I was first involved with the London Marathon back in 1983 because the dad of a boy at school was something to do with Ashbourne Water (the water sponsor back in the day) and they wanted people to stand at the side of the course and stay stock still with a cup of water balanced on a flat outstretched hand which the runners would snatch (and spill inevitably) as they shot past.
Off we went at stupid o’clock from Haywards Heath to London dressed in our regulation Ashbourne Water caps, sweatshirts, tight tracksuit trousers and trainers. We were a bunch of excited 16-18 year olds on a day out in the capital city but we were told what we had to do and what was expected from us. I don’t really remember much about the day but I know we got soaked as cup after cup was sent flying (and it rained) but we had a lovely day and were well fed, had plenty of water to drink (obviously) and some Mars bars too.
I haven’t really been bothered with the marathon since then. However, this year was different. Nick Knowles presented a two part programme about 10 people, all of whom had mental health issues and who were going to be trained and supported to complete the 2017 London Marathon, for the Heads Together charity. I was gripped by the programme, particularly following the fortunes of Rhian, the Cardiff mother who lost her baby son and then her husband within 5 days of each other in tragic circumstances. Having watched the programmes and also the marathon, I decided that if “they” could do it, then so can I. I really wanted to do it in 2018 but there was a small issue. I can’t run and I’ve never enjoyed it, even when I could run a little bit. Andrew, my husband, laughed and scoffed when I shared my plan.
Roll back to 2011 and I would run a mile on the treadmill at the gym every Saturday. My knees didn’t particularly like it but I did it anyway. Then after a walk up (and down) Ben Nevis in September 2011, my knees decided they’d had enough. My right knee was in a worse state than the left at that time so in November 2011 I had surgery to try and sort it out. I diligently did everything the physiotherapist asked me and bit by bit it got better. In June 2012 I was fit enough to go to Ireland to walk up Carrauntoohil in MacGillicuddy Reeks. To this day I still complete the final set of exercises given to me by the physiotherapist when I go to the gym, both on the gym floor and again in the swimming pool.
So, bad knees, a lack of interest and ability in running aside, I decided that I wanted to be part of the 2018 London Marathon and I had not missed the closing date for the public ballot. My two daughters (Steph aged 24 and Izzy aged 22) were also thinking about it but I knew that running for a charity would give us a better chance of securing a place. I spoke to a friend and colleague, Sue, who lives locally and does a lot of recreational running and she said she would train and support me. Everyone I spoke to thought I was off my head but also knew that if I’d made a decision I would not be swayed.
Sue took me out for my first 6 mile walk after work on 26 April around Caerleon. Although the hilly part was very tough, I did it, didn’t moan much and woke up the next day feeling fine. I also went home with a big smile on my face as I felt like I’d achieved something, and I’d been out in the fresh (blustery) air. We’d even had a heron fly above us and seen the rabbits in the grounds of St Cadoc’s Hospital. I was more determined than ever to enter.
The ballot for the Marathon opened on 1 May but I was away in Scotland and didn’t enter that day. I completed my application for the public ballot during the evening of 2 May and also selected 6 charities. I am currently 52 years old, and will be 53 by the time I participate in the 2018 London Marathon (a fact brought home to me during the application process when it asked me to check my age on the day of the marathon – ouch!!). Charity places were also allocated by ballot, and mostly not until October. I knew that I needed a guaranteed place now for the “kick up the backside” to galvanise me into action (and training).
With Leukaemia CARE I could pay a £50 registration fee, promise to raise a minimum of £2,250 and I would have a place there and then. But why Leukaemia CARE? The husband (Gavin) of a friend and work colleague (Ann-Marie) has been suffering from, and battling with, lymphoma for 3 years. He did go into remission once but the disease returned. This time Gavin was able to start a clinical trial but, unfortunately, had to be taken off because the lymphoma was progressing with more sites in his chest and abdomen so he’s back on chemo, although is much weaker as the progression of the disease has gathered in pace. In addition, Ann-Marie lost both her parents within 9 days of each other in January. I felt so helpless but needed to do something practical so this is my choice and Ann-Marie is delighted with it.
On 3 May Sue took me out for another walk of over 6 miles and we jogged the last bit back to her house. Again, I was fine when I got home, having thoroughly enjoyed the walk. I couldn’t understand why Sue had made me walk so far and then got me running – I was on my last legs by then. But I did it.