18 things I learned in 2018

I saw someone else do a blog like this so thought that I would try it as well. This time of year often leads to self- reflection and introspection and for that reason I’m not a big fan of new year. In many ways I could consider 2018 a pretty rubbish year for me but, with a step back and a bit of perspective, I need to count my blessings again and realise that things have been ok and anything that has gone wrong can be turned into a positive. So, with that said, here are 18 things I learned in 2018.

  • Get regular eye checkups. Kirsty had been getting onto me for a couple of years about getting to the optician to get my eyes checked. Part of me always thought my vision was alright so there was no need for me to go. Another part of me was too scared to go in case they looked in the back of my eyes and found something wrong with me, pretty stupid, I know. Had I gone for a checkup earlier they may have noticed something was going wrong with my eye and I could have done something to stop it going wrong, then I wouldn’t be left with quite badly impaired vision in my right eye and the need for an eyeball injection every month. So yeah, get your eyes checked, you are entitled to a free one every 2 years if you are over 40 or in some other cases, check here for more information on this in the UK.
  • Don’t be scared of the doctor. Gee I was scared of the doctor. I’ve always suffered with a bit of health anxiety so when my eye problems kicked off and the consultant at the hospital told me to make an emergency doctor appointment that had me scared! I distinctly remember sitting terrified in the waiting room with Kirsty and then not even being able to speak properly to the doctor. I needn’t have worried though as he was great, reassuring, calm and kind. My only issue was a sky high blood pressure, in part explained by how worried I was feeling but easily enough fixed. I’m now in and out of the doctor more often for prescriptions etc and it holds a lot less fear for me now, doctors are there to help us and make us better, not to give us a hard time and shout at us, again, this is obvious for most people, not for me though!
  • Do not get your hopes up when it comes to Greenock Morton. I learn this every year but need to keep re-learning it every year as well. Summer was quite an exciting time to be a Morton fan. We had signed a few good players and got a semi-competent manager in Ray McKinnon. I even badgered Kirsty to get me a season ticket and stuck a bet on us to win the league. Fast forward to the end of August and our manager had left us for Falkirk. Fast forward to December and we have had thrashings off Ayr, Ross County and Alloa and the season ticket is feeling more and more like a punishment.
  • Drinking water is important! I was never a big water drinker until this year. It’s really good for you though and helps you to lose weight, something to do with the flush effect or something. In my new place of work there is a water cooler right outside my room, and a toilet as well, so I’ve no excuse for not drinking the water. Barrs’ decision to mess with the recipe of Irn Bru has also helped wean me off soft drinks and onto water, something I will definitely make an effort to continue with next year.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. I think this could be my most important lesson of the year. As I’ve alluded to in other blogs such as this one here , I was/am a massive worrier. Anxiety levels are always high and I know this can have a negative effect on my blood pressure etc. so I’m needing to make a big effort to try and rationalise my worries and look at them in context. Here I am, living in a developed country, with access to clean water, a roof over my head, plentiful food, a job and a healthcare system free at the point of delivery. Comparing the problems I was worrying about to others that people around the world have and that people around me are dealing with makes me realise that things aren’t so bad for me and worrying about things won’t change them at all.
  • I’m still not much of a hugger. When did hugging people become so popular? Hi, how are you? Here’s a hug. See you later, bye, here’s another one. Congratulations, commiserations, have a hug. Ha, I like the sentiment behind it and I appreciate it but don’t be offended if I offer an elbow or handshake back 😀 https://youtu.be/hN8CKwdosjE although watching that it’s hard to argue against hugs being a force for good!
  • Ask for help when you need it. This is something that I’m always saying to my pupils in work but it’s a piece of advice that, as adults, we don’t often follow ourselves. Whether it be problems at work, problems at home or problems our health, there is always someone who can help. Don’t worry about admitting to mistakes or vulnerabilities, learn from them and use them to help you grow and improve. Particularly men! We hate admitting weakness and vulnerability but we need to do it, help is only one phone call, text or conversation away.
  • It’s important to help each other and look after each other. There were a good few people that reached out and helped me this year and it made such a difference to me and, to kinda pay it back, I’m trying my best to offer assistance to anyone I think maybe struggling or whatever. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling, you should try it. Imagine how good a world we would live in if we kept checking up on each other and looked out for each other. This reads like the People’s Friend or a Hallmark card or something, but that’s ok, it’s true enough!  So, if anyone ever wants to go for a run or needs a hand with something or just have someone to moan at, then give me a try!
  • Do things, don’t plan to do them. I will need to take my own advice here because I’m an awful procrastinator but getting things done is the only way to be. This year I entered the London Marathon, in previous years I had only thought about it. I could launch into a “life is short, do things while you can” bit here but it’s been said a million times before by people wiser than me!  I prefer the whole “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, that way if you like it, you can do it again” way of looking at this.
  • Being grateful can totally change your mindset. There I was back in May feeling awfully sorry for myself and my lack of right eye vision when I decided to instead be grateful that I could see well out my left eye and lots of people would love to be in my situation, that transformed the way I felt about myself and is something I’m going to try and keep doing in 2019.
  • Cyprus is awesome. I knew this in 2017 but had it reconfirmed in 2018 in July.
  • Don’t take things for granted. Yeah, things like your eyesight and health, look after them.
  • Wash the bottom of the dishes too! Thought i better put this in to show Kirsty that I’m trying to learn! Also, related to this, check the washing is properly dry before I put it away and when I am asked to clean the toilet, that doesn’t just mean the toilet itself but also the bath, shower, sink, floor, mirror and little units in there as well.
  • I work with a lot of amazing people. I was lucky enough this year to work with a whole lot of new people and they have all been great. I could name a few people who have been brilliant for me this year but I’m scared of missing someone out but rest assured I’m thankful for all the help and support and laughs I get at my work, what a difference it makes.  Linked to this, I also have a lot of great friends who are full of kind words and encouragement and support.
  • You will get through this. Every person reading this has been through challenging times in their lives and they are still here, proving that whatever you are facing, you will get through it.
  • Breathe. When I was obsessing over my blood pressure and measuring it 8 or 9 times a day I noticed that a couple of deep breaths would take my blood pressure down by quite a lot.  It’s such an easy form of relaxation that I am annoyed I haven’t incorporated it into my daily life until now!  I need to watch though as too many deep breaths can make me feel light headed when I stand up!
  • Laughter is a great medicine.  I have had the good fortune to attend a number of comedy gigs this year.  Jason Manford in the few weeks after my eye went wrong.  Jason Manford is one of life’s good guys and had some really poignant words about mental health at the end of his really funny set.  We also went to see Jon Richardson and I went to see Rob Brydon with my brother.  Rob Brydon was the big surprise here, what a funny and engaging person, he was near enough the perfect gig.
  • People are good.  Yeah, most people are good, accept this and trust people and you will rarely be let down. If they do let you down that says more about their character than your’s.

