Runner Profile: Dan Gould (aka Shabba)

Thanks for the nomination Luke. That’s one I owe you….

Where to start? I guess there may be some newer members who have no idea who I am. Why would you? Covid changed my running habits and I haven’t attended a club night for several years now. A nasty accident a couple of years ago has also had quite an effect but more on that later.

Growing up with my younger brother Simon as a constant companion and best mate. I wouldn’t have called myself “sporty” at all. I was always outside though. My Grandad had a beach hut down at the Dip and we spent most weekends and school holidays in Felixstowe. Travelling from Ipswich and parking in Western Avenue to avoid the car park charges. We played cricket or rounders on the cliff top and swam in the sea as much as possible. As long as we’d waited an hour after lunch we were allowed in. We’d amuse ourselves for hours running around, climbing under the stilted beach huts and generally keeping as far away from our parents as we could, returning for food or drinks as and when required.

At school, I didn’t ever make a regular appearance in any football team (I was normally last to be picked) and took a few years to find my “crowd”. I’d got so used to spending time with Si, I didn’t really need or want any other mates. My Dad did some work for the local scout leader (whose wife was Akela at Cubs) and he suggested that it would be a good thing to get a young lad into. At the age of 8, I joined the 6th Ipswich cub pack. With my brother not old enough to come with me I set about making new friends. 

It was at Cubs that I met Darren Cook (Dazza) and we’ve stayed friends ever since. Cubs opened up a whole world of opportunities. I tried them all: rifle shooting, climbing and abseiling, camping, pioneering, orienteering. I even turned out for the Cub football team – Dazza and I were centre backs. But it was Canoeing that I really fell in love with. By now we were Scouts and I was spending almost every Sunday from Whitsun to the end of September going from Woodbridge to the Maybush and back or Brantham to Flatford and back, dependent on when the fishing season was as some fisherman had been known to throw stuff at the boats for scaring the fish away.

At thirteen I got a job as a paperboy and that meant cycling twice a day six days a week and a particularly long and heavy Sunday morning round. Without even planning it, the combination of the canoeing and the cycling led to a powerful set of shoulders and thighs for my age. As the only one of my mates with a mountain bike, I had to work extra hard to keep up with their faster racing bikes, but I never got dropped.

I left school at 16 and started a YTS at Midland Bank. I had to give up my paper round as I couldn’t get back in time to deliver the evening stars. As I’d got older I wasn’t just delivering the papers any more but also marking up the other rounds and then serving in the shop for 3 hours on a Sunday morning. I actually took a pay cut and had to do more hours a week! 6 weeks into my new “job” and with my activity levels decreased. I put half a stone on and I wasn’t comfortable with this at all. 3 bank managers all retired together and like a scene from a Christmas Carol, I got a look at where I was heading if I stayed on this path. One of them was heavily overweight, one smoked like a chimney and looked like he struggled to climb stairs and the third was a full on alcoholic, drinking every lunch time. It was so bad, the bank had to give him his own desk in a stationery cupboard to keep him away from the customers in the afternoons.

I needed to do something to get moving. I started attending keep fit and step classes with my mum and then stumbled upon cycle speedway. Those thighs and shoulders were soon put to good work and I had some success. Winning the Whitton junior club championship and being asked to join the Somersham and Ipswich teams. I met a few more future FRR’s through cycle speedway. Regularly racing against Dave Solomon, Robin Harper, Steve Shaw and a team mate of mine Vic Brooks. I loved this sport. It was fast, aggressive and filled with adrenaline. I joined a gym to get stronger and was soon training or racing 6 days a week. I won a couple of titles at local level. East Anglian under 21 and Suffolk under 21. My highest achievements being part of the British under 18 Team champions in 1991.

Which we followed up 3 years later by winning the under 21 version on a very wet day. The sport took me all over the country, even travelling as far as Poole and back in a day for a meeting. As the sport overall started to decline I was doing more of the organising. At one point I was groundsman, team manager and treasurer of Somersham. This eventually took the fun away. Trying to get a team to ride each week is hard work. My career was on the up and I was studying and working hard, so I eventually stepped out at 24 and got talked back a year or so later on the agreement that all I had to do was turn up and ride. It wasn’t long before I was back managing and more. I left the sport and sold all my kit so I couldn’t go back. I still regret that, not because I want to ride again but I had a lovely chrome bike that my Dad had specially made for me that would look great on my wall now.

