Beacons of Light

Words from a very wise woman who recently said to me ‘ save something for yourself’.  She heard it from her daughter.  So whilst I wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m going to try to heed some of her advice.  In the meantime, the spotlight is angled towards some of the women who have lit up my life.

Amazing women; I’ve been surrounded since an early age by inspirational and formidable women.  Take my Mum for example, for years she was always Mrs Evans to all of my friends (I still think she is referred to in the same respectful way), Class 1 football referee, runner of marathons, arguer of lost causes, carer and nurse extraordinaire.  My eldest younger sister who battled through her degree final exams apparently on a drip, Iron Man finisher and demolisher of anything that seemingly stands in her way, especially with her black belt in Thai Boxing and downright stubbornness.  My youngest younger sister, who in spite of everything just seems to put a positive spin on things, who has been hit (by life) and still keeps moving forwards (the Rocky award goes to her; I’ve been on the end of one of her ‘soft’ punches), she’s even taken up ‘bloody’ pigeon racing and is taking to it, like, well, a duck to water?  My Grandma who endured plenty but was still one of the most giving women I’ve ever known and whose door was always open.  Where is this all going you might wonder?

The bravest woman I know is my ex who after putting up with all my crap for years finally kicked me out and gave us and our children a new lease of life.  It was brave and I’m glad she found the courage to do it.  She works incredibly hard, is exceptionally well organised and is dead straight.  An amazing woman.  There, I’ve said it.  Wasn’t that hard.

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Equally I’ve been positively affected, moulded and manipulated by some amazing women I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with and calling my friends over the years; Trev and Debs who both made the daft journey to come and see me cross the finish line back in May (I thank you both, for being there for me in the past when I perhaps didn’t deserve it and for remaining my friend now that I do), Mrs Purdew (Champneys Health Farm) is so street smart and an incredible business woman but also an inspirational person and leader, Lynette Reid at Springs Hydro who used to always look out for me (or so it felt), Sherree Hamblin who was incredibly supportive of me at Ashdown Park, Hayley Rand who was relentless in her energy and enthusiasm at Eastwell Manor, Carolyn Henderson at Warren House who never appeared to compromise on standards, Nikki Spink who put up with me for four years at both Cringletie and The Roxburghe (although I will never fathom why) and, of course there are more besides, some whose names I choose not to mention but I hope they know I respect them, even though I perhaps did not say or do anything for them to realise how important they are.  Our generation also had the like of Dame Margaret Thatcher; you don’t have to like her policies or politics but surely (and I appreciate that some might dislike me for saying this) you must admire her determination and lack of compromise, proud to stand for what she believed in?  What about those women who have had their lives blighted by abuse, discrimination, health or simple lack of opportunities who just resolutely deal with life and quietly and consistently are the ‘rocks’ for those around them.  Take Rachael Bland for instance who is facing up to mortality in the most honest, frank, compassionate and motherly way; she’s committed to dying but not before she achieves the task of passing on a mother’s advice to her very young son.  To me these women along with many others are beacons of light.  I admire and respect them even though I may well be a misogynistic dinosaur who by simply writing this has become inadvertently un-PC.

Some thirty or forty years ago I remember waiting up, to watch the Two Ronnies (was it a Friday or Saturday night) and this was first aired, ‘The Worm that Turned‘ when in the year 2012 women were in power.  From my perspective, I think more women should have achieved parity with men and should be ‘in power’ (but you can leave me out wearing a dress or manscara).

It has been said that everyone has a book inside them.  Now, I’m not sure about that, but what I am absolutely convinced of, is that each and every person has a spark inside them, a little glowing ember that can burn as bright as magnesium and they ought to be passionately proud of.  Equally, everyone has a voice, even though we all seem to use them more and more, especially with the advent of social media and blogs (like this).  For years I’ve wanted to do something that would stand out, to achieve the memorable, perhaps write a book and be remembered, perhaps accomplish an indelible record, or reach the pinnacle in my profession, in essence to be successful, in other people’s eyes.  But, in the meantime I’ve been too busy comparing myself to everyone else’s success and achievements to recognise that in sky full of lights, why would mine burn any brighter than another?

