower on Twitter.


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Eat less, move more!

The Back Story

‘A Large Caramel Macchiato and a Skinny muffin please’ I would bark at the Starbucks Barrista as I ordered my routine breakfast in the not too distant past.

Lunch on the road wasn’t much better.  A tub of sushi followed by a Ginsters pasty and worse still on a Friday night as I often played rugby the following day  I would consume a large Dominoes pizza washed down with just the one bottle of a Campo Viejo Rioja.

(Don’t judge me red wine is good for the heart….so they say!)

The sad thing is I thought I was being healthy.

I am far from being a nutritionalist but it turns out ‘Skinny’ products don’t make you ‘Skinny’

I recall a defining moment in my ‘fat era‘ in 2008 whilst on a ‘Lads trip’ to New York  spending an inordinate amount of time one evening impressing a young lady with my one liners and self-deprecating humour.

(You know one liners  like ‘They say Vaseline was invented by Romans but its actually ancient grease’)

I returned from the bar after buying her an overpriced capriosca to be told by the young woman  ‘ I’m sorry Skinny guys are more my type’ at which point I walked away and proceeded to cry into my pint which is code for order a kebab!

I returned home to Wales distraught and decided to take action.

The Call For Action

I had no idea where to start in regard to diet as my speciality in the kitchen at this time was scrambled eggs made with half of tub of Philadelphia cream cheese.

So I took stock and did what most men would do in a crisis and I rushed into Tesco’s and bought a copy of Men’s Health. (Ok most men would hit the pub but that would have put an end to this blog)

I ripped out the only diet plan in the magazine and followed it to the best of my ability and I can still clearly remember the content.

Breakfast – Poached eggs on toast or Porridge with  blueberries

Mid morning – Plain chicken

Lunch – Jacket and plain tuna

Afternoon snack – peanut butter on rye bread

Supper – Salmon fillet with brown rice

I remember as I gagged down the 200g of plain chicken at 11am sitting in the confines of my company car thinking ‘This is fowl’  (I know I have to stop the puns) that I actually felt like I was eating far more than I had done previously.

Admittedly, I combined my new approach to diet along with starting to run. Weight began to drop off me – Eat less,move more!

Although I felt like I was eating more food I was essentially taking in less calories while feel fuller and more satisfied for longer periods.

‘Eat less, move more.’ To me its a simple message, burn more calories than you consume and you are likely to lose weight.

I must stress I am no authority on the intricacies of diet however, I know that I have lost and sustained a substantial amount of weight dropping from approximately 14 stone to 11 stone.  I have also moved on from the days where I would regularly enjoy a pizza and chips sandwich (or butty if you’re Welsh like myself)

It is all too easy to over complicate diets and lets face it there have been some strange ones ranging from the 5/2, Atkins, juice diets and most recently I have been made aware of a chocolate cake for breakfast diet.  A cake diet sounds incredible but seriously?

For me long term weight loss is found in making long term changes.

How much do I need to sacrifice?

The reason I have addressed diet on this particular blog is that I have been approached by a number of colleagues and friends to help out with a dietary advice.

In order to lose weight it is my view that combining a healthy, balanced diet with regular exercise will undoubtedly prompt weight loss.

Small sacrifices might have to be made along the way whether that be foregoing empty calories from alcohol, fizzy drinks, or the post run/gym work out reward.  You know who you are!!

During the first year of dating my wife she asked me to accompany her on a training run as she had ambitiously entered the Great North Run having never run a half marathon before.   Impressed with her determination to push herself I politely accepted the invite.  However,half way through our run she convinced me to stop for some tea and cake which for me was not only a surprise but brought an entire new meaning to a ‘tempo run’ and a perfect example of how to undo all of the benefits of a good exercise regime.

My wife is actually is in fantastic physical shape however this type of behaviour is commonly indicative of those who often don’t manage to lose weight.  I must add that my wife has entirely different and healthy approach to the reward aspect these days!

Remember, Eat less move more if looking to lose weight, don’t over complicate the concept.

Also remember that along the way a cheat day here and there won’t hurt as we all have to live a little.

Once you hit your weight loss target and learn to understand your body you can certainly relax a little more in your dietary approach.

These days I very much abide by the saying

‘Everything in moderation including moderation’. 

Although the thought of looking like this again keeps me on the straight and narrow!


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‘You better lose yourself in the music….’

Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip? Eminem

I now know these opening words inside out.  In my early running days this tune would be ringing in my ears as I nervously stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow competitors before I set my stall out in the first mile of any race.  It still makes me shiver with anticipation now.

