On Sunday 23 April 2017 I ran/walked/plodded 26.2 miles around the streets of London, to raise money and awareness for MS. Here’s my blog about getting to the start line, my journey through months of training, lots of warm-up races, and about the reasons why I was raising money for Multiple Sclerosis.
It’s daunting just how far this distance actually is, but your help and support will really make all the difference (honestly!!). In 2015 I ran the Leeds Half Marathon for MS and raised a staggering total, to which I am beyond grateful to each and everyone one of you. Running double the distance will be hard, but your support will get me through, just as it did last time!
Scroll down for updates of my journey to the start line, or jump to an update by clicking below.
• Week 9, Great North Run Smashed
• Week 12, I love moaning about being injured
• Week 13, unlucky for some, but not for me
• Week 17, #SmashTheDash
• Week 19, Sorry, what’s that again?
• Week 22, A wee competition…
• Week 28, Three Months to go!
• Week 31, Happy Valentines Day, runners!
• Week 32, Two months to go!
• Week 36, May I borrow a few minutes of your time…
• It’s done, it’s over!
Why on earth am I putting myself through all this…?
You may know that my wife has been diagnosed with MS since the age of 15. She is incredibly brave and battles with this unforgiving disease on a daily basis, rarely complaining about it to other people. All I can imagine is that her life must be like running a marathon, just on a daily basis – just think how hard (and ridiculous) that would be.
MS is the most common neurological disease in young adults with people usually diagnosed in their 20/30’s. There is currently no complete cure for MS, but medication, lifestyle changes and support from others can greatly help to manage the symptoms.
MS-UK is one of the many fantastic charities set up to help people living with MS. They are a national charity dedicated to empowering people with multiple sclerosis to make the most of today, and live life to the full. They provide both support, advice and help to those effected by the disease.
My journey so far
Here’s how I’ve been getting on so far on my journey to the start line.
07.05.17 – It’s done, it’s over!!!
Months and months of hard work, several new pairs of running shoes, kilos of pasta and a small fortune spent at my local physio, the marathon is done and dusted.
It’s been two weeks now since I ran, and I’m still trying to take it all in and realised what we have all achieved. I say we because between us, we’ve raised over £3500 for MS-UK, and that’s the real reason why I was putting myself through all of this. I’ve been truly blown away by the generosity of everyone, and I know that the charity are also extremely grateful for every penny raised. The London Marathon is MS-UK’s biggest annual fundraising event, where they look to raise around £250,000 – enough money to keep the charity running for 6 months.
I cannot thank you all enough!!
The day itself was incredible. It’s one of the few moments in your life where you can feel like a famous sports-star, with 1 million people lining the route to cheer you on. People calling out your name and willing you to push that little bit harder. It’s an amazing feeling, at least it is in your mind. For your body, a marathon is really as hard as you’d imagine – 26.2 miles is actually quite a long way…
The day started well. Some porridge in my hotel room before I skipped off to catch the train to the start. I bumped in to some other runners on the way and got chatting (a further reminder about how kind, generous and friendly the running community is). When we reached Greenwich common, I met up with the rest of the MS-UK team and had the obligatory pre-race photo, before queuing (again, and again, and again) for the toilet.
The course was busy. Much busier than i’d bargained for, and it meant finding my stride difficult. Early on I knew that my 4hr time target was out the window, but I didn’t care. I quickly realised that the London Marathon is about much more than running a quick time (I’ll save that for one of my 2018 marathons,watch this space). It’s more of a carnival for runners. A huge mass gathering of like-minded individuals who just want to have a good time and raise some money for charity. I think that’s much better than trying to run quickly.
I had plenty of support out on the route, with my uncle & cousins at Cutty Sark, another cousin and friend at Canada Water, and Annabel and my mum & sister at Tower Bridge. I glided through the first half of the race in just over two hours and felt on top of the world! My cheering squads reassembled in to new locations for the second half of the race, as well as getting to see my charity cheering spots for the first time in Canary Wharf. What a boost that was for me, especially as cramp had just start to set in!!
Cramp – something I’ve never ever suffered with before, so why would it choose to rear its ugly head now at mile 17 of a marathon *unhappy face*. There’s no point in sugar-coating it. It was bloody awful, and made the final 90 minutes of race race very very hard. But as I’ve already said, the crowd support surpasses every negative thought, feeling and emotion, and I push through! We got back in to the city, and in the distance I could see Big Ben. It was nearly time to knuckle down and smash out the final miles.
