I was a decent 400m and 800m runner at school. But because I played football every day of my life from as far back as I can remember, I was always running around anyway.
When I started my career at Preston North End, I didn’t see a ball for the first week of pre-season training. Instead we did lots of running but no more than 5-8km in one hit. My managers, such as David Moyes, were big on building fitness with running.
It was a bad back which finally ended my playing career in 2012. But running has actually helped me a lot as it doesn’t cause the soreness which playing football does.
My eldest daughter Elsie has Down’s Syndrome. That’s why I started supporting the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) 11 years ago and I’m now one of its ambassadors. I always said I would like to run a marathon for them once my playing career was over.
I didn’t ask anyone specifically for advice before I began marathon training. I know it sounds a bit corny, but I actually got it mostly from Runner’s World. I read the magazine and went online and picked up tips here and there from the experts.
I did my first London marathon in 2013. I was still very fit as I’d only retired five months earlier. But even though I could run a 10K in about 38min, I’d never run further than that distance.
I was delighted to finish in 3:14 on my debut. I was on for about three hours at the 20-mile mark, but then my legs gave in and I suffered in the last stretch. This year I clocked 3:38, again for the DSA.
I did lots of my marathon training with George Riley, the BBC Five Live sports presenter. We both live around Manchester and the long miles would slip by as we chatted away. I used to go out at 5am but now my media work schedule is so hectic I go for a run whenever I can fit one in.
Unlike my first marathon, this year I ran London without any headphones and I really enjoyed the crowds. I’ve played in front of loads of packed stadiums before, but the crowds at London were something else. And unlike at a match, the best bit was not getting any stick from them, just support.
I enjoy running as it keeps me fit and I can fundraise for the DSA too. I would like to one day maybe run some of the big city marathons likes of Paris, Berlin and New York.
Growing up in an Irish household in England, my running heroes are from Ireland. My inspirations were Eamonn Coghlan and Sonia O’Sullivan. I met Sonia at the Great North Run and she was lovely. I was actually really starstruck and asked her if I could have a photo with her. Only when she saw it on Twitter did she realise I was a former Irish international footballer!
I used to play music but now download podcasts instead. I listen to a lots of football shows so it’s combining a bit of research for my punditry work as well as running.
I did the Wilmslow Half Marathon in 2013 and got my best time of 1:26. It’s a nice flat course but it was tough that day as it was wet and windy. But a PB is a PB!
I love the running apps and my Garmin watch with all the stats it gives you about your run. It helps with motivation. I’m also tempted to get the new Apple Watch when my current GPS needs replacing.
If you would like to support the Down’s Syndrome Association by running for them, please visit downs-syndrome.org.uk