Thank goodness times have changed and we now have access to  virtually any music we require through apps like Spotify all streaming directly from our phones or even watches.

I often look around and try and guess what people are listening to.  My father once told me that he liked to listen to radio 4 on his outings and I dread to think how his sprint finish might have looked as the ‘Archers’ theme kicked in! To each their own.

Back in the day (day in this blog referring to the late 90’s) I remember running with a bright yellow Sony Walkman, supposedly waterproof which was akin to running with a brick in the hand. I suppose in hindsight Sony would argue they didn’t call it a ‘Runman’ for a reason.

Soon after that, I remember running with the ‘Discman’ which so frustratingly jolted every step I took while I tried desperately to listen to Now 25. It was lucky then that Sony launched an upgrade with a three second memory to address that!

Music is a powerful medium in all walks of life and my reasoning for including it in this blog is to highlight its motivational benefits for running.

I’ve always enjoyed running with music and sometimes we all need a little extra motivation to stuck in.  For me music is my fuel.

From a personal perspective it does a number of things for me, but for the main part it represents a form of meditation.

It can distract me from acknowledging  how hard my body is working, and it can also drive me forward when I need to work that little bit harder.

Think how you might feel when your breathing becomes laboured and your legs get a little heavier?  Cue Rocky theme and you immediately feel that little stronger.

My music taste is extremely diverse which lends itself well to the varying tempos of run I venture out on.  During a gentle jog on a warm summer’s evening, I enjoy getting lost in the world of trance, while on the contrary (while trying to achieve a park run personal best on a Saturday morning) I enjoy the raspy voice of Axel Rose and turn to the emphatic sounds of Gun N Roses.

It works as I have managed three PBs this year!

I certainly have my guilty pleasures which I won’t mention.  All I can say is I hope this blog on music helps you ‘reach for the stars’ and that your training isn’t interrupted by any ‘high school musical’!

I love the subjectivity of music and at this point I turn to you my readers!  If you have been reading and enjoying my blog, please take the time to input your e-mail on this site.

In a future blog I am planning on publishing the ultimate running playlist so please also leave your ultimate running song as a comment.

If you also have any suggestions that you would find beneficial for future blogs please also me know in the comments section.

Why run?

‘You love running’ my wife says to me as I am pulling on my trainers to head out of the door.

Like any relationship I have my highs and lows with running.  I think my ultimate running low would have to be being over taken by four men running inside a canoe down the mall during London Marathon and if that wasn’t bad enough Snoopy followed shortly afterwards.

Although, I don’t think anything however can trump my father who while running the Berlin marathon alongside a rather high profile footballer was followed by the street sweeper hot on their trail ready to re-open the street for traffic to take to the road.

That aside some days are easier to hit the tarmac than others.  On a cold dark winters morning as I pull on my running kit the prospect of pulling myself around a cold wet park can be far from appealing. Yet I force myself time and time again to get myself out there and even I ask myself on occasion why?

The truth is for me the reasons for running are numerous, so if you are not already a runner I will attempt to entice you with my reasoning:


My family and I try to eat as healthily as possible and I am fortunate that my wife is a fantastic cook and always focuses on the health aspect for every plate of food presented during the week.  However, I love a pie, a pasty and a cake  (although not necessarily together) as much as the next man (or woman) and if I’m honest I’ve only just returned home after having a Chinese for lunch on a Sunday.

Knowing that I am burning so many extra calories during the week means I can let my non existent hair down and enjoy the more decadent side of my diet within reason of course.


Recently a friend of mine turned to me as we sipped on a pint and said and I quote ‘What’s it like to be mistaken for Richard from the board game guess who?’  I frantically pulled out my phone as he disappeared to the toilet to remind myself of who he was referring too.  To my horror he had nailed the likeness. Google it if you don’t know who Richard is!

In my recent years I’ve realised I can’t control genetics and I’ve become quite used to seeing the light bounce of my bald head when I see my reflection in the mirror and I’ve also noticed that my joints are starting to ache a little more than in my twenties.

However, what I can control is my ability to stay relatively fit and with two challenging toddlers, running allows me to slip out of the house and be back before they have torn it down. Only this morning I managed an 8.5 mile training run before 9am although admittedly I did have a running friend coax me out. There is simply no need to spend laborious hours in the gym.

It also means I am a favourite for the dads race on school sports day not that I’ve thought about it at all.

Mental Health/Sanity

Life can be hard sometimes.  Stress, anxiety, depression are all normal emotions to feel from time to time.

