A Memoir and A Farewell: Life is a raucous... - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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A Memoir and A Farewell


Life is a raucous journey.

My path has taken me all around the world, working with different cultures and managing different personalities. At the age of 29, I was living in south-east Asia, responsible for a £160M project. There was no rule book, no guidance, no mentoring, just dropped in the middle of a ridiculously complex undertaking with a project team and workforce (at peak) of about 300 people comprising several nationalities, races, religions and prerogatives with a remit to get it done.

In retrospect, I was too young for it. Not just the pressure, or the responsibility, but also the perks and the entitlement.

For the first year, I went in hard. A young captain at the helm, terrified of mutiny and in fear, applied the management model of 'The beatings will continue until morale improves'. This model only delivers results all the time you are stood imposingly behind a workforce, whip in hand.

I hate quote mining, but one that has stuck with me, from Henry Ford is "Quality is the work you do when no-one is watching".

I've learned that if you want people - anyone - to excel and to achieve what they're capable of, then they need to feel empowered. They need to believe in what they're doing, not follow instruction. They need to be given the right to make mistakes. they need to feel noticed and appreciated. Then and only then can you expect ownership and accountability.

That's the difference between managing and leading.

On this project, the contractor responsible for process pipe welding had a young fitter / labourer in there ranks from a notoriously poor province. Apparently was 18 (as per ID), but looked 13 and may well have been. The guys he was working with almost fathered him and taught him to weld. He was caught by a quality inspector welding a cap which formed part of the permanent works. On a CatA project, having an unqualified, untested welder performing any kind of works is a very significant issue.

He was pulled up in front of me, along with the contractor's site manager as part of and investigation that was led by the end client and my HSE and Quality managers. The signed and sealed outcome was to fine the company and sack the kid, and I had to swing the axe.

I fined the company, as it was a systematic failing of there quality systems, but didn't sack the kid. I personally paid for him to take welding exams and then after successful PQR's, I hired him as a welder.

I saw the weld that started all this. It was a bloody good weld.

I've spent a lot of time in areas of poverty, where child labour is prevalent. I started running football training in one of the local schools, one evening a week, and contacted my local team who kindly donated training kits, and then purchased the balance of equipment. I loved that time. At the other end of the spectrum, I've been first response to a fatality, and had a young man die in my arms when trying to carry him to aid.

I've had a colourful life and have achieved a lot. I hold this running lark up there as one of them; not for what it is, but for what it means. Winning a battle against myself.

Solving external problems is far, far easier than solving internal ones.

I've always had an arms-length relationship with fitness. I had my first cigarette at the age of 11, was a 'smoker' at the age of 15 and am 6 weeks into giving up at the age of 37. I played football for many years, but was never fit. Not to the standard required. I would ruck-up, often hungover, do a lazy-to-no warm-up, no warm-down, with 90 minutes over over exertion sandwiched in between. It progressively took a toll on my joints, particularly my left knee.

I had a childhood of beige dinners and left home at the age of 16 to fend for myself on a apprentice's wage, so a life time of poor nutrition to boot. I went from living on the border of Mongolia in -19degC daytime temperatures, where a bit of body fat comes in handy, to living in a sub-tropical high-30's degrees and 95% humidity where it naturally drops off.

My daughter was born in China in early 2017 and we all relocated back to the UK in mid-2017.

I found this forum in January 2018, shortly after seeing C25K on the BBC website and looking down at intermittent pink bulges of flesh protruding through the gaps between shirt buttons and thought maybe it's about time to take a sharp turn in attitude to fitness. Blood tests gave a damning report of cholesterol and previous ultrasounds of my liver (for job medicals) told the same story. Debauchery was starting to take its toll.

I've got a loving wife and 2 beautiful children that I would walk to the ends of the earth for. What they need from me is to be healthy. They need longevity. They need example.

Our back stories widely differ, as well as our respective journeys that brought us to this programme, but our reasons for taking up the challenge fall in parallels. In a broad respect, a mixture of dissatisfaction and ambition; and (I assume) in a lot of cases, a cocktail of shame and hope.

I don't precisely how I found this forum, but I vividly remember coming across a noticeable theme of posts, particularly from women, that (paraphrased) could only run in the dark through fear of being seen.

Interlaced between the typical progress updates and requests for advice for common aches, pains and injuries, there was a heavy undertone of stress and a sense of self-loathing.

It's pretty well known and established that humour is a healer. To be able to laugh and identify with anecdotal tribulations is a stress reliever. I write my posts in a conscious style of self ridicule and effacement in an attempt to blunt the edges of the stress and doubt that we all feel from time to time. Like publicly sweating and beetrooting for the first time since PE, or certain areas bouncing away like a dinghy in a storm, or being confronted by "professional runners", or feeling a bit pathetic.