I needed an outlet for all my energy. I was still hitting the gym 3 times a week, but that wasn’t providing the team camaraderie or adrenaline fix that I had gotten used to. With cycle speedway gone. It was at this point I really discovered beer. I was so dedicated to my sport and having appeared at British level and been tested for drugs, I wasn’t one to dabble in any substances at all. Even avoiding cough mixture or anything else on the banned list. I had the odd beer occasionally but you could probably count the occasions on one hand. Having ended my 2nd engagement, I found myself single for the first time since the age of 11!! (There’s a couple more chapters about this, but that’s not the brief!) I reached out to Dazza again and we started hitting the town regularly. One of my mates played football for Powergen Reserves and they must have been short one week. Before I knew it I was playing on a Sunday, this is where Dan Shanks, Steven King and Luke Whitwell enter the story. By my own admission, I had no real football skills but what I lacked in skill, I more than compensated with in fitness, speed and strength. I either played left back, or up front in the “headless chicken” roll as Kingy called it. Causing chaos up front, intimidating defenders and clearing the way for the ones with real talent to score!

This lasted 3 or 4 years. As a team we had success winning the reserve team cup in the 2004/05 season but then I snapped my cruciate ligament during a game. My football days were done.

I never had it operated on, choosing instead to do all the rehab and keep the muscles around it strong enough to hold everything in place. Part of the rehab was running, so I started short and slow. Jogging along the river for half a mile then heading home. I discovered a five mile loop around the river, but it would be about 2 years before I made it all the way around without walking. Running with my two Weimaraners became a regular habit. I could run in a straight line fine, but twisting and turning was no longer an option. Dazza contacted me as he wanted to do an adventure race called Tough Guy. I agreed based on his description of “a bit of running between obstacles” that I should be good at as I was a regular gym goer. We headed off to somewhere in the midlands and threw ourselves around a huge obstacle course. I struggled with the running, but loved the obstacles, the mud, the competition and the challenge.

Having survived that he went on to tell me he had been competing in a relatively “new” sport called triathlon. He suggested that as I was now running and had form for cycling, if I could swim as well, I might be alright at it.

My first event was at Braintree. A Sprint distance: 400m swim, 20k bike and a 5k run. I recall him asking me on the start line if I’d trained for the swim. I replied, I last swam on holiday last year but figure if it’s a choice of swim or drown I’ll make it!! I survived and found another way to get my competitive and adrenaline fix.

We started training together each week. Often leaving a car at Kyson point at Woodbridge and running back to Ipswich through Fynn Valley with my two dogs Archie and Louis. Then Dazza and I would jump on our bikes to cycle out and collect the car. This led to our team name. We passed the same people each week. Each of us with a dog in hand. We joked that we looked like a couple and christened ourselves Team Pink, even entering races under the team name. By now we were competing in triathlons or local running races wherever we could find them. The distances were getting bigger. We’d done sprints at Wattisham and Braintree, a duathlon at Alton Water, Olympics at Clacton and Middle distance at Dengie. In order to increase our triathlon distances, we were entering Friday fives regularly. The Great East Swim and local cycling sportives like the Suffolk sunrise.

In 2009 Dazza suggested we were fit enough to cycle home from Wales. I had just had my first child Fraser, so money was tight to say the least. I explained to him, I fancied it, but cost was the issue. Without hesitation, he told me not to worry about. He was paying hotels anyway, so if I shared with him, he’d pick up the majority of the tab. With no more excuses and my long suffering wife, Terri’s blessing, we jumped on a train to Cardiff. There was no plan at all, just cycle as far as we could each day. When we felt we’d had enough. We’d swing over and Daz would look ahead to the next town and find somewhere to stay. All we had with us was a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops to find a pint after a day in the saddle.

