After a short hiatus, a welcome return to our Meet the Members series in which we profile one club member. Well worth the wait as this week we hear from David Esler.
Q1. When and why did you first take up running?
In 2016 I was tipping the scales at 17 stone and I thought I needed to do something about it. I bit the bullet and signed up for a gym membership and I quickly realised why I had avoided the place for so long. I reckon I’m a motivated guy, but I really need someone to tell me what to do otherwise I’d never push myself enough to make a difference. I also didn’t believe the machines when I was nearly dying with the effort I put in and had only burnt off about 50 calories. I was going to the gym burning off a couple of hundred calories and celebrating by consuming several thousand. As luck would have it work were entering a team into the Belfast half marathon and one of the legs dropped out so I volunteered to step in. I had about 8 weeks to train for my leg (5 miles from Gideons Green). To this day I don’t know how long it took me, but I do remember having to walk some of it and feeling sick with the amount of jelly babies I’d eaten to fuel my run. The atmosphere on the day was brilliant, and something I wanted to experience again so the next goal became the Belfast Half Marathon in September.
Q2. What running-related achievement are you most proud of and why?
When I started running, I was signing up for everything and I discovered the Park Run. Getting up for 9:30 on a Saturday morning was probably the biggest challenge and I only did about 5 park runs in the first 2 years, but then I fancied getting one of those T-Shirts so I set myself a goal to reach my 50 milestone. It doesn’t sound like much but when you can only do one race a week it is a real exercise in commitment and consistency. I got to 50 just before Christmas last year and it was the most chuffed I had been completing any race.
Q.3 What is your favourite race and why?
After experiencing the Marathon in May the Belfast Half in September was the first race I’d put real effort into training for. Before the race I set myself 3 goals, 1, Get to the start line, Finish the race, complete it without having to stop to walk. Not goals that would trouble any of the greats but for me it is all about enjoyment. I also hit all those goals.
Q4. After we get through these uncertain times, what is your next big running goal?
My running goal hasn’t changed, it is all about enjoyment. I do have a different goal that does involve running and that is to complete a half Ironman. I completed the virtual distance during lockdown, the next goal is to do it on a race day. The run is the small matter 13.1 miles after having cycled 56 miles and swam 1,900m. I’m eyeing the Celtic Warrior in Mullingar in 2021.
Q5. What is your favourite workout and why?
It must be intervals. The Harriers do a coached speed session on a Tuesday night and I find it really does make a difference. Running around a cricket pitch might not sound like a lot of fun but it is one of the few sessions that keeps all running abilities in the same group. Having the coaches on hand also pushes me far more than if I was doing the training on my own.
Q6. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while running?
I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t been caught short on any long runs or God forbid on race day, probably in no small part to the advice the coaches and other more experienced runners at the club. The worst that happened me was training for the Belfast Marathon I decided it was too warm to wear a compression vest so just wore my race vest. Everything was grand until after it rained and my nipples chaffed for over 10 miles. Running through the streets of Glengormley and Belfast with 2 blood stained streaks down the front of my t-shirt wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as it was painful to get showered afterwards.
Q7. When and why did you join Mallusk Harriers?
After doing the marathon leg in 2016 I knew I wanted to keep the running up, I also knew I wouldn’t have the discipline to do it on my own so a friend at work recommended the Mallusk Harriers and brought me to a couple of the Tuesday night sessions. It was obvious early on that I’d get so much out of the structured session and the experience from the other members and coaches that I could make big improvements and not have to make all the mistakes myself. Being part of a big club also means there are no shortage of friendly faces when out pounding the streets in the pouring rain.
Q8. What have you learned most about yourself since you started running?
Mental toughness. Running is incredibly physical, but I’ve discovered, especially over the longer distances, it is just as much a mental challenge. I’m happy that I’ve been able to finish all the races I have started and having that constant internal battle can be the biggest challenge.
Q9. Outside of running, what is your favourite activity or hobby?
I love watching films and if I get a day off and peace, I can watch them back to back. 6 in one day is a personal record.
Q10. Name one club member that inspires you and why?
It is hard to narrow it down to just one person, the Harriers are a club and it is all the members that make it what it is. That said, it is all the work and organisation that goes on behind the scenes that allows us to have a functioning club at all. For me, the work Laura Campbell and Lee-anne Skillen do, on top of their real jobs and families, gives us all a club to call our own. Thanks guys!