For me add into that mix two feral, I mean demanding children and a stressful full time job and sometimes you feel like you might just explode. Especially after a long day at work and then coming home and having to negotiate with your toddler at bedtime who won’t go to sleep until they’ve had a babybel, a glass of milk, gone to the toilet for the third time, had a story,  sung baby shark do do, said goodnight to the garden, called Nana, watched another Waffle the Wonder Dog and reclothed barbie because she’s cold….. you catch my drift.

Whether its work,children, a broken down relationship or any other issue we all have our cross to bear at some point and I’d lie if I said I haven’t faced difficult and challenging times myself in the past.

What running offers at me at  these points is time out, time alone with my thoughts to think things through.  More often that not by the time I put my key in the front door I’ve found a way to address whatever issue has been on my mind.

Plus it saves my wife having to murder me.


It’s always worrying when you receive a Christmas card from your local fast food chain and in the past a large dominoes pizza and a bottle of wine would have formed stiff competition to the prospect of putting on my trainers.  Now I leave that for a Friday night.

In order to run you have to be self motivated.  Nobody can run for you.  Along with the natural high you obtain from the endorphins pulsing around your body the sense of accomplishment you get on completing a run of any distance is fantastic. The reward doesn’t have to come from a good time or position in a race it can simply be that you completed a run you set yourself to do and knowing that the motivation came from you.


The beauty of running is that the competition only comes from within. You can compete with yourself, the clock, other runners or nothing at all.

For me I am still looking for a re-run against Snoopy although I’ve also left some business out on the Cardiff half marathon course that I’m looking to rectify in a few weeks.

Running is one of the few sports where endurance improves as you age , so I’m told. Although I am not going to be turning into Mo Farah anytime soon turning back the clock on my PB’s is the competitive element of running that I am relishing at this moment in time.

How many other sports give you an age category finishing place on completion?

And Finally………

Community and friendship

The sense of community in running is unbelievable and you only have to turn up to a park run initiative on a Saturday morning to see how many people have joined the running craze.

To be joined by an army of people of all abilities young and old, some running with prams, some with dogs all willing each other on is quite a sight.

It’s not just park run, you only had join a running club, enter a race or run with a friend to find this community.

I myself have made some new friendships in recent weeks along with some friendly rivalries.

Whether any of them are the Snoopy I’ve been searching for I don’t know. What I do know is the next time my wife says ‘You love running’ I can answer ‘Yes, for the most part I do’ I just hope its not too long before she joins me for a run too. 

‘I’m not a natural runner’

How many times have I heard people utter these words?  The truth is once upon a time I felt the same.

I recall one winter venturing out for a run and finding myself in a telephone box calling my then girlfriend (now x-wife) begging her to pick me up, I had only made it a mile down the road and had been out for ten minutes. I think I went home and ordered a pizza.

I recall that my weight had crept up on me and although I simply told myself I was bulking up and I that I was obviously in the shape of ‘The Rock’ two successive events prompted me to experiment with running.  Firstly my father pinching some fat from my stomach (obviously a magic trick) and secondly and horrifyingly my local rugby club asking me to move to prop from my beloved position on the wing.  The truth is in hindsight I looked like ‘Spongebob Squarepants’

‘I’m not a natural runner’ I told myself.  That is until my ex-wife and I divorced.  Feeling at an all time low and with nothing to lose I purchased myself a pair of trainers and downloaded the Nike running app on my I-phone.  I shuffled around our local park to start with and may well have been lapped by the resident ducks on a few occasions.  However, no matter how much I despised the actual running at the time, nothing could deny me the buzz that came from the endorphin rush on completing each outing.

Within days and weeks people asked ‘Have you lost weight?”  More than this though I soon realised that the natural rush I gained from each and every run was an antidote to every negative that I felt at the time.  I wasn’t a natural runner though I told myself.

Yet since then I have run eight half marathons, a marathon and countless other races.  My most recent race (Cardiff 10km) was last weekend.  Poignantly I met a close friend and his family prior to the race who had apprehensively and nervously entered the race.  I couldn’t help but notice following  their fantastic completion of the race that in various social media posts there were references to ‘not being a natural runner’.

From my point of view there is no such thing.  From the moment you pull on a pair of trainers and hit the road you are part of the fantastic running community and you are indeed ‘a natural runner’.

Enjoy the escapism  and reap the health benefits both physical and mental.  The best part about running is that it is natural and the competition only comes from within. You can compete with others, yourself or just enjoy the fact that you have become ‘a natural runner’ by the very nature that you are running.