At this point I knew that what ever happened, I WOULD be finishing this journey. It was an overwhelming feeling. The crowds kept building, and getting louder and louder with each and every step I took.
Finally, the moment that surely every runner dreams of, turning the corner in front of Buckingham Palace and seeing The Mall open out in front of you… need I say any more! A rush of adrenaline, fist pumping, shouting out loud to yourself. It’s over, it’s done!
Getting through my first marathon was hard, but the whole thing was made just that little but easier with the help of a few people!
• My wife, friends and family – all of you have had to endure my constant chat about running as it engulfed my life for several months. Thank you for being quiet and patient whilst listening to me bang on…
• My physio, Tom Robinson at Excel Sports Clinic, keeping me physically in check, and offering some fantastic advice when my body was falling apart.
• The wonderful running community on #UKRunChat. If you’re a runner of any ability, log in to twitter and get involved! A like-minded community of runners there at the click of your fingers to offer help, support and encouragement when it’s most needed.
• The ever energetic Mike Phan with his daily emails! I wish I had the time to invest in Mike’s running programme in York, but nonetheless, his daily emails (EVERY SINGLE DAY) mentally kept me in check. Lots of thought provoking information to keep me motivated. I’d encourage you all to subscribe.
• Finally, the team at MS-UK, and all the fellow MS-UK runners. The staff at this charity do incredible work to help people live their lives with MS. It’s been a real pleasure to raise money for them.
Here’s my review of the VLM I left on Race Check
Wow, this is a bucket list race for so many people, and I feel completely privileged to have had the chance to run this event.
One of the leading races in the world of running, and it certainly lives up to its expectation. A huge carnival with a massive range of runners and tons of support on the route. If you get chance to do this race, you absolutely must. There’s such a buzz around the event, high spirits, and it really epitomises the running community. Everyone’s there for the same reason, to make the most of it, and enjoy THEIR moment of glory.
The support and information from the London Marathon team itself is brilliant. Clearly worded instructions get sent out before hand, so you’re left in no doubt as to what you should be doing. The logistics of the day are well thought through, and it makes it all super easy both before and after the race. When you cross the line, there are a team of super helpful and welcoming volunteers to greet you – you get the medal hung round your neck, rather than getting it in your finishers bag. That’s really cool!
A couple of gripes however…
The expo was hell on earth. I had to go on the Saturday due to work commitments during the week, which is understandably going to be the busiest day. But it really was the last place you needed to be the day before a marathon. Is there really not another way to distribute race numbers without the need to cart all the runners off to the Excel to pick theirs up?
The other issue is about the course. It’s crowded – like REALLY crowded. I trained hard for this race, and knew I would be able to run close to 9 minute miles like I had managed in training. However, the busy nature of the course meant that I was surrounded by runners in all directions, making it impossible to overtake people safely without have to weave in and out all the time. I tripped in to people, and got tripped in to on several occasions during the whole race. I understand there’s high demand for this race, and as such, the race directors will want to offer as many places as they can, but I can’t help but thinking 10000 (yes, 10000) fewer runners would have made the day that little bit better for those fortunate enough to be involved.
Having said all this, and reflecting on the day as a whole, I don’t actually care. It was such a special occasion, and the relentless support from the crowd for the whole 26.2 miles outweighs any negative thoughts I have on the race.
This is one race you need to do. Would I run it again? Yes, in a heartbeat!!!
23.03.17 – Week 36, May I borrow a few minutes of your time…
…to tell you about a young, innovative and forward thinking musician?
Born in 1945, Jacqueline du Pré quickly shot to fame as one of the finest British cellists we’ve ever seen. She was elevated to celebrity status, something of a rarity for young classical musicians in an era where rock n roll was king. She established a busy career as both a concert soloist and recording artist, being hailed for her flawless contemporary interpretations of the repertoire.
But it all came tumbling down at the age of 26. Numbness set in, and she began to lose sensation in her fingers. It became so severe that in 1972, she was forced to take a year out from any form of playing. Despite returning in 1973, it was clear that she had lost her ability as a performer, and the negative reviews of her playing forced her in to early retirement.