Right, that’s the 18 but I have a few more bonus things that I learned.

  • De-clutter.  I always feel better after chucking out a load of things I no longer need.
  • A kind word can transform someone’s day, as can a nasty one.  This has been a big lesson to me this year.  I can totally over-react to negative things people say to me but, then again, maybe others could be hurt by things I say to them, even though I may mean no malice so I am going to try my best to choose my words really carefully this next year.  Also, when someone says something nice and positive, no matter how small, it makes me feel a million dollars! So, again, I will be making the effort to be as positive as I can with people this next year.
  • East, West, home is best.  This year the good people of Dunoon have helped me out as always.  In the summer it’s a great time for a visit when it’s sunny.  In the winter in a big storm it’s a great place to visit as well.  The people from Dunoon are great as well and loads of old friends have offered me loads of help with my marathon training and fundraising. The very fact that I had stones from the West Bay on the tables at my wedding to mark where people should be sitting shows the loyalty I have to my hometown.
  • Turn negatives into positives.  Hopefully people can see from this blog that a theme of my whole year has been turning negatives into positives.  Had it not been for my dodgy eye I probably wouldn’t be running the London Marathon and I would probably still be struggling at times without letting people help me out.  But that event back in April has radically altered the way I look at things.  Right now I feel fitter than I have since my teenage years and I am able to wear shirts without an “X” in their size again (well, maybe not just now after the Christmas excesses).

Anyway, that’s it,  I will maybe write another one of these tomorrow with 19 targets for 2019.  In the meantime, remember you can sponsor me for the RNIB doing the London Marathon at this link here.

Liz McColgan and a short training (netball) update

Hiya, first of all, a massive thanks to Scottish running legend Liz McColgan for answering some questions for me for this blog, it was really nice of her to take the time to do this for me and I really appreciate it.

