I Only Bloody Well Did It!

So yesterday I completed my first (and most likely last) marathon. What a feeling of joy and relief as I crossed the line – fantastic!

My marathon weekend started on the Friday with a trip to collect my race number. I took Sam with me as she really wanted to be part of the weekend. To be honest I was a little disappointed with the exhibition, but we had a nice stop for lunch in arundel en route back.

I managed to take it fairly easy on Saturday and even sat at the football to save my legs. Sam cooked the evening meal which was a nice treat and also delicious. With advice of – keep hydrated, but not alcohol – ringing in my ears, I only had one large glass of wine with my meal. Then after watching a film (Blood Diamond – quite good) off to bed. I almost don’t know why I bothered as I barely slept. I knew , and had known for some days, that I should have deferred my entry as my chest infection hadn’t cleared up properly, but I had said I would do it and to be honest couldn’t face not doing it – both letting people down and having to train again next year.

So Sunday, race day. An early start with me switching the alarm off at 5:05 as I was fully awake and there was no need to wait for it to go off ten minutes later. I went through my usual pre race routines which mainly involve going to the toilet between every other task! Then off to meet Catty.

Catty turned up promptly at 6:15 with Dazza already in attendance. So we set off to Brighton. Little traffic on the road meant that we made good time and got to the queue for the car park with ample time in hand. At this stage I could feel that another visit to the toilet would be beneficial so after parking up and getting the bus to the start area, my first stop was the toilets. I have to mention how clean and fresh the toilets were, really well done by the organisers.

Now I had a good hour to kill before the start. We wandered around the park and then I spotted the Headway chaps and stopped by to say hello and get a photo with them. Next, off to the MS Society chaps and another chat and photo. The MS guys gave Catty a little MS flag which proved to be helpful for me spotting them around the run. About 20 minutes before the race I left Catty and Dazza and went off to join my start pen – for the first time for days I felt all of my nerves disappear.

The time really dragged until I heard the starting horn, we cheered, got ready to move, then nothing! About 5 minutes later the leading bunch of elite runners went past us – they were in their second mile and we hadn’t even moved. Eventually we did move and about 15 yards from the line I ditched my hoodie. As I crossed the line I even got a high five from Paula Radcliffe!

The first mile includes a hill which was far longer than I anticipated, but no major issue. It was also lifting to get a cheer from Catty and Dazza as I went up the hill. After going down the hill I started to get into a rhythm, it was helped by following four young ladies running together as it stopped me going off too fast. The first 5 or 6 miles were around the city centre and passed easily enough. After this we headed onto the seafront away from Brighton. Fortunately the weather forecasters were wrong and the strong winds and rain didn’t materialise. But we had another hill to climb, not too bad but I hadn’t anticipated this part to be so hilly. After the hill, I progressed steadily but as we neared Ovingdean I started to struggle with my breathing. This at about only 8.5 miles was quite concerning, but I kept going and tried to get my breathing more controlled. As we turned at Ovingdean we headed back along the seafront towards Brighton. It was also into the breeze and that really hurt my breathing. I slowed down but kept going keeping in mind that I have easily completed half marathons in worse conditions than this. I passed Catty and Dazza at about 12 miles and they could tell that I was struggling.

The next couple of miles were hard, but then as I got through 14 miles I struggled even more. This time to the extent that I considered retiring from the race. For the next four miles or so I had mental arguments with myself over whether to keep going or do the sensible thing and retire. I knew people would understand and be supportive, but I really didn’t want to give in. I thought a lot about Sam during this stage and that really helped – she has refused to give in so I wasn’t going to either!

As I moved towards mile 19 I had a chat with a chap called Joel, he was struggling too but we both agreed that there were more miles behind us than in front so we would succeed – and I believe I saw him finish as I waddled off towards meeting Catty and Dazza after the end.

We now headed onto the seafront and away from Brighton towards Shoreham and it’s power station. At last a landmark to head towards. That raised my spirits and I continued. As I neared the power station I passed the 20 mile mark and knew that I would finish; not with the time I wanted but I would finish!

That is when my right knee started to hurt. It became so painful that I forgot how bad my breathing was. But then I turned for home and could see Brighton pier – ok, still another 5+ miles to go, but I could see the finish. I blocked out most of the crowd at this stage as I concentrated on moving forward towards the finish. As I went under the Team Panda bridge I felt a surge and it really lifted me as I knew there was very little distance to go.

As the pier got closer so it was easier. As I passed the 400 metre board and could really see the finish line I started to become quite emotional. Then I saw Catty and Dazza cheering me from the side and I got even more emotional, I was almost there, I had almost completed a marathon! As I crossed the line I kissed my wedding ring, thought of Sam and shed a tear or two!

I don’t know how to describe why I set out to do this but I guess that it was to in some way show support for Sam. I don’t know if this does that or not, but I have managed to raise a few pounds en route. Of course, if you haven’t sponsored me yet, it’s not too late just click here and give what you can.

Thank you

Thanks and an Apology!