Du Pré had developed Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that results in incorrect signals being sent to and from the brain. As a musician we heavily rely on the ability of our body and brain to communicate with each other; our arms to hold our instruments, our fingers to play our instruments, and the ability to think and adapt quickly in pressure situations. MS strips you of all of these things, and so for du Pré, at the age of just 28, her dream career was forced into an unplanned and abrupt ending.
Despite many people considering it to be something you develop later in life, Multiple Sclerosis is actually the most commonly diagnosed neurological disease in 20 and 30 year olds. Over 5,000 people get diagnosed each year in the UK alone (that’s about 14 people per day).
This is why on the 23 April 2017 (one month today), I am running the London Marathon in support of a fantastic charity – MS-UK – and to raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis. MS-UK are a “national charity who’s aim is to empower people with MS to make the most of today, and live life to the full”.
Should you like to read more about the incredible work MS-UK does to support people with Multiple Sclerosis, read about why MS personally affects me, or if you’d like to donate anything to this charity, please visit my JustGiving page below.
23.02.17 – Week 32, Two months to go!
Two months to go!
Where’s the time going?! For me, it’s only hard work from now until mid-afternoon on 23 April when I can finally put my feet up and stop thinking about running for at least a few days.
However, I don’t want this post to be about me, and about all this *left-foot right-foot and repeat* thing I’m doing for mile after mile. I want to take this opportunity to tell you why you should be donating a few pennies to support my chosen charity.
Multiple Sclerosis is an invisible illness, which means that the symptoms don’t appear obvious just by looking at a person in the same way other illness manifest themselves. And as such, it can be very hard for people with MS to get the same respect as people may get with other disabilities.
In short, it can be a very lonely place to be, dealing with such a relentless and unforgiving illness.
Little things that we can take for granted, like popping to the shop for a pint of milk, going for a last minute night out, or feeling a tad under the weather. Living with MS doesn’t make this as simple, and can leaving you thinking…
”Are my legs actually going to let me walk today?”
“If I go for a drink tonight, will I be able to stay awake beyond half 8?”
“I’ve got a cold. No biggie, it’s just a cold. Oh wait… 3 days later I’m still bed bound and unable to function like a normal human.”
It’s a daily struggle.
I’m grateful I don’t have to battle with this myself – I’m going to selfishly say that, and inside, I’m sure you think the same too. I mean, who would want to live their life in a vice, that might just slam shut on you when you least expect it. No one would want to choose that would they? But for 100,000 people in the UK right now, they don’t have a choice. They’ve been handed this shit-storm, and have to live with it for the rest of their lives.
But we can do something to help.
MS-UK are a national charity who’s aim is to empower people with MS to make the most of today, and live life to the full.
Now that sounds pretty good to me.
They offer vital support via their free helpline and online web-chat facility, support-centre, and team of trained experts. Your donations go straight towards keeping all this going.
£80 would pay for a Wellness Coach to provide specialised support for one afternoon
£150 is the cost of ten complimentary subscriptions to New Pathways magazine for people who cannot afford it
£425 would pay for our Wellness Centre, Josephs Court, to run for a day
£2,250 is the cost of running the national MS-UK Helpline for a whole week
And this is why I’m asking that you help MS-UK, and allow them to help people with multiple sclerosis.
Over and out.
14.02.17 – Happy Valentines Day, runners!
It’s valentines day, so a perfect reason to publicly declare why I love going running, and why I think you should fall in love with it too. I’m several weeks in to my London Marathon training as I write this, and as a result I am running more than I ever have done before. It’s given me more time to think about just how great this sport is!
So, here are 10 reasons why I love running!
1) What’s not to love about time outside in the fresh air…
2) …especially on a cold crisp morning, with a clear blue sky (maybe not something we’re used to at this time of year)
3) Parkrun. Need I say any more. Parkrun really got me in to running – the pressure free and overly welcoming nature of their events.
4) The wider running community. I love being surrounded by people, and the running community takes that to the next level.
5) That feeling of nailing a hard training session, or hitting that illusive PB, aka the ‘the runner’s high‘. Hard to explain to non-runners, that’s why I encourage you to get in to this sport!
