I’ve never been ‘sporty’ or overly athletic. As many of you know, I’ve had a 10-year saga with my body, seeing me half my body size and weight. As I’ve done this, a new love for exercise and sport has become part of my life. I’m still working on my fitness and body goals, and it’s been pretty tough. After busting my ankle in last October I was out of training for months and lost a lot of muscle tone in my right leg. After months of physio I was back in the gym but something was missing; I’d lost the love of being there. The weight I’d put back on left me downtrodden and unmotivated and I was struggling to get back on it.

One thing my blog has opened me up to is the opportunity to take part of sporting activities I never thought someone of my history would do. My overweight 16-year-old self  would never have thought this was in my future.

Back in April that I got the chance to be part of the founding group of the new Nike Miler initiative. With the goal of helping people find their fast, the new programme works around various training events to help people achieve the fastest mile time possible.

All of the training has led up to one final event – an event that has probably been one of the most incredible things I have ever done – the chance to run a mile on one of the most famous tracks in the world: the Olympic stadium in London.

The lead up to the final run began with nutrition training over breakfast with the Nike team, lead by Food Therapist Eve Kalinik. Eve ran us through what to eat and drink before the run – focusing on loading on fuel for the run and what to have after for recovery. It was great to see that the nutrition plan I already had in place was right on track.

Up next we had short shake out run to get us in the mindset for our challenge. Lead by some of Nike’s master training and Olympic legend Steve Cram, we ran around Regents Park before heading back for food and a pep talk from Team GB Sports Psychologist Jennifer Savage. I felt comfortable on the run, but it was the first mile run I had done since April as I was doing a different type of training. My injured ankle was tender, but held out and I ran strong. But I was going to make sure I was taped up for race day. Jen gave us a rough guide to dealing with the track mentally, as well as how to run it. We also found out there was going to be an audience! So all mental help we could get was needed.

  1. Get out quick, but don’t blow your load off the bat
  2. The first lap is about settling in and getting the pace
  3. Steady-as-you-go for the second lap
  4. Start moving into position on the third, keeping a steady pace
  5. When you hear the final bell, it’s time to fire on all engines – it’s gonna hurt but it’s one lap

On race day, shit got real. We turned up at the athletes’ hotel where we got our kit, including our Nike Air Zoom Vomero 10 trainers, and a casual talk from none other than Mo Farah – who is so unbelievably tiny! Like seriously, no part of him gets thicker than my thigh. I was getting so incredibly nervous talking to the other runners, many from sporting and fitness titles who had countless runs under their belt. I knew I was going to have to work twice as hard to keep up. I aimed to keep up with the 5:40 pacer – for my last run I ran a 5:58 so I was hoping to come in under.

Steve Cram and Mo Farrah

After eating lunch with the competitors (it was amazing and inspiring to see all of these other men and women at the peak of physical conditions) we boarded the bus to head to the stadium where we got ready and warmed up. We snuck out onto the track too to get a quick look – GULP. It was all getting pretty intimidating.

The Science of appearance Nike2

We lined up on track and my heart was pounding; we were on the giant TV boards being filmed, out names literally up in lights. My mind was racing: ‘Where do I run?’, ‘Over to the inner lane?’ ‘What if I hit someone?’…

Anniversary_Games_GunTime

BANG!!

Shit! The gun went! I bolt off the starting line strong and I’m with the front of the pack, everyone crams in, heading for the inner lane, and I panic a little and drop back. I had a strong pace for the first lap, but as we hit lap two I could feel myself cramping, most of the other racers were gathering ground in front of me and pacer was moving further away.

I started to over thinking everything, I was panicking. The whole idea was to race ourselves, but you can’t help but try and keep up with the group and I was pushing too hard. I could feel my spirit waining and my legs slowing. I was looking around, trying to take it all in.

I was in the fucking Olympic Stadium, I thought. Get a grip. This is the dictionary definition of ‘once in a lifetime’ and I wasn’t going to let it slip into negative thoughts and self-chastising. The crowd were great, it was just people who had popped into the track early to see the stadium before the evening events, but they got into the spirit and were cheering us on. It totally fed me, and I made the decision to just run, I was going to love and savour every second and just as hard I could and just finish.

6:20 on the clock as I hit the finish line. My muscles were full of lactic acid, my heart was pounding in my throat and my skin was shivering from excitement.

It was tough pill to swallow, I had convinced myself that I could run sub six minutes again. But I shook off those feeling quickly. I thought, ‘this is just the beginning of finding my fast’ – From here on in I would work harder, train longer and smash the hell out of that 5:40 time.

[tweetability]”Goals are dreams with deadlines.”[/tweetability]

Diana Scharf says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines”, and I do agree, but I also strongly believe that if a goal isn’t achieved by the deadline it doesn’t mean the dream is over. It means you adjust, reassess and try again. It’s so important to not give up. If you make the conscious decision to achieve something then that’s all you need. No matter what happens, the up and downs, you’ve made an agreement to do something. Don’t betray yourself.

A massive thanks to the guys at Nike for this incredible experience. I am truly thankful for the inspiration and motivation you have given me.

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Written by Neil Thornton
London-based coffee drinker. Editor by day, blogger by whatever time he finds spare.