So today I picked up my race number from Brighton. One more day then my big test. I don’t truly know if I’ll manage it, but I know I’ll try my best. I do have one concern, and that is that I might forget to thank everyone, so to remove that worry I thought I would give my speech early!

I’ll start with Catty, very kindly once again providing the transport to and from the race as well as adding her support – thank you. Dazza next, for being a training buddy as much as you have and also lending your support on race day – thank you. Also Stig, not quite so much running from you (lazy sod) but very supportive always – thank you.

Next, the lunch time loons! If you listened to our lunchtime conversations and us verbally abusing each other you would be missing the support that they all give – thank you chaps. And Tracey, you are more a chap than several of the others ;-)

A big thank you to all of those people who have put their hand in their pockets and sponsored me, it is really appreciated and it is all going to two great causes.

My last thank you is to Sam. She has been supportive throughout, put up with the inconvenience but more than that, she has supplied the inspiration – thank you darling, love you x

Lastly, the apology. To Lucy, our lovely little doggie – sorry for the shortened walks and even for those I had to cancel, normal service will be resumed soon, honest!

So Sunday 9:15 is start time. Dread and fear are mixed with excitement at the moment, hopefully Sunday or possibly more likely Monday I can tell you how it feels to run a marathon…

Late injuries – but defiance!

I realise that I haven’t blogged for a while, but there are reasons! I have had a few trials and tribulations that have made me doubt whether I would make the start line let alone complete the marathon!

A quiet January gave way to February and all was going slowly but fine, nowt to see here, move along please. Then, just towards the later stages I arranged an 18 mile run with Steve and Dazza.

I worked a route that would start and finish at the office. Steve was to set the pace – I have issues where I go off too fast! It was a fantastically sunny spring day – sadly! We set off and all was fine until we hit the promenade. Everyone had decided that they would go for a walk – sorry amble. We struggled to find ant space, people really are oblivious to others – I’m alright jack, sod you! Anyway, as I tried to avoid others I managed to twist my back. I carried on but I soon slowed to a walk rather than a run, whilst I told my colleagues to continue without me. I managed to complete 15 miles before being collected by Dazza, not the morning run I had planned and it wrote off the next weeks training.

So a fortnight later, unprepared I lined up for the Reading half marathon. I had a plan for this, run at 10 minute per mile pace as that would represent a good pace for the full marathon. The race went really well and I finished in 2 hours 12 minutes, almost exactly the pace I wanted.

So ok, a week or two behind schedule I was into my longer runs, but that would be too easy. I planned a longer run and then two days before I go – I get bronchitis! No running that weekend.

I spoke to colleagues who have run marathons before and am advised to have an easy 5 miler followed by another half marathon then a 20 miler and I should just complete the marathon. So as advised, last Friday I went for a 5 miler, just I was enjoying myself so I ended up running 10! Then last night I went for my half marathon run (13 miles) and ended up doing 17.5 miles.

So now I am looking forward to Monday evening and a 20 miler. Then it will be the countdown.

I am scarred, but I will complete it. I look at Sam and just feel inspired, she really is fantastic.

I’ll leave you with a request, if you can spare a pound, or even more, please sponsor me here

Thank you

Sam, 3 Appointments and Fatigue

So far I have used this blog to keep people updated on my progress as I prepare for the Brighton marathon. But this afternoon I thought it would be good to share how Sam has been for the last couple of days, after all, she is the reason I am doing this!

One of the symptoms of both multiple sclerosis and stroke victims is fatigue. As Sam has ticks against both it is difficult to blame one or the other for her fatigue. However, she does suffer.

Thursday morning and Sam had to get up for a 9am blood test – not that early you might think, but for Sam it meant getting up an hour earlier than her alarm goes off and quickly getting dressed then going for the blood test and having a shower and more importantly breakfast. This was very tiring for her so the afternoon was bed for an hour or two. She then had an early night to prepare for Friday.

Friday was her four weekly Tysabri infusion. This involves going to Southampton General and being ‘wired’ up for an hour and a half to enable her MS drug to be pumped into her. The good thing about this is that the drug appears to be working and almost as importantly, she sees the same people each four weeks and it is almost more of a social gathering than her treatment session!

They are a very friendly bunch and make us both laugh but also make you realise that you aren’t so special or different and others are going through the same things as you are. I should also mention how good the hospital staff are – they have been fantastic for Sam right from day one.

Anyway, back to fatigue! The infusion is very tiring for everyone – even I come away tired! We try to leave home at just after 10 o’clock and we get home at about 2. Sams routine is to get home, have a cup of tea, then disappear to bed until 5 ish. Sadly this week Sam was more tired than usual, so although she got up and we had our usual treatment tea (fish and chips from the chippy) she was not herself. She was suffering from fatigue. So another early night ready for Saturday.