I think we made it to Bath on day one, having crossed the Bristol channel on the original Severn Bridge. I was hooked. It’s a great way to see the world. A leisurely pace, stop when you feel like it. Have a beer, then move on. All the time chatting with your mate. The next day we hit our first sign of trouble. We’d been following the M4 corridor, but having spotted some little blue signs in Wales we had taken to using the National Cycle Route 4. This seemed a good idea in the days before Garmins. Navigation was taking a lot of daylight up. Following a pre arranged route was quicker, but it also took you the quieter traffic free route and an awful lot was along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Around Reading I got my first puncture. No problem. A quick change and we were off again. Only to puncture again a few miles later. This went on and on. I suffered a total of eight in the back wheel. Couldn’t figure out why. Our friendly banter being replaced with Dazza getting very narky with me. We had now used all our spare tubes up and darkness was setting in. We’d even stopped at Halfords in Reading to restock but burned through those in no time as well. I made it to Slough. At the hotel finally in the warm and with a decent light. I realised the tyre had failed. It wouldn’t matter how many times I changed the tube the tyre was the issue. I admitted defeat and phoned my Dad. He drove down and collected me not long after I’d waved Dazza on and he cycled along the Thames into London. His own journey home wasn’t smooth either though, but I’ll let him tell you that bit.

After that we tried to get away on a lads bike tour once a year. We have travelled from Morecombe Bay to Cambridge, done the C2C from Whitehaven to Newcastle, Carlisle to Coniston for a planned lap of the lake district, then back across to Newcastle. Even a whole lap of Wales to name but a few. As the years have gone on the riders have changed but the vibe is always the same. Cycling, banter, laughing and enjoying a beer. We tried to work it so we’d finish in a big city or somewhere decent for a night out.

In 2012 Dazza announced he was taking on Ironman Bolton. I declined his invite stating I wasn’t ready for that yet. My furthest run being the Felixstowe half marathon. A full marathon seemed a ridiculous idea. Especially after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride! He finished and said he was going again in 2013 at Nice. I agreed to join him as did Luke Whitwell and Vic Brooks. It was suggested we ought to join a running club to maybe get some guidance. Up until now, we’d been self taught. Pretty much winging everything we entered and muddling through. I felt I needed some kind of coaching to get me through the Ironman distance. We looked at Ipswich Tri club, but I was put off by the need to always wear their club kit whilst racing and training. I saw this an additional expense I didn’t need to take on. I think they may have relaxed the rule now.  Vic was already a member of FRR and suggested we go there. It was cheaper than Jaffa, and we could cycle down and use it as a “brick session”. Vic said that Dave and Robin were members and so I’d know at least a couple of faces when I turned up. I joined in November 2012. My first session was taken by Richard Farnworth and he had us running laps around the block as quick as you could with one road as recovery. This I had never done. I’d just been going out for as long as I could until I had to walk. What a revelation!

Everyone was friendly and I was introduced to the resident triathlete Adrian Hine, who was interested in what we’d been up to without being part of a club. Before long Tuesday night training and shower club were regular fixtures in my calendar.

For the past few years, I’d been entering events and using them a stepping stones to bigger longer distances. This Ironman was no different. I had a middle distance triathlon in 2012 which I’d finished in just under 6 hours. Surely doubling the distance just meant doubling the time. Darren had managed just over 12 hours at Bolton. So I thought it was on.

How naïve was I?

I set about entering stepping stones to the big day. Bungay cross country, Colchester Half Marathon, Bungay Half Marathon, Suffolk Sunrise (100 miles on a bike), Great Bentley Friday five, Dengie Middle distance Tri, Edinburgh Marathon and then Nice Ironman. What could go wrong?? I mean, how hard can a marathon be. Everyone had said Edinburgh is downhill and then flat. So much so, that you couldn’t use it for good for age. I had this!

Most people I meet have a fear of something that stops them from making bad choices. I on the other hand believe I can do anything until it’s proved that I cannot. As you can imagine this has resulted in many different outcomes over the years.

One Tuesday night at Club, I got chatting to Tim the treasurer. I asked him how long there should be between running marathons? His reply shocked me a little. Everyone he’d met did one a year and that was it! I had three weeks to recover between my first ever marathon and taking on my first ever Ironman. Crickey, this could be interesting. We’ll see. I’d always trained hard and found that made the racing easier. If I put the right amount of effort in, I’d get through it. I was sure of it.

