Day 7 : Find a new way to help or support a cause you care about.
Those who may have inadvertently stumbled across this blog in previous years may recall that I have previously chronicled my attempt to complete 200 race miles in my fiftieth birthday year. The deadline was extended slightly, but the challenge was achieved. along the way I was fortunate to complete a half marathon in Marrakech as well as races in Haverhill, Llanelli and Manchester (among others).
My running in recent years has been severely disrupted as a result of a knee injury and subsequent surgery; and then a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get back into running, leading to partial relapses. However, it seems that recently a corner has been turned and I am running pain free and slowly building strength and endurance. It seems like a good time therefore to set myself a new challenge – and to seek to raise some money for a cause that is becoming close to my heart. My aim, therefore, is to run the Llanelli Half Marathon in February, the Newport Half in March, and the Bristol 10k in May next year. That’s a rough total of 50 kilometres in total.
The cause that I will be seeking to raise some money for is the Alzheimer’s Society. My dad is living with a form of vascular dementia probably linked to a stroke getting on for 10 year’s ago now. Thankfully, whilst his speech has been badly affected, he is still able to follow conversation and enjoys a good quality of life. This is in large part due to the indefatigable love and support of my mum. Taking my dad as my inspiration, raising money to support research into the causes of and treatments for dementia disease is the best motivation that I can think of to continue on my own road to running recovery. More details of where you can sponsor me will follow later in the month!
My 200 mile challenge is complete. I didn’t hit my deadline of 31st December 2016, and an injury in New York meant that I couldn’t do the final miles in Central Park either; but approximately half way up ‘the hill’ at Ashton Court parkrun on Saturday 6th May, the 200th mile was achieved. For good measure, I then completed the Great Bristol 10k in a new PB for the distance on Sunday – but that was just showing off!
Thanks to the incredible generosity of all my sponsors, £632.50 has been raised for the British Heart Foundation. That this great charity, supporting life-saving research into the UK’s biggest killer, has benefited from the challenge, is something that I am particularly pleased about. I am fortunate in my job to work with some of the researchers who receive BHF funding to push back the boundaries of knowledge about how the cardiovascular system works, and how we can better treat people with heart disease. Its a bonus that my own heart health has improved as result of the running. I can now run longer, faster and require less recovery time than at any time in the past 25 years. I have no intention of stopping running any time soon.
As well as the financial and health benefits of the challenge, I’ve also learned something else since starting running regularly. There’s an amazingly supportive community of people out there who are happy to share their time and knowledge to help complete strangers to improve their running. I had feared that entering club 10k runs would be an intimidating experience, with a load of super-fit individuals haring off and looking disdainfully at my plodding efforts. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In essence, most runners are really not that concerned about where they finish vis a vis other runners; instead, they are running against themselves – to improve their PB; or increase their distance; or simply to get to the finish and feel really good about it. If you are thinking about running but are worried that you’ll be sneered at, or won’t look good, or will finish last and be humiliated, then put all those negative thoughts to one side and get out to your local parkrun tomorrow morning. You are guaranteed not to finish last (there’s always a designated tail-runner whose job it is to bring up the rear), and I promise that you will find a community of people who are amongst the most supportive, least judgemental, and frankly happiest, that you could ever wish to meet! And if you are at Ashton Court in Bristol at 9am tomorrow, I’ll see you on ‘the hill’!