Saturday, and Sam had a MRI scan. Again at Southampton General. Her appointment time – 8:30am. So a very early start for her. I had bought a pre-prepared fruit pack so she could have something to eat en route. It was a fairly short appointment, just 30 minutes. We stopped off en route home to get some fruit and veg in Stubbington, and even had a treat of breakfast in the bakery. We were home by 10:30. Off Sam went to bed. I left her to rest, even going for the run I blogged about yesterday! She got up at about two for some lunch. I then went out for an hour or so and Sam went back to bed.

When I got back at about 5ish, Sam was barely awake. She sat in the lounge whilst I watched some football, again barely awake. She managed to come to for dinner and then to watch a film (Drive – very good.) but then at about 8:30, that was it, she needed to go back to bed, she was exhausted.

Today. She woke up at about 9:30, said good morning then fell asleep again! She managed to get up at about 11 o’clock and we popped out so that she could get some fresh air for an hour. Now, she is back in bed.

Throughout these couple of days Sam has not complained once. She has apologised for being no fun. She has also apologised because we couldn’t go to Owens little bash last night. And that sums her up, never complaining and always concerned at how it affects me. Fatigue is one of the two key issues that Sam has, the other being vertigo, more about that another day.

Well, we are back to the usual routine tomorrow and Sam has nothing planned for two days so hopefully she can rest and recover from what has been a very tiring couple of days.

91 days to go…

Yes, tomorrow will mean there are only 90 days or 13 weeks until the big day. I have started to really consider how well prepared I am, and until today I was getting quite concerned!

December had been a poor month for me. To be fair, I think that December must be a difficult month for most runners – poor weather and lots of parties and visiting. This meant that the number of runs I did was quite reduced. And since Christmas I had run only three times, each a short distance and each with some difficulty.

So today I set out with an intention of running for just six miles or so, a small increase on my post Christmas runs. However, today I hit my stride and decided to turn right rather than left and doubled the run distance. It felt very good! In fact, if it wasn’t for me already being an hour late to see someone, I do believe that I would have taken another wrong turn and carried on till hitting 15 miles rather than the 12 I did.

So my target of 15 miles by mid January now looks very achievable; 18 miles by the end of the month, just as achievable. So my concern is now much reduced, however, I do still realise how much more is required. The jump up from 15 or 18 miles to the 20’s will very, very hard indeed. But I shall complete this challenge!

If you haven’t already, read about why I am doing the Brighton marathon here

Woo Hoo! Tights for Christmas

Yes, I am truly pleased as Santa gave me some running tights for Christmas. He (or should that be she) also gave me gloves, shades, socks, jacket and a watch – so I am now fully equipped for the coming months when I have to crank up the training schedule.

I gave most of the gear a test run yesterday and was very pleased with it all. However, the idea behind the watch was that as it shows my pace I would stop setting off too fast – great plan but sadly I ignored the watch as I thought it must be wrong. It was showing 7 minute 30 per mile pace and it was only when I got home and checked against the iPhone app that I realised that yes, the watch can correctly display the pace! Fortunately it was only a four miler prior to Sams parents visit so no harm done, but I need to learn to use the watch to slow down and pace myself for the longer runs that are coming up.

My run yesterday was the start of what will become a more intensive training schedule. I have mentally set a few goals; complete a 15 mile run by the middle of January, 18 by the end of January, 20 by the end of February and. 22 or 23 by mid march ready for a taper prior to the marathon on April 6th. I am also going to run more often now; at least twice a week but more often three or hopefully four times most weeks.

With January just a few days away I shall also be starting my drive for sponsorship, after all that is the main reason for doing this!

Enough ramblings from me for today, I will just wish you all a happy new year and remind you that you can sponsor me by following this link

Training with an Olympian – well sort of!

As I blogged back in September, one of the great things about running is that unlike many sports, you can go where the professionals go.

This weekend that was hammered home when I turned up to the Netley Parkrun. I thought I recognised one of the runners before the start – could that be Iwan Thomas, Olympic medal winner? When I checked twitter, yes it was him!

Could I play football on the same pitch at the same time as Beckham – no; play rugby with Wilkinson – no; play cricket with … well, I don’t really follow cricket, but you probably follow my point! Not only can running be cheap, but also very inclusive.

So how did I do in comparison – who cares, I ran the same course at the same time as an Olympic athlete! (as it happens over the 5km, he beat me by 6 1/2 minutes!)

One of the things that struck me though, was that here was an Olympian just turning up to a free run of a Saturday morning like the rest of us with no special treatment or airs and graces – all credit to him.

He is probably doing it for different reasons to me, but that is the wonder of parkruns. I am trying to prepare for a single run, he is possibly just doing it for fun!

The parkrun was only my second run since the Gosport half marathon, my knee followed by the usual hassles of life meant that I hadn’t run for two and a half weeks until I went for a solo run on Thursday.

Solo runs will be the order of the day more and more as I step up my training towards the Brighton marathon in April. I think that these solo runs will be when I discover whether I can complete this challenge; however, with Sam as an inspiration, I won’t give up easily – after all, she hasn’t!

If you want to know about the challenge and the whys and wherefores, then have a read of this blog entry and if you want to, then please help me raise money for the MS Society and Headway by sponsoring me here