My Running Story

Adam Blackburn

Having played sports such as rugby & football from a very young age (until I was an adult), I was naturally blessed with speed and stamina. Although I did work hard on improving this and maintaining it over the years- I seemed to excel at running.

Fast forward to 2003 when I packed my bags and joined the British Army as a regular soldier. My background in sports and fitness made the daily physically demanding training days easier. I’d built up a lot of mental toughness and resilience and had no issues getting through the training and onto serving in the field army units.

One of the highlights was attempting and passing Pegasus Company or P-Coy as it is known. Passing this physically demanding test allows you to serve with airborne forces, and is regarded as one of the hardest courses you can do to test stamina and fitness within the British Army, only Special Forces selection is considered harder.

In the army we do a lot physical training (PT) but not really much running. Most of the fitness is load bearing (carrying kit/equipment) over long distances, usually wearing boots, helmets and body armour. This is obviously to train how we operate and is combined along with circuit training and body conditioning workouts. On average we might do 1 training run a week and that is usually as a large group. The opportunity to play sports in the Army was good and you can usually get involved in whatever sport you like if you have any talent and they will allow you to develop it.

So along with my career, I continued to play sports at high level in the forces and at my civilian team in Leeds (Robin Hood Athletic F.C) until around 2015 when I decided retire from football. I was still training in the gym and keeping fit, however I didn’t have any particular goals or focus. My only previous official running event was the Leeds 10K back in 2010, before I was deployed to Afghanistan for 6 months. I had really enjoyed the atmosphere on the day, and the crowds were brilliant. I was even chatting to Nell McAndrew afterwards, as we had attended the same High school and her brother was in my class.

Back to 2015 – I heard about a free running event on the weekends called “Parkrun”. So I googled the nearest one and decided to give it a go and see what it was all about. I really enjoyed it and it became a bit of a challenge where I wanted to beat my previous time. I think I had managed to run 5 PB’s before I plateaued, but I was pleased to get under sub 20 minutes. Parkrun then gave me the confidence to enter a few bigger events like Leeds and York 10K.

It was during one of my local Parkruns when I was asked if I like to come down to South Leeds Lakers club night on a Tuesday. This was when I officially joined a club. Over the years I continued to develop and enjoy the running more, and I wanted to experience as many events as possible. I tried most types of running – from road with my furthest distance being half marathon, to cross country and even track!

In 2016 when the World Triathlon Series came to Leeds I decided to volunteer at the event. On the day I was really inspired by the local Leeds Olympians Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, and I event went on to compete in the triathlon event at Roundhay for the next 2 years.

In 2018 I hit 35 years old and this allowed me to join and compete in age group athletics. So along with my first claim club I joined Northern Masters Athletic Club (NMAC). This club was very welcoming and were very supportive of new members with little or no experience. There were no minimum standards and a lot of the emphasise was having fun and taking part, however with so much bling on offer it made you push yourself to try and win some of this!

The events were really good value for money too. The Masters Athletics community was great, a lot of these athletes were going on to represent Great Britain in their age groups at International level, so the sky is the limit really. I even had some success too, I was Yorkshire 100/200M and the North of England M35 Champion in 2019. I even ran in the British Masters 200M final though with the standard so high at that level it was more about the experience running in an International stadium and not the result and 2019 ended on a sour note when I pulled my calf at one of the last meets of the season in the warm up. So my focus was now on 2020.

Well we all know what happened in 2020 and is still currently going on now. I’ve still events on this year that I booked before the pandemic occurred. So at the moment I’m training for an endurance event over the Brecon Beacons, which is based on SAS selection test that’s called The Fan Dance, as it goes over the highest mountain I wales twice called Pen Y Fan. To make it harder I’ll be carrying 40+ lb and wearing boots. Then another rescheduled event follows a bit closer to home. Total Warrior in Leeds, again another endurance team event with friends that is 12km long and 25 obstacles. Once these are complete it should be time to go back to athletics and get some races under my belt. So my training has always remained flexible and more tailored towards what’s coming up. Also trying to stay injury free is another battle. Knowing when to train hard then recover is key, especially the older you get.


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