I can only apologise that it has taken such a long time to post this final blog post, I thought that I had already uploaded it but when I have checked it wasn’t there. And what news I have to share!
This week my virtual runners are Annabelle, Mum, Dad, Jane, Marcus, John Snook and Luke. It may seem like there’s a lot of you, but with such momentous running on the horizon your support was very much needed. Thank you for your support during what turned into the most amazing week.
Distance: 1.3 miles
Run notes: I wanted to go out for a short run, to blow away the cobwebs and prove to myself my right leg which was continuing to be uncomfortable was OK. It was an incredibly blustery evening and it was getting dark so I put on my Cervia Night Run top so that I could be seen for safety.
Oh my goodness, this was a tough run. I managed just over a mile and it was not easy. I hope this was because of the wind, but I am really feeling in trouble for Sunday.
I have prescribed myself a further week of very hot baths and applications of Deep Heat on an evening to hopefully sort my right leg out.
Average pace: 8:33/mile
– Mile 1 – 8:38
– 0.3 Mile – 8:17
Distance: 3.5 miles
Run notes: Firstly an update on my self-prescribed remedies to sort my right leg out. After a lovely hot bath (and I mean hot not warm) making my muscles as relaxed as possible Paul liberally applied the Deep heat on to both of hamstrings. Oh my word! The application was obviously incredibly thick. I spent the next 20 minutes dancing around because my legs felt on fire, this wasn’t just deep heat it was ferocious. Paul tried his best to stop laughing but he didn’t try hard enough. It calmed down eventually and I hope that it was worth it. I have now taken to applying my own lotion nightly and whilst it does sting it’s not blummin’ agony!
Now back to the run. I persuaded Paul to come for a short run with me (along the lines that he owed me from the Deep Heat incident). We ran along together discussing our plans for the marathon. After explaining my plan (based on my previous long distance runs) to run a 10 minute mile for the first half and then 9:30 minute mile for the second Paul completely floored me by announcing he was going to start at 9:30 minute/mile and see how far he got. That was not what I was expecting. Ooh I didn’t know what to do.
It was another funny run tonight. We weren’t running fast, we had agreed slow and stead was called for in our last pre-marathon run, but goodness I was shattered. Really felt like I had no energy. I don’t even think it was that windy. We put it down to being the end of the day at work and it starting to get really dark at night.
Despite feeling concerned that all my fitness had definitely upped and left me, it was nice to run at a comfortable pace and just chat. We haven’t had the option to do that very often in the last year. We even discussed all the things we will do with our time when we can stop all of our training.
When we got home I realised I had 3 miles until I hit our goal. We are going to do this virtual runners! In my happy positive bubble I happened to read one of those inspirational quotes that you usually think oh isn’t that nice but it won’t work in the real world. Something along the lines of: ‘to try and not succeed isn’t failing, not even trying is.’ With that in mind I decided to follow Paul’s idea. Run at 9:30 minute/mile and see how far I can get. I announced this to Paul and we agreed to run the marathon together but should we get split up we would keep going at our own pace.
Average pace: 9:24/mile
– Mile 1 – 9:42
– Mile 2 – 9:25
– Mile 3 – 9:23
– 0.5 Mile – 8:56
Achievements: 1 x segment personal record
I got a call from the Yorkshire Marathon Press Team confirming that the production team behind the Channel 4 Yorkshire Marathon Highlight’s Show were interested in my story and my virtual runners completing the challenge with me! Wah! They wondered if I could get to the start early (8am) for a brief interview. They would also add pink stickers to my number so they could potentially track me/interview me as I run round the course. (I have always wondered how they stop people at events). Oh this was such an opportunity to help raise awareness of MS, the MS Trust and the amazing support of my Virtual Runners! I was so excited. Then incredibly nervous. What if I didn’t make it round the route?! Then if I stop to talk to the interviewer on my way round – would it still count that I had run a marathon? (This is a stupid thing I have had since I was little – and we agreed that I am stupid and so promptly forgot about this one). I was so still very excited!
Paul and I packed on Saturday (please note the Stroop waffels – essential to the running kit!), to head down to Yorkshire with my mum, dad and Annabelle (they had all been to see Disney on Ice and apparently it was SO exciting).
As we discussed the plans for marathon day (in between me panicking that I had forgotten to pack something) Jane and Marcus prepared a delicious dinner that any marathoner runner would have been proud of, spaghetti bolognaise and garlic bread. Please don’t count my helpings, I am running a long way tomorrow don’t you know? Marathon with a hint of garlic anyone?!
Distance: 26.2 miles
Run notes: The four of us were up at 6am eating our usual breakfast (we were that prepared we had even brought our own usual cereals and milk with us). Then we crept around the house trying not to disturb anyone still sleeping. Well as Mum and Paul will gladly tell you, I started by creeping but apparently on my fifth trip back to the bedroom to retrieve something I had forgotten I was more like a forgetful elephant.
Anyway, Dad parked in one of the reserved car space (we were given this because we were coming so early for the interview). We walked through York University campus looking for a specific halls of residence. There were a lot of runners around already. Today there was two events, the Yorkshire Marathon and the Yorkshire 10 mile.