Despite what I'd call a positive reaction, it seems that this isn't a good home for them.

Behind the veil of anecdotes and daft similes, here's what I truly believe:

Self-confidence is the most radiant attribute anyone can have. If you're running to lose weight, the confidence and sense of achievement that this programme can give you is worth more than a number on a scale. Look at yourself in the mirror with a sense of self worth, you will see a completely different person looking back.

Baseless fear is self-limiting and will lead you to clip your own wings. Don't ever be afraid to fail at anything, you will never reach anywhere near your potential. You have far more potential than your conscious brain knows. That partially evolved, instinctual lizard section of brain knows though. Listen to it.

Achievement is relative and no-one feels the weight of your battle. Don't compare and compete, this journey is between you and you only. It has been carefully constructed by people with vast expertise in the subject matter, but with the limiting factor that they do not know you, not like you know you. Listen to yourself.

Do not take criticism from anyone you would not turn to for advice.

All of the above is equally as relevant outward facing as it is inward. This is particularly aimed at the self-righteous keyboard complainers that do not have it in themselves to simply just move along if they find something not quite to their taste and feel that the world should look, speak and act like as per however their closeted existence feel is appropriate, depending on whatever mood they're in at that particular time.

Although I haven't graduated, I feel I've now finally got all the tools at my disposal to continue this journey as far as I want to take it.

For those who have found some enjoyment in these stupid little rants, I turn 40 on the 28th April 2023 and I have a goal. Keep an eye out when you're browsing around Smiths for something like Couch to Marathon. An idiot's journey. If you don't see it, the knee went.

Toodles, and good luck in your own journeys.

20 Replies

Let’s hope the knee holds out and you reach your potential.........best of luck 👍🏻


Sorry you're leaving the forum but I wish you and your family all the best for the future. I'll look out for 'Couch to Marathon'. Take care.


I take my hat off to you, sir! More power to your elbow. Hopefully it's in a better state than your knee. 😉


I've just recently found your posts and found themquite enjoyable so am sorry to see you go. Best of luck in your journey!


Sad to see you go, I’m going to miss your funny anecdotes. Best of luck on your running journey, I really hope the knee holds out n we all get to read about your journey in book form. Take care! X

Shame you are leaving the forum- only just found your posts and have loved them. No idea what has happened to prompt your decision but I for one have been hugely entertained by your posts. Almost as funny as the ShiteEventersUnite fb group - just in case you need a spur to action (see what I did there?).

Hope to see you back on here sometime to celebrate and share that week 9 / run 3 feeling of smug sweaty satisfaction. Xx


Oh I’m so sorry to see you go. I loved your posts - a breath of fresh air! Sounds like you enjoy a challenge so I’ll look out for your book 😆. Safe journey. You’ll be missed.


An evocative read Paul 👍

Ah man, this sucks, eggs and balls, big time 😠

Very insightful post there and much truth !

Good luck writing that book, I've no doubt you'll be a success, you're a very funny chap. I hope one day to be listening to that on audiobook, and laughing manically.

Adiós and keep that knee iced


Did I read that right? Couch to ...(big gulp) ... marathon? I can't wait to read the book about that!Good health to you, and wishing you great success in all you do 🏆🏅


Good luck Paul, always enjoy your posts 👍🏻


Adios Amigo, have a great life and I'll keep my eye out for the book 👋 🙂

Hi PaulSorry you are off. Has something specific happened to upset you?

I sometimes get hacked off with the orthodoxy (and recently got cross about something) BUT there is more good than bad on here (by about a million fold) and I would suggest you stick around. Enjoy the positive; ignore stuff you don't like and use the forum to improve your running.


I can’t read all of that but why, in a nutshell, are you leaving?


Brilliant, thought provoking writing. Just what I needed and nothing to do with running. Hope to read your book one day 😃


Exit, pursued by a bear. Come back when you’re ready.


Very best wishes, Paul. Look after yourself. I do hope you change your mind about leaving, or that you can feel ready to return after a break.


You have made some lovely points here, I will remember them! Hope to see more.

Paul, thank you for forwarding your CV, as soon as a new Super-Hero post becomes available we will invite you in for an interview. Seriously though, you have made (as always) some great points and have shown what sort of an inspirational person you are. Selfishly I will miss your brilliant posts, so urge you to re-appraise your plans to leave this community (just behave like a politician and do a swift180°). Please also put me down for a minimum of 2 copies of your book (one to read & re-read and probably spill/spray red wine all over, the other to 'keep for best') and can I have them signed by the author too. All the best to you for everything mate, you have certainly made your mark.


That's a shame.Your posts have shone a warm light into my darkness.

All the best for your new exploits.

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