6) Similar to the above, the feeling when you fail to hit your goals, which only makes you stronger at bouncing back to make damn sure you achieve it next time round.
7) Buying new running shoes! I thought it was my wife who bought lots of shoes, but this is something I love doing now too.
8) BLING! Runners are like magpies – we just love getting our hands on a new piece of bling after finishing a race.
9) That healthy and alive feeling you get all throughout the day (well, maybe not so alive after a 20 mile LSR, but you know what I mean).
10) Food. As runners, we love being able to pile on those extra carbs, knowing that you’re going to burn them straight off again. Pass me the cake…
23.01.17 – Week 28, Three months to go!
***Disclaimer – if you’re one of the many people here who can’t be arsed to read my whole self-obsessed spiel about running, just scroll down a tad to skip to the good bit! I won’t hold it against you.
256 days ago I received an email from MS-UK saying that they’d like me to run for them in the London Marathon. I couldn’t believe it – one of the top events in the UK sporting calendar, and I’d secured one of the 39,000 illusive places.
At the time, I thought that 23 April 2017 seems miles away, and I guess it was….
But, that’s now exactly 3 months away – in fact, in exactly 3 months from now, I’m likely to be slumped over a table somewhere in London, nursing the coldest pint of amber nectar I can find. Or perhaps shoving the fattest pizza I can find in to my mouth. Or maybe I’ll be struck down by an injury, and I’ll be sat back at home watching the whole day unfold on TV – but I won’t let this happen!
Whatever the outcome on the day, the next three months are going to be hard.
I’m on track to be running just under 100 miles for January, the most I’ll have ever run in a single calendar month. And from there, the mileage will only be going up, and up, and up, and…… up………. I found myself texting someone the other day, referring to going for an “easy half marathon”, and they replied saying that I bet I never thought I’d find myself saying that. Yet here I am doing just that.
It’s not just the 26.2 miles that I’ll be running three months from now, it’s these “easy half marathons” that I get up at 7am on a Sunday morning for. The 5.30am alarms I set for a quick 10k before work. The daily strength training I have to do, to try and fend off any injuries.
***If you’re skipping the text about me going for a few runs, then this is where you should start reading from***
And then there’s that whole thing around fundraising! The real reason why I’m putting myself through this grueling training programme, along with the rest of the MS-UK fundraising team.
We’ve all individually pledged to raise £2000 to help support people with multiple sclerosis! And this is where you can all help.
A small donation makes all the difference! It doesn’t just motivate me to train harder, it enables MS UK to be able to continue their incredible work, day in, day out.
Texting the following to 70070…
…will donate £5 straight to my JustGiving campaign, and it’s a free service! You can change the amount to anything you like, and it’ll still come straight through to my donations page.
And if you’d rather donate online, you can do so here.
12.12.16 – Week 22, A wee competition…
OK, I think this may be the last post I write this year, perhaps… (we will see anyway), but I’m going to keep it short and sweet.
It’s going to be a fairly simple competition between you and I.
My wonderful running app of choice, Strava, tells me I’ve run 943km this year (that’s roughly running from London to Paris, and back again). My fundraising thermometer tells me we’ve raise around £750 (that’s pretty damn incredible!!).
So, can I challenge you guys to get to £1000 of fundraising before I hit the 1000km mark on my running app? A big ask, I know, but I believe in you guys!!
18.11.16 – Week 18, Sorry, what’s that again?
The disease that old people get, yeh?
Multiple Sclerosis is the most commonly diagnosed neurological disease in 20 and 30 year olds. Over 5000 people get diagnosed each year in the UK alone with MS – that’s about 14 people per day.
I’m not going to lie, if it wasn’t for my wife being diagnosed I don’t think I’d have a clue about it either. When she told me nearly 10 years ago, I had to call my mum to ask what it was, and really, she didn’t fully know either. Let me explain.
The disease attacks your nervous system and fires off signals to the brain when it shouldn’t. You could be holding a nice warm brew, and BANG, the cup just falls out of your hand. Why? Well, because your body said so…
Or another simple explanation…
Imagine your body needs tokens to feed its internal energy meter. You use a token to get out of bed, a token to get washed, one to brush your teeth, another to get dressed, an extra one to head down the stairs to your kitchen for breakfast, and so on. When you run out, you shut down and need to rest until you get more. How many tokens would you need each day? 100, 200, 500, 1000? MS is like being on a budget, perhaps 10-20% of a standard allowance. So just to get ready in the morning to get to work on time you’ve already spent most of your daily allowance. You’ve not even got to work, or left the house to visit your friends, and you’re already running on empty. It’d be like going for a motorway drive with the petrol light flashing in your car.
