Author: Leg3nd

My marathon journey

Andrew Smallwood running the London Marathon

On Sunday 29 April 2019 I was one of 35,000 people who ran the London Marathon. Everyone has their own special reason for running and I am no different.

Some may be running to support a loved one, others may be running to remember someone. 

I didn’t run for anyone. For the first time in my life, I’ve been completely selfish. I ran for myself.

But this was far more than just a 26.2 mile run. It was far more than the 359.2 miles that I did in training and it was far more than the three half marathons I did in the 12 months leading up to the marathon.

This journey started on 18 October 2017. It was three months since I became separated from my wife. Three months of not sleeping in my own bed, three months of barely seeing my dog and also followed a period of being under immense pressure at work. It was my first opportunity to get away from things and go visit my parents in Florida.

At this point in my life I could have gone one of two ways. 

I could have gone off the rails, turned to alcohol, eaten loads and lost my way completely. Mentally, it would have been very easy to slip into that lifestyle.

Instead, I woke up at 6am on that first crisp morning in Poinciana, laced up my old battered running trainers, plugged in my headphones, played Joli Mai by Daphni and ran into the morning sun.

Andrew Smallwood running in Poinciana

I got lost. Both physically and mentally. 

Having been to Poinciana many times before I thought I knew where I was going, but the streets all look the same and I took some wrong turnings. But those wrong turnings took me on a new path. I got lost in my thoughts about who I was, where my life was going and what should happen next. 

It took an hour for me to run 6.6 miles and find my way home as the Florida sun rose but it set me on a path to continue running; primarily for the mind rather than for physical fitness.

I started to realise that the main reason to run was to give my mind a break. 

To think. 

To switch off. 

I can’t underestimate the effect this had on my mental wellbeing and it’s the reason I continue to run. 

Shortly after returning to the UK, I signed up to run the Hackney Half Marathon and I ran for the charity CALM. This gave me a sense of purpose and the choice of charity was very apt. 

Team CALM

CALM stands for the Campaign Against Living Miserably and it raises awareness about male depression.

The biggest killer of males under 45 in the UK is suicide

Read more at The Calmzone

This is a shocking fact and it needs to be highlighted so more people are aware and more people talk about it. But I understand the stigma around talking about it. Because I never have. 

This is my first public admission that I struggle. 

I’ve never got close to the ’S’ word and I’ve never been diagnosed with depression but I’m very self aware that I have had a cloud over my head over the 21 month period since my untimely separation. It’s not only a recent thing, I’ve consistently had periods of being down over the past 20 years and I’ve never been able to explain it.

It’s more than just having a bad day. It can sometimes last weeks and months at a time. But life goes on and you have to put a brave face on things, especially at work where you need to be seen to be resilient, even though you may not be.

So what do you do? Well, I continue to run.

It gives me time to think. It gives me time to switch off. It helps me sleep at night and hey, I can fit back into some clothes that I thought I’d never wear again too!

I said at the start of this post that I ran for myself. That’s a bit of a lie.

I officially ran for NSPCC and have raised about £3000 for them.

But more than that, I’ve run for everyone that has supported me throughout this testing period of my life.

  • For the colleagues at work who have always invited me out for a drink and a chat.
  • For my new friends in London who are always there to help me look after Slinky.
  • For my childhood friends who keep me going with every WhatsApp message I receive.
  • For my sister and brother-in-law who gave me a place to live when I had no where else to go.
  • For my parents who are always on the end of a FaceTime call.

The road to the marathon has been long.

But after conquering London it feels like it’s the end of the first act of my life. The second act starts now…

Training the marathon route

London Marathon

At times I like to switch up my training route to keep it fresh. Sometimes, not knowing how long you have to run down a road until you see the street you need to turn left at, keeps you guessing about how long you have left.

At other times though, it’s really important to tread the same route, especially if you are tracking your pace, or if you know the elevation of the route. It means you can gauge your pace accordingly.

Research of the WWE Network

Reimagining the WWE Network

The most important part of my project to reimagine the WWE Network, I undertook some user research. 

Yes, my brain is full of ideas of how to make improvements to the WWE Network but some of the more crazy ones need to be validated by the WWE Universe.

I set up a questionnaire and seeded it out on various wrestling related Facebook Groups and Subreddits. 

Marathon breakfasts – Porridge oats

Overnight oats ingredients

I’ve slowly been compiling my marathon diet having been given an initial framework to work from. Since then, I’ve been breaking it down into the different meals so here’s what I’m concentrating on for breakfast.

This may sound crazy but at the age of 35 I don’t ever remember eating porridge! And on my first morning of following the instructions of making porridge, it exploded in my microwave so I spent more time cleaning than I did eating.

Then I remembered a friend of mine had mentioned overnight oats. Having researched these on websites like BBC Good Food and the Quaker Oats website, I set about making my own overnight oats with my own recipe.

Reimagining the WWE Network

Reimagining the WWE Network

As a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment since 1993 and a subscriber to the WWE Network since 2017, I feel compelled to reimagine the way the WWE Network functions.

The main reason for this project is to spark discussion in the community and raise awareness to the WWE that although the WWE Network is a great start, it drastically needs to be updated with new functionality in order to increase and retain the subscribers.

It will also demonstrate my skills in Digital Strategy, Product Development and User Experience Design.

This aims to be constructive criticism and hopefully throughout, I can engage in useful conversation with like minded fans of this unique artform and ultimately if some of these ideas can be built into the WWE Network, then it will have succeeded to retain me as a subscriber.

The project will include:

  • A white paper
  • A keynote presentation
  • Periodic blog posts
  • Public roadmap (Trello)
  • Designs
  • HTML prototypes

This is the first in a series of blog posts but it also serves as a call to action. The best UX projects put the users at the heart of it. It’s an approach called User Centred Design (UCD). 

I’d appreciate if you fill in this quick survey and share it amongst your friends, facebook groups and wrestling forums. I’ll be giving away three WWE Network gift cards.

My marathon diet plans

Bananas unsplash-logoScott Webb

I may have stated that getting the right trainers was one of my number one priorities for marathon preparation, but I neglected to identify the most important tool I’ll need to get round the marathon route; my own body!

It’s not just training that I will require to get around the marathon route but months of commitment to a strict diet will also need to be followed.

I’ll be planning this out over the next few weeks but I’ve been lucky enough to get a framework sent to me by one of the fittest people I know. Robbie Smythe.

The following guide was passed onto me by another marathon runner too (Robbie Hutchinson) so I know it works.

The general guide is as follows but I’ll be expanding more on the specific meals I’ll be making over the next five months too.

Sir Mo Farah answers the challenge

Andi vs Mo Farah

After months of texts, tweets and phone calls from me, Sir Mo Farah finally decided to take up my challenge and race me over 26.2 miles next April.

BBC Sport reported the news this morning and it was a relief to me because I thought I’d be running around London on my own next April but at least I have the comfort in knowing that I’ll have a four time olympic champion breathing down my neck.

Marathon training starts now

Andi Smallwood at Royal Parks Half Marathon

As ever, I applied to run the London Marathon. I need to do it just once. I need the lump of metal that you get at the end of it just to say that I did it.

It’s getting harder and harder to get in as more and more people apply. A record 414,000 people applied to run in the 2019 London Marathon.

Just like many others, I got my rejection in early October.