Steve’s flying high in final strides of marathon charity challenge

IF someone had told me six months ago I’d be limbering up and making final preparations to take part in one of the world’s biggest running events, I’d have laughed in their face.

When it came to fitness and going to the gym, I was more of a two weeks on: two months off kind of bloke.

I played football on a Sunday briefly (and often hungover), but was a self-confessed binge boozer and would happily pass over a punnet of strawberries for a plate full of strawberry cheesecake.

Running a mile or two was a slog and just looking at a treadmill made me break into a sweat.

So when the opportunity arose to apply for a charity spot running for the East Anglian Air Ambulance in the London Marathon a couple of months before Christmas, I don’t really know what possessed me to apply.

It’s always been an ambition of mine to reach that level of fitness to run a marathon while I’m young enough for it not to hurt too much, but five months to go from couch potato to 26.2 mile runner seemed a tall task.

And when Boxfit supremo Dave Coard, who has kindly been helping me with my training, came into the office with the first of four monthly training schedules, I was convinced I wouldn’t be around to see April 17 - the six day a week training plan would be the death of me.

But Dave, who, as a veteran of two Lanzarote Ironmans and 10 marathons has survived far more strenuous challenges than mine, knows what he’s talking about.

So, for the last four months I’ve been pounding the pavements of Luton, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and the surrounding countryside, braving wearing shorts in sub-zero temperatures, enduring endless laughs and heckles from passing cars (thanks for that – gets funnier every time), and generally trying my best to stick to Dave’s training plan.

After a couple of weeks three or four miles still seemed a killer and it felt like a real push building up through six, seven, eight miles to my first half marathon over the next couple of months.

Part of my training has been to attend Dave’s circuits classes in Bushmead where I’ve struggled with my fitness nemisis – press-ups – and a stomach-ache inducing number of sit-ups (core strength is very important for endurance sport apparently).

Another element has been to attend what Dave calls his Saturday morning “brick” session – so called (in my mind at least) because your legs feel as though someone has beaten them with a brick afterwards – a gruelling two hours of spinning, running and hill endurance sprints.

But when Dave put me through my paces on my first 20 mile outing earlier this month, I was pleasantly surprised by how my fitness has drastically improved, I actually felt vaguely athletic and completed the route in under three hours which i was delighted with. The aches, pains and blackened toenails seem to have paid off.

The men’s world record for the marathon is a pacy two hours five minutes – a time far beyond even my wildest dreams.

I’ll be lagging behind with the mere mortals and those dressed in fancy dress somewhere further back, but I’m still hoping I’m fit enough to shave a fair few minutes off the average London Marathon time of four-and-a-half hours, but we’ll see.

Whatever happens on the day, the EAAA is a fantastic cause, entirely funded by donations, and I’m proud to be raising as much money as possible for the charity.

> To sponsor Steve and support the EAAA log onto http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SteveNolan. Steve is also holding a charity fundraising night at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital Social Club on Saturday night at 8pm, for tickets contact 01582 798557.

> For more information on Boxfit log onto www.boxfit.org.uk.

> For more information on the EAAA log onto www.eaaa.org.uk.

>To watch Natalee Hazelwood’s video report of trainer Dave Coard putting Steve through his paces log onto www.lutontoday.co.uk.