I hope you’re still with me here, and haven’t shut the page down by this point. I know this is a pretty blunt post – a far cry from the run chat that’s filled up most of this page. But really, I’m not doing this fundraising for me to brag a little about how I’m going for a few long distance runs and to upload a photo of me with another medal, but instead to make people aware about MS (and if I can raise a few quid along the way for a charity, then that’d be brilliant).
MS is a silent disease. You can’t see it like you would a scar or a rash, or some kind of physical impediment, and this is perhaps why we don’t know much about it. Pretty much all the symptoms are invisible to you or I, but not to 100,000 suffers in the UK right now.
If you’ve made it to this point in the post then I thank you! This is something I really care about.
MS-UK offers incredible support to people with MS, to help them get on and live as much of a normal a life that is possible for them.
06.11.16 – Week 17, #SmashTheDash, Abbey Dash 10k
The Age UK Abbey Dash, my last race of the year; time to go out in style before I hit the marathon training hard. I’ve enjoyed a great year of running as I start my campaign to raise £2000 for MS-UK. MS-UK are a national MS charity who are set up to empower people with MS to live life to the full, and are well worth your support…
So, on to the action… This was my 5th 10k race of the year, and my last chance to fall below that illusive sub-50 minute time. Of the other four, I managed fairly good times at the Harewood Dash in March, and something even quicker at the York 10k in August, but still not quite at the level i’d been striving for. Since the Great North Run and the York 10 miler I decided to take my training just that little bit more seriously (honestly, I wasn’t taking it completely serious before that… honest). I added some interval sessions, circuit classes and regular cycles and swims in to my weekly training. Everything added up to turning up this morning in Leeds for my race feeling rather good, and all things considered, fairly injury free!
All my previous races have all been dry, fairly warm, and with little wind. So I guess it was time for all this to change. A forecast of 4 Celsius, medium winds, and the potential of heavy rain greeted the 8,000 runners who gathered in Leeds at the start-line. Sporting my glamorous bin bag, I attempted a bit of a warm-up, but really just huddled around the crowds like a penguin… Eventually, my time came, and alongside my colleague Dav, we trundled down to the start and we were away! The race was a lovely flat course, with a gradual inline to the half way point. The weather, actually, was rather kind to us in terms of the rain. The PB was on! Holding our pace to half way, we took a mouthful of water and turned back for Leeds.
Well, to save you the boredom of reading any more blow-by-blow accounts of the race, we smashed it, clocking home in a rather pleasing 48 minutes, 46 seconds – boom!!
Today was extra special as we got a team from Leeds College of Music together to run! The group of staff, students and alumni donned our specially made Running to the Beat shirts, with 18 of us beating the miserable weather to complete the course.
No smug #medalselfie today (because we didn’t get one) but instead you can enjoy a pic of me sweeping to PB glory in the final few strides
It’s been a great season of racing, setting PBs over half marathon, 10k and at my local 5k parkrun! Plenty has been achieved on the running track for me, but the big target still looms on the horizon, getting closer and closer by the day. The London Marathon is in just 167 days time, and a long hard winter of training awaits!
09.10.16 – Week 13, unlucky for some, but not for me
Race day, the bit that every runner loves (I think..?). All the hard training boils down to that one moment of glory, where you earn the right to feel completely proud of yourself, eat a huge meal without feeling guilty and sink a couple of beers that have never tasted so good in your life.
So for me, today was the York 10 mile race, part of the Yorkshire Marathon festival starting and finishing at York University. The 10 mile event (understandably) takes second place to the flagship Yorkshire Marathon that began a short while before my race got underway, sharing roughly the same course (up to a point).
Assuming you don’t know the route, let me walk you through it. At 10:15am we shuffled up the hill at the university, and we were off! Down Hull Road and in to the centre of York where we were greeted with an enthusiastic crowd of revellers down Parliament Street, the Minster and out of the centre again through Monk Bar. From there the very flat course took us out in the fantastic Yorkshire country side before turning back through Osbaldwick and on to the University again for the grand finale. A lovely downhill final few hundred metres meant for a rapid sprint finish.