After several false turns (I am usually good with maps), we found the VIP area where we were to wait. We were all given gold wrist bands and a warm welcome. I felt so special.
As I started to prepare my running belt (read fill with Boost chocolate bars) I was greeted by one of the presenters and asked for a quick interview. So exciting. We went outside where I was asked a number of questions about my challenge, my virtual runners, my supporters here today and the reason why I was doing it. I tried to be as clear as I could be in my answers but it was difficult when I was a jibbering wreck. The sky was gorgeous as the sun was rising and there were hot air balloons rising too! I took these as a sign of a good day ahead.
Once I had finished I drank some water to keep me hydrated. Lots of water. Which meant Mum and I joined the long queue for the ladies. When we finally came out of the bathroom in a rush, we realised there was only Paul and Dad left in the room, everyone else had been escorted to the start line. So in a flap (well I was) we made our way to the start with only a few minutes to spare. As we got 2 minutes away from the start I went into a major panic as I realised I had left all of my tissues back in the VIP room. Such a panic that a really kind man who was passing gave me his whole packet of tissues. Thank you so much – you were a savior!
After saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, Paul and I went to our section of the start, where I untied and retied my laces. It’s definitely a nervous routine I have developed, that Paul says is extremely irritating for all around! Soon Yorkshire man Dicky Bird had bang led the gun and the run had started. This was it!
We walked with the other participants to the start line and hearing Mum and Dad cheering us on meant we were off with a spring in our step! It was a nice start down the hill on a squeezy street (watching not to trip over any of the other runners), there was spectators cheering us on. Soon we running through the York streets and past the beautiful York Minster. The miles were ticking by.
As we got onto a wider street which were much easier to run on Paul grabbed my hand this was it the 3 mile marker was on the horizon. As we passed it, I couldn’t help but cry. I was so happy. This was it – virtual runners we have done it! 1000km achieved!!!
Paul started cheering very loudly which was really lovely we ran with our hands raised in the air and tears of happiness streaming down my face. What a soppy one I am but I honestly couldn’t help. It was then that Paul started congratulating me VERY loudly (whilst pointing out that the spectators were laughing because they thought I was crying that we had 23 more miles to go – oops!!)
Not long after we pulled over for a comfort break. I jogged on the spot in the queue and continued when I entered the portaloo but realised that was never going to work so stopped and soon we were back on our way.
It was around 5 miles Paul and I lost each other. There was only one choice really, as we had agreed to keep going. The runners were more spread out making the running a little easier but there was always company to keep you going.
At 7 miles I spotted Marcus and Felicity on the other side of the road from where I was running! I was so happy to see them! I spotted a gap and ran directly across the road (apologies other runners) towards them.
Marcus told me the others were on the bend. Honestly, it is such a great feeling knowing that there are people out there cheering you on. Looking back you can see my speed increase at every point I saw my family cheering me on. What a boost you get from having such support! Alongside my cheering family (with handfuls of sweets supplied by Jane) was a band of bagpipers. I must practise getting sweets and running at the same time I am rubbish at it. A nice Haribo sugar boost as I ran on my way.
The route took me through some lovely Yorkshire villages with spectators on their drive ways, cheering me on as I passed their Yorkshire flags (there was a lot of Yorkshire flags!).
There was lots of time when I was running on country roads with no one around except the other runners around. It was at these point that I was very grateful for the fantastic volunteers who would pop out of nowhere at any junction where you might get delusional and decide to run in the wrong direction. Their support was invaluable for encouraging me on.
At the 11 mile point I passed my family again (honestly their talent for getting themselves around a course to provide support is unrivaled) cheering me on as I made my way up a hill. I can’t help but smile broadly hear their cheers of encouragement.
There was one section of the route where you ran down a steady hill towards a turning point and whilst it felt great, all the time I knew that I would be running back up the same hill. On my way back up the slow incline I passed Paul going the other way, it was fantastic to final see him, know he was doing well and having us both yelling words of support at each other.
Just after 16 miles there was another big section of supporters all shouting their well wishes, and me shouting my thanks back. It was at this point I was met by Katharine Merry who was presenting for the Channel 4 show. I can honestly say I had no idea what I said, as I jogged and was interviewed. She was really lovely to talk to and asked all about my challenge. I remember gleefully shouting at her that I had completed it! And honestly trying to find a way to thank my virtual runners (you really have all been fantastic and I couldn’t have done it without you) and mention the charity name to help raise the profile for them. As quickly as it started my interview finished. I could only carry on running down the incline to another turning point with my fingers crossed that something was good enough to make the final cut.
As I ran to the next turning point there were my Mum and Dad in the supporters cheering me on again (they were also showing the people around them how to do it, because they were a very quiet crowd). I gave them a wave over the barrier, ran to the turn and ran back passing them with my hands in the air so happy.
