Well as I sit here writing what seems to be my first blog in quite awhile, (to be fair, it is), I do so with a sense of real contentment tinged with sadness as the festive holiday season draws to a close and a return to normality awaits.
A couple of weeks ago as I headed into this break, I did so with one desire; to switch off. From all things that were not family-related. Of course, there are things that go alongside that in terms of hobbies and interests, but essentially, I wanted to make the next two weeks centre on Ethan and Gemma, and spending time doing things together at such a special time of year.
It is very rare in my line of work, that annual leave is met en-mass by virtually the whole organisation. Whilst I work in education, I do so for an organisation that remains open all year and does not conform to the term-time closures most related organisations do. The Christmas holiday period though is different; mandatory shut down days, coupled with the bank holidays and a ‘skeleton’ workforce on the odd days inbetween means that the emails dry up, phone calls stop and everyone has a good break without the worries of what is happening whilst you are on leave. I have written previously about how I have found this to be a challenge at time; not so at any festive holiday period. It really is a time to switch off.
And so, I wanted to capitalise on this and make the absolute most of the time with my family; uninterrupted, and to maximise time with Ethan. I have cut back on running substantially in order to be present more at times of the day when I am normally not and have sacrificed hobbies as I wanted to share things that normally I don't always manage; breakfast time, getting ready for the day, early morning play. The things that really matter.
We have played quizzes, board games, doctors surgery and sometimes had a treat with some early morning tv. We have had days out at Winter Funland in Manchester, the cinema, local parks, swimming, golf, family occasions and I have been there every night at bathtime and reading time and been the last person Ethan has seen before he has gone to sleep more than ever.
You can’t buy that time. You can’t get it back, and at times when you have the opportunity, you have to take it. That’s my opinion anyway, and I have loved every single second.
So...what now...what does 2019 hold?
Well, 2018 was quite a year. I started off with a 12 in 12 personal challenge and ended with having competed in 13 events in the year, completing 2 ultra’s and helping to raise over £1000 for charity in the process. Plus, of course, since February, have had Running Dads developing as an online community with now over 4000 followers across 4 platforms.
The growth has exceeding all of my expectations. I set a target in February of 1000 followers by Christmas. It’s fair to say, that this was smashed! I have had such fantastic support from the running community; dads and mums; those without children; those that run for pleasure and those that run to compete; those that have lost their mojo and those that are active in promoting fitness and trying to help motivate. Running Dads has daily engagement via social media, a host of guest bloggers, and have a number of Official Supporters and contributors who host their own page on the website. With a Roger Black and Yiannis Christodoulou as our Official Ambassadors, it really did push through any of what I thought was possible.
As well as this, other key moments in the development to-date are nominations for the Running Awards and UK Blog Awards, contributing to the Marathon Talk Santa Sack competition, guest blogs for Runners Need and Sports Tours International, invitations to the Goodwood Running Festival, Vitality Big Half and Blackpool Music Run (coming up in 2019) to represent Running Dads and to run with a team of dads from across the country and being welcomed in the Racecheck Visor Club and becomming an Ambassador for SportsPass. It really has been a special year.
People often ask me about Running Dads and who is involved in the day-to-day. In truth, it is me in terms of the day-to-day engagement, with a host of blog contributors and running dads who host their own page on the website on an ongoing, regular basis. This is what it is all about for me; engagement, sharing expertise and opinions an helping eachother in whatever way we can.
I have made a point in the last 10 months that engagement with the community is key and I honestly try to comment and reply to everyone who tweets/tags via whatever social media platform. It means the absolute world to me that there is a community out there that wants to do so and it is only through your engagement that Running Dads has gathered momentum and has a demand to continue to progress.
It was good though to take a little break from Running Dads over the holidays; to take stock of what has been achieved and to align the 2019 plan with something more unique than what else is out there from dads that run. I want to capture the imagination of you and to keep that focus that this community is you. It is all about engagement; every day, however possible.
The big plans are to remain true to what has been successful so far and to build on aspects of Running Dads such as the Running Dads Takeover, community blog and the themed pages.
Alongside these though, the Runningdadathon is a key part of the plans and things are moving well towards beginning to register for this event, and I have a number of ‘public appearances’ at race events with the Running Dads merchandise planned - including a fresh colour scheme and new additions.
As noted above, I am also proud to be able to take a team of Running Dads to the Vitality Big Half in March to raise some much needed funds for a local primary school, Manorfold Primary, and plan to do something similar at the Blackpool Music Run on Father's Day. I have the London Marathon and Manchester Marathon lined up in April and although this year won’t see a 12 in 12 challenge, it will see me surpass some of my previous personal running achievements in otherways and the further development of Running Dads as it continues to evolve in a unique way.
There are a couple of other things too...I just can’t reveal too much at this stage. But it is significant in the direction of Running Dads moving throughout 2019 and beyond.
So, happy new year folks! Let’s make this a good one; the best yet. And keep this community growing.