You may have previously read (below) that I’ve been suffering with a spot of bother on my foot since completing the Great North Run, so I was unsure how to go about today’s race. Slow and steady, or head down and dig in for a quick one? I’m sure you can guess what I went for… Probably going off a little too quickly, I surprisingly managed to settle in to my early pace, and yes, did dig in to the end finishing with a rather pleasing 1:22:08.
Oh look, here’s another *smug* photo of me with a medal!
Finally, it’s worth mentioning (obviously) that I’m doing all this for an incredible cause – MS-UK. They’re a top charity that does amazing work, and I just hope that by pounding the street for mile after mile I will inspire just a couple of you to donate a few quid.
An interesting fact to note, that since the start of July when the whole of this got going, I’ve run enough miles to get from my house in York back to Cardiff where I studied at university. That’s nearly 5 hours of driving on a motorway!
04.10.16 – 12 weeks in, I love moaning about being injured
…I don’t really, but I’m sure those of you who send the bulk of your day around me will think I do. #SorryNotSorry
The next race is coming up in just a few days time – the Yorkshire Marathon Series York 10 mile race. It’s going to be a great race, with the atmosphere of a full marathon event, but not having to run the full distance (on this occasion). However, the grey clouds are threatening my performance as I get struck down with another running injury, plantar fasciitis (plantar = the underside of the foot, fasciitis = inflammation of the tissue). So you can imagine what that’s like, but if not, then at its worse its basically like treading on a bed of knives. Lovely.
I’m not being completely stupid and naive here. As I did back in May for the Leeds Half Marathon, I am complete happy to walk away from running this event, with my eyes on the long term prize of completing the London Marathon next year. So, I took a week or so away from any running training, saw my physio, and worked hard to get my foot in to any reasonable shape to think about running 10 miles. So far, so good… Just a few more days to go to see if my patience has paid off with this!
As a tangent to all this talk of injury over the last 4 weeks, I’ve also managed to enjoy some great running on the times that I have allowed myself to go out. I guess my body has had a proper chance to rest since the onslaught I gave it over my summer training, and last Saturday I was surprised to turn up to the York Parkrun and take a huge chunk off my 5k PB time – setting a new time of 23:07 (BOOM!!!!).
So, an odd few weeks of cut down training, increased stretching, (plenty of moaning about being injured), and a new PB. I think (or hope) i’ll get away with it. Let’s see what happens on Sunday.
13.09.16 – 9 weeks in, Great North Run smashed
It’s about time I gave you all an update on proceedings.
I’m currently 9 weeks in to my £50-a-week fundraising campaign to raise £2000 for MS-UK as I train for the London Marathon. So far, the support for my campaign has been absolutely fantastic, and I never thought by this stage that i’d have actually been anywhere near my fundraising target. So, from me, please give yourselves a well earned pat on the back!
It feels an appropriate time to write my first update on the campaign as I’ve just completed the first major hurdle of my marathon training and completed Newcastle’s infamous Great North Run. It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this stage, having been plagued with a plethora of injuries over the last 12 months, resulting in many trips to the physio, days/weeks/months away from running, and ultimately getting angry with myself for getting in to this situation in the first place. But against all the odds, I’ve been able to get a fairly strict training schedule together and put the necessary miles in over the summer (170 miles since July if you’re interested…).
When it came down do it, the race was perfect (weather, conditions, the fellow runners, the HERO pushing a wheelchair around blasting out music as he went, the crowd, the charity points dotted over the route) and I managed to smash (just) one of my long term running goals which was to run a half marathon in under 2 hours! (Does this mean I can do London in under 4 hours next year? Hmmmm, no chance).
(Look, here’s a picture of me looking sweaty with a medal round my neck).
So to conclude for now. It’s been, in the end, a great summer of running for me with a couple of 10ks, and the big half marathon all done. I’ve got some more races to do over the autumn before the real hard work begins in winter to get me properly conditioned to running a marathon. But… WHAT REALLY HELPS (honest) is knowing that every time I step out for a run, I’m doing it because we’re all raising money for a top charity.