At about the 20-21 mile point the sun really started to come out. It was hot. It was the first time in the run that I felt any slight concern. I was thirsty. The water stations had been very regularly placed along the route and I knew I just needed to get to the next, but this was when the mental challenge started to kick in. People around me were stopping, walking or stretching with cramp. It wasn’t a great thing to see. My right leg had been very tight for 7 miles now and I had been ignoring it, but when you are battling your mental running demons any niggle that exists very much comes to the for.
It was at this point that I also noticed my time. I was going fast, faster than I had ever run a distance like this before and I was going to be very close to the 4 hour mark if I kept up like this.
At around 24.5 mile, just as I running passed another runner, thinking this is not easy any more, a motorbike pulled up. Their was a driver and a camera man, matching my pace and filming me. Cue big happy smiles, concentrated effort and a look of ‘well this is how I do it everyday of the week…’ The lady I was running along side commented ‘Well that’s intimidating!’
I felt like a pro. Well I did until the cameraman started to ask me questions. Er you want me to keep running at this pace, look happy and speak?! But he was lovely and once again I answered a few questions with no recollection of what I had said once it was over! He wished me good luck for the final stint and pulled off the course.
This was it. The final mile. I was so happy. The time was going to be a close one, but I was pushing on. I turned the corner and. Oh my life. Who thought putting the steep hill that we had run down at the very start was the best thing to put just before the final 400m?!
However I carried on with the crowds cheers ringing in my ears. I could do this. As I reached the summit, I could see the finish line. The time was so tight for my internal (made up at 21 miles that day) goal I had no idea if I was going to make it. But I ran like I had never ran before. Another cameraman appeared from no where and bless him he had a real difficulty keeping up with me! The crowd was incredible and there was my mum and dad again ringing their bells as they saw me across the finish line.
I had done it! I looked at my watch. Not only had I done it, I had done it in 4:00:33! That is 41 minutes of my only ever official marathon time.
I was immediately interviewed by the presenter who I had met right at the very beginning. I remember saying to him: I was diagnosed with MS two years ago. I thought my left was over. But I have just completed my 1000km challenge with my virtual runners and have run a fantastic marathon in the fastest time I have ever run. A life with MS can be a good one!
What an incredible day!
After Paul and I collected our medals, we walked back to the VIP section with mum and dad sharing our ups and downs.
We met a couple of other runner as we cooled down (and grabbed a sandwich), then we headed to get have our medal engraved with our finishing times (a free service for all finishers and a really lovely touch!)
We made our way back to the Metcalfe’s to pick up our things. We very briefly popped in to see our friends Trent and Stacy who live in York. They had been monitoring our movements on the Marathon app ready to go out and cheer us on.
When we arrived back to the Metcalfe’s I was met by a big suprise. A party to celebrate achieving my 1000km target!
We had cake with sparkler candles and fizz to celebrate! (Non alcoholic for some of the party of course!)
I was over the moon! What a fantastic end to an amazing day and an incredible challenge!
Average pace: 9:24/mile
– Mile 1 – 9:38
– Mile 2 – 9:43
– Mile 3 – 9:19
– Mile 4 – 9:33
– Mile 5 – 9:23
– Mile 6 – 9:23
– Mile 7 – 9:18
– Mile 8 – 9:09
– Mile 9 – 9:31
– Mile 10 – 9:11
– Mile 11 – 8:59
– Mile 12 – 9:15
– Mile 13 – 9:18
– Mile 14 – 9:00
– Mile 15 – 9:08
– Mile 16 – 9:07
– Mile 17 – 9:01
– Mile 18 – 9:02
– Mile 19 – 8:52
– Mile 20 – 9:03
– Mile 21 – 8:38
– Mile 22 – 9:00
– Mile 23 – 9:02
– Mile 24 – 9:08
– Mile 25 – 8:52
– Mile 26 – 8:56
– 0.2 Mile – 7:14
Achievements: Completing my 1000km challenge, Marathon PB and 30k PB! 25 x segment PBs
Thank you to my virtual runners Annabelle, Mum, Dad, Jane, Marcus, John Snook and Luke, it was a fantastic week of running which was trying at times, but it was wonderful to have your company throughout it all. Crack open the nearest bubbly (non-alcoholic for you Luke and Annabelle!) it’s time to celebrate!
**Update. The following Saturday we all sat down to watch the Channel 4 coverage (recorded from its 6am slot!) as we reached the half way point we thought that I hadn’t made it into the edit. Then suddenly there I was and my 1000km challenge and MS story was being covered.
I must admit I was a bit emotional with pride, actually seeing what I had achieved this year with the support of all my virtual runners. Luckily the Geordie accent I had suddenly developed in the coverage brought a lot of laughter to the group!
A comment from Jay, a fellow member of the MS Trust Running Group really was the icing on the cake:
Hopefully my challenge and completing a fantastic day at the Yorkshire Marathon will show that a diagnosis of MS doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom.
Thank you to all of my virtual runners for all your support with every step of this challenge, I really couldn’t have don it without you!
**Please don’t forget if you have enjoyed reading this blog and following our challenge to vote for us in The Running Awards 2018. Also please give the MS Trust a vote – a small charity who does big things!**