Edinburgh was a blur. As ever we tried to do it as cheap as possible. Choosing to fly up the afternoon before, stay in the cheapest B&B we could find right by the start pens and jump back on a flight shortly after we finished. I got round in 4:14. Disappointed it wasn’t sub 4. That seemed a good time from my research. But hey ho I was still walking. It was a stepping stone anyway. I wasn’t in full race mode. We hopped on a flight, still in the gear we’d run in. Got picked up from Stansted and went straight to Isaacs still proudly wearing my FRR race vest, race number and with the medal around my neck.

Nice Ironman – Lets just say it didn’t go as I’d planned. Not because of my fitness level. That was ok. I had bike problems. My best part of an ironman and it took me at least an hour longer than I thought it would. I finished in 13 hours 13 minutes. Well over my 12 hour target. Competing alongside Luke, Darren and Vic made it a great day though. I think we all learnt something from that weekend. I now had unfinished business with Ironman.

The sheer cost of an Ironman plus all the other events I was doing to build up to it stopped me from taking it on again for a few years.

Instead, I threw myself into local racing and ticking that sub 4 marathon off. Somehow, I’d been successful in the London Marathon ballot for 2014. With the help of clubmates, I threw myself into a training plan for that. Dan Shanks had got in as well, so we started running regularly together clocking up the miles and stepping stone events. Great Bentley half, Colchester half, Wymondham and Essex 20’s. For our boys bike tour that year, we opted to cycle from Paris to Ipswich. Our chosen night out was Brentwood. The Sugar Hut was on our radar and that was the plan. I’d picked up that the Brentwood half was on the Sunday. So why not do that? A Saturday night taking in the Brentwood nightlife, about 400 cycling miles in our legs and smash a half marathon out before sitting in the pub all afternoon and cycling on to Ipswich on the Monday. Pleased to report I PB’d the half. In fact, I think we all did! April came and both Shanksy and I had bad days in London. The sheer number of people had caught me out. This isn’t the course to go for a PB on. The atmosphere is great but certainly where I find myself in the running field there are too many people about. I finished, but unhappy with my 4:32 time.

FRR held a celebration marathon meal soon after London and Shanksy and I hatched a plan to pop over to Milton Keynes and have another go. The training was done. It was six weeks later. I’d proved the previous year that I could cope with multiple long distance events. Let’s have a go. Another disappointment. 4:16 this time. Gutted.

Later that year, Dazza and FRR threw another event in my direction. The Thunder Run. Simple concept. Run as many laps of 10k as a team as you can in 24 hours. Only one person at a time is allowed on the course. You have to literally pass the baton. We got a team of five together. Originally, Luke was running but he pulled out and in stepped Michelle Gordon at the last minute. I knew of Michelle, but this was the first time I’d spent any real time with her. What an athlete she is! The rest of the team was Dazza, Dave Solomon, and Magic (Simon Merrick).  We done well. I mention this event because at about 2am, whilst running through the woods alone with a dead headtorch. I was chatting to myself and realised that whilst I wasn’t a great runner. I did have a determination to never quit.

Thunder Run marked the start of Endurance running events. Whether it was laps of a set course or sheer distance, I was interested.

In 2015 I entered Brighton marathon. By now an avid listener of the marathon talk podcast. I purchased the Pftzinger and Douglas book entitled advanced marathoning. This was my ticket to sub 4! I set about following the plans 5 runs a week, over 18 weeks. Distance increasing, speed work towards the end. I’d never followed a programme, so thought I’d try it. I found I liked the structure. Once in my diary, all the thinking was gone, I just got up and did what I was told. By sheer luck I was pulled out of the FRR hat for London. It was two weeks after Brighton. What to do? A group of us were heading to Brighton. That would be a laugh and no doubt involve my favoured post race celebrations! But London again. Too good an opportunity to pass up. 5 minutes of thinking I announced I’d be doing both. Besides, my book had a recovery programme to get you from one marathon to another. Although it did state that anything under 4 weeks you were on your own. I’d target Brighton for sub 4 and enjoy London. Last year’s horror was still very much in my head.