Liz McColgan, or Liz Lynch as I first heard of her is a Scottish athletic great, alongside Alan Wells, Yvonne Murray and Tom McKean (have I mentioned before how much I loved that guy??!!). Liz McColgan first became known to me as a 10 year old boy in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games of 1986 where she won Gold in the 10,000 metres before repeating that achievement in Auckland in 1990. Liz McColgan then won Gold in the 1991 World Championships – a spectacular achievement. In between all this she also won silver in Seoul in the 1988 Olympics – that’s a remarkable collection of track medals before moving on to cross country and half marathons (world champion in 1992). Today the McColgan name is still prominent in athletics through the continued success of her daughter Eilish.

Here is a link to Liz McColgan winning Gold in Tokyo in 1991, a phenomenal achievement for a Scottish athlete and an achievement that would inspire many youngsters across the country.

Below are some of the answers Liz McColgan gave to some of the questions I asked her:

  • First of all, what got you into running? “I started through a PE teacher who put us on class x country runs at school and noticed my talent and advised me to go to Dundee Hawkhill Harriers where his friend was head coach. I started when 12”
  • What role does running currently play in your life? “Today running keeps me fit and healthy but most of all it helps me mentally , I have depressive tendencies and running for me is my pick me up , makes me feel good about myself and gives me more energy”
  • What was your most memorable race? ” World championships in Tokyo is my most memorable race as conditions were so tough and I spent 2 years specifically training for the race so to win and be the best in the world was amazing.”
  • What has been your most iconic running memory as a fan?Iconic running memory was Steve Ovett winning the Olympic medal over favorite Seb Coe. The race was amazing to watch and it inspired me to keep pushing boundaries and even though people might not see you as a winner the drive is within you and only you can make it happen”
  • Why do you think there has been such a resurgence in Scottish running in recent years? “Scottish Running is doing so well due to investment in coaching and clubs within Scotland that were put in place over 15 years ago ,investment where it matters ,we also support the individual athlete /coach pathways and now are reaping the rewards through amazing performances across the board”
  • Top training tip or advice you would give a slightly overweight man who may be going through a midlife crisis by entering the London Marathon? “My advice is be bold enough to start an exercise program and commit to it. Look at the balance in your lifestyle ,work, nutrition, sleep and keep it real, don’t put a limit to what you can achieve … most of all enjoy getting fit and do not put pressure on yourself to achieve a time just look to finish the race and being strong throughout”
  • How do you feel the resurgence in Scottish running at all levels will benefit the country? “By having world class athletics performances in Scotland means one thing motivation – kids are inspired and want to run and because they see result in their doorsteps they then believe more that they can achieve the same”

So there we go – some really interesting words from possibly Scotland’s greatest modern day runner, what an amazing insight she gave me. Talking about the mental health benefits of running as I did in a previous blog right here

She also provided inspiring words on her 1991 World Championship victory and some good sensible advice for the middle aged man going through a mid ife crisis (who may or may not be me!!)

Anyway, after all that excitement I have had a steady week training. I wasn’t feeling too well on Tuesday so had a night off. On Wednesday I played my first netball game in 28 years as we drew 13-13 against a team of pupils. Here is a picture of the glorious staff team, all gave permission for their photo to be used in this blog!

Staff netball team

It was actually great fun. We were a few points down after the first quarter but once we got the hang of things we pulled it back. Although the pupils did have a shot in the last second to win it. I played Goal Keeper, Goal Shooter and Wing Attack. The game ended with one of the opposition asking me “What the hell are you doing back here?” as I was in a bit of the pitch I wasn’t allowed to be in – it is hard to stick to where you are allowed to be!

Once I got home I headed to the gym to do a 10 minute warm up followed by 3 minutes of threshold running followed by 90 seconds of recovery. I had to do this 5 times before a 10 minute warm down. My threshold speed is 12 km/h but I may increase this next time as I felt it a little easy, and my recovery speed was 10.5 km/h.

Anyway, thanks for reading this far. If you would like to support me in my training and running of the London Marathon for the marvellous people at the RNIB you can do the following:

Text SMTR £1 to 70070 to donate £1

Text SMTR £2 to 70070 to donate £2

Text SMTR £3 to 70070 to donate £3

Text SMTR £5 to 70070 to donate £5

Text SMTR £10 to 70070 to donate £10

Or visit my fundraising page here

Alternatively sharing this page means a lot to me as well, it gives me a great boost when I see how many people read the blog and in what parts of the world they are in 🙂

Bye for now,

Stuart