Brighton – 12th April           3:56:25 sub 4 and a new PB!

London – 25th April             3:56:59       34 seconds slower.

London had been 800m further than Brighton (according to my garmin) so the training had definitely worked.

I’d also formed great friendships with everyone that raced down in Brighton. We still meet up regularly and our Whatsapp group (The A Team) is one of the most supportive I have. You need mates to get through life. I think I’ve got some of the best. All have been met through exercise.

One of the Brighton gang is Lucy Sheehan. She was social secretary back then and I offered to help organise a Christmas run that year. The FRR pub crawl/treasure hunt was born!! When she stepped down after a couple of years. Dazza and I took over. We were both keen to put something back into the club that had given us so much support. We were also keen to try new stuff. The one mile beer run being one of them.

Look, if you’re still reading. Thanks!!  This must be turning into an endurance event of its own.

All in all I’ve managed 10 stand alone marathons. SVP 100, Top Grun, The Lakeland 50. 4 Middle Distance triathlons and 2 Full Ironmans. I also won HR24 Mixed Pairs with Gail Mackie. Realising that recovery was just as important as running, we took turns to do 3 hours on and 3 hours off. Supporting my longer distance endurance FRR mates. I walked around the Lakeland 100 route twice (once with Maverick).

The club has assisted me in all of these. Training with others makes it so much easier. In 2018 I went back to Ironman. This time in Barcelona. Ian Duggan and Adrian Hine were also in. We trained all year together. Making the whole thing so much more bearable.

I finally got sub 12. In fact, we all did. Despite all being very good at a different discipline. We finished 8 minutes apart. It was the icing on the cake!!

After that I eased up a bit. I was suffering health wise and didn’t really know why. Eventually discovering I was gluten intolerant in July 2019.  Now following a GF diet, my niggles all cleared up and I was feeling stronger again.

In walks Covid! I managed my final marathon the week before we all got locked down. The Moyleman. Look it up, you’ll love it. No medal. Just a pint glass full of beer as a reward at the end (they let you keep the glass as well).

I lost my race mojo during covid. I got comfortable running my newest Weimaraner, Maverick around the town and doing it to stay fit rather than really compete. When we could get back to racing I stayed away for a bit. But then in 2022 I entered the Great Bentey half and got in shape for that. My real target was the Tarpley 10. I’d never trained for a 10 mile race and simply wondered what time I could achieve.

The universe had other plans and despite being on form I suffered a nasty injury to my right eye on the Friday night before. Whilst securing stuff in the garden, the elasticated bungee slipped and hit me directly in the eye. It pierced the eyeball and I knew instantly I had lost my sight. Instead of racing around Tarpley, I woke up in Colchester General unable to see from my right eye.

The surgeons did a great job and successfully stitched the eyeball up. 7 stitches so I was told…

The fact I was in great shape actually aided my recovery. I have manged to keep my own eyeball. To start with it was suspected it would die off, shrink and need replacing with a glass one. I put this down to staying fit and healthy. The endurance stuff helped as well. You spend a lot of time talking to yourself in a marathon, ultra, ironman or 24 hour event. I found myself doing this a lot. I was also dealing with a lot of pain. I had a headache for 6 weeks. Terri asked if these were coming and going. When I said no, they were permanent she looked shocked and concerned. Over the years, I had grown comfortable being uncomfortable. This was now paying off. The headaches were simply a result of my left eye doing all the work. The extra load causing the discomfort. I’m self employed as a financial adviser so I was back at work on the Monday doing what I could, albeit in a reduced capacity.

This was a very tough time for me. I had no idea if I’d be able to run, swim or cycle again. The doctor wouldn’t let me exercise for fear of increased blood pressure damaging the healing eyeball. I had to sit out for 7 weeks. I’m pretty sure that was the longest ever period of inactivity I had endured in my lifetime.

Eventually I was allowed back on my indoor bike, then gentle running, even swimming. No heavy gym stuff for a while though but I slowly built myself back up. With the help of Helen Duggan – she got me moving again without picking up an injury. I now start every day with 10 minutes of Pilates.

I’m definitely not the same man I was. I suffered with PTSD for a while but seem to have that under control now. I am swimming regularly and cycling. Running alone is fine, but I’m not very good in crowds. The thought of mixing it with large groups of runners quite frankly terrifies me. Not because I’ll get hurt. At 102 Kilos I’m quite a lump. As my consultant said, you’re not the victim are you? I often accidently knock other people out of the way. Just ask Terri. She has the bruises to prove it!! I wouldn’t want to wipe out a runner who’s trained hard or training hard for an event just because I didn’t see them.

I did go back and do Tarpley in 2023. I asked the A Team for help and Michelle Gordon answered the call. She ran the whole race right beside me so I couldn’t bump into anyone else. It was epic and proved to me that I had gotten over it and got my fitness back.

The ironic thing is my eye may have saved my life. I was struggling with it and the daily eye drops I was taking were due to end in May. I stopped taking them every other day but couldn’t put up with the pain. I got back in touch with my consultant who agreed to see me at the end of his clinic. At about 4:45 on Wednesday 17th May, he removed 2 stitches that had been “overlooked” and were causing me the problem. He went on to enquire about my exercise regime, recalling that I was one of his fitter patients. I told him I was back swimming, cycling and running and in fact I was off out that night with my mates for a cycle ride. He suggested I miss it and not exercise at all for a full week. The stitches had grown over during the last 15 months and he had had to literally dig them out. He explained this would make the eyeball extra tender and sensitive and resting it for a week would be for the best. I left his office and let Dave, Dazza, Gripper and Ben know I wouldn’t be joining them for the ride but I would see them at the pub later. I’m sure you all know the rest.

Ride London was booked for the end of May. For me this was going to be a huge challenge. Not the distance, I knew I could do that, but cycling in huge groups was worrying me to say the least. Michelle had entered and agreed to stay with me. She was building up to Ironman Barcelona later in the year. So the miles were all going to help. The other guys that were supposed to be doing it with me had just been involved in Ben’s accident. We were all devastated. I couldn’t pluck the courage up to ask Dave and Gripper if they were still going to ride it. Ride it they did. The whole day was incredibly emotional. We rode for Ben and I knew I had to get through it because he no longer had the choice to do it again. The FRR Peloton was brilliant that day. Shouting out if I had anyone on my blind side. Telling me it was clear on corners. Just generally looking out for me. Towards the end of the 100 miles. I was feeling great. I’d eyed up a piece of dual carriageway on the way out and decided I was going to light it up on the way back. I slid in at the front of the group. Gripper and Dave had spotted what was going on and knowing that I have form for this kind of thing (Gripper calls it the Shabba train). Head down, big gear, I swung down the ramp and into the fast lane, we shot past literally hundreds of riders. Shaun Good, Flash and the rest hanging on to my wheel for dear life. Felt great. I ticked another box off in my head.

Best Race

Manchester Marathon in 2016. FRR Peloton working together. Lucy Sheehan, Dan Shanks, Kev Whelan, Gail Mackie and I paced ourselves around doing a mile each on the front. I knocked 10 minutes off my PB and I haven’t got anywhere near it since.

Worst Race

Benfleet 15 2017. Wet, muddy and I was injured. Probably shouldn’t have started but refused to DNF.

What’s next?

I’ll be 50 next year. To celebrate I’m swimming the channel as part of a relay team. The usual suspects will be with me. Dazza and Michelle along with an old school friend (and very good swimmer: Tom Wright). We’ve got a boat booked and are swimming regularly. Starting to worry about shark sightings and jellyfish invasions but if it was easy everyone would do it. Right?

Ride London is in the diary again and I’m sure there will be other stuff thrown in. I’m just grateful to be fit and healthy and intend to keep that up. Enjoying time with my many likeminded mates along the way.

Next month’s nominee

With a swim coming up, for next months profile I’d like to nominate Felixstowe’s Mayor, my swimming coach and now an FRR member: Seamus Bennett.

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2 Responses

  1. TimmyD says:

    Brilliant read Shabba

  2. Erika says:

    Loved reading this!