When I was a kid and ran away from home (who knew where I was going, crazy little teenager) after an argument with Mum, Dad, both, or even my sister, I occasionally used to run to the woods nearby.  I loved running under the light speckled canopy with dapples of sunlight on the forest floor beneath my feet.  I used to love running up the hills during PE cross country with either Phil Manning or John Parry (our teachers at William Allitt) and then passing them occasionally (yeah right, every time). I remember a photo taken of me in a Bug Bunny T-shirt running in a Burton-upon-Trent 10 mile race (aged about 17 taken by Mr Mitchell, Ian’s Dad) and there is a look of delight on my face, probably because I think I posted my fastest ever ten miles in 61 minutes or so.  Thirty years on, I’ve fallen in love with running once more, I’m not measuring distances, just getting out there and feeling it.  If I feel comfortable, I’ll run until I want to go home, if I want to plod, I plod, if I want to push myself, I push but there’s a feeling of happiness in my running at present much the same as those teenage years.  Next May will come around soon, let’s hope this enthusiasm remains.  I’m trying not to judge myself at present or place any expectations but for years I’ve always looked at myself from outside.  How might others judge me, how might I be perceived, what they are thinking?  Did I sound okay, did what I say make sense, more latterly do they believe me?  Always a bit of a dreamer, an old romantic at heart.  I know I can still achieve many things to be proud of but it is highly unlikely I’ll become the successful household name I youthfully imagined (the professional footballer, inspirational teacher or enigmatic author).  Yet, I feel somewhat unshackled by the past, my present truth a reprieve from judgement, perhaps I’m the worm who’s turning?  Or perhaps its simply a different perspective?

So where is that book inside me?  How will my voice be heard, or my light be seen especially in an infinite sky burgeoning with a billion radiant stars? In amongst those constellations how does my spark burn brighter?  It doesn’t need to.  My light burns brightest when it is closest to me.  I think I’m doing alright.

 

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This Old Dog …

 

Sad I know but true;  I am currently 48 years old (once I was even paid to play football back in the 1990s) but up until today, I had not once, not ever, never come close to achieving a Rainbow Flick.  That little demon put paid to rest today!  Can you imagine the elation on this ‘young’ 40 something’s face?  It was deliberate too (honest), my son could not believe it, as he can already do it (or has done on occasions), he didn’t quite get the big deal I was making of it.  The fact that he had nutmegged me several times during our kick-about and had only recovered from laughing so hard he almost pee’d himself ten minutes prior, I sort of get how nonplussed he was.  The shrug of his shoulders was enough but that one moment in time was all it took for these particular fingers to come crashing back to this previously pummelled keyboard.

How long should a blog entry be by the way?

One advice I was given the other day was that it should be no more than 400 words.  Crap I thought, mine are double that, no wonder no-one reads it?  The whole blooming reason for doing it was to get engaged (not that way) and be able to stimulate some donations for Brathay Trust.  Have I really thought this through?

Talking about thinking ‘things’ through, you remember how much of a wimp I am?  Remember how much pain I was in for 60% of the Ten in Ten?  And the three weeks or so that it took me to recover?  Well, what do you think it would take for me to apply to join in with another attempt in 2019?  Very little in fact, no encouragement at all but determined I am to make a better fist of it in 2019.

Recently I’ve been lured away from Radio Two (well one day sort of counts), sweet relief to not have to endure Chris Evans at Breakfast (no doubt he won’t think much of me either), another BBC channel (didn’t even know it existed), Radio 6?  Who knew?  Some things change, some stay the same, especially my penchant for Sara Cox (especially her late night show and the feature ‘Shiftface’), lucky you read that one twice!  She’s even taken over the mantle of late night listening reserved for Janice Long who left a void in my life when she stopped her late night wireless slot.

By the way I was thinking of changing the title of the blog from Snickers or Marathons (which was a chocolate inspired nutty nudge to my love of confectionery) to a word play of my name, Duncan becomes ‘dung’ can, any advice, please, surely there’s some inspiration out there somewhere?

By the way you can still sponsor me for next year’s Ten in Ten at Just Giving for Brathay.

So this old dog is going to learn new tricks?  Let’s see…

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Brathay 10in10 – Chapter 12 – Capture the Ceryneian Hind

And you thought it was all over …it is now!

A return to normal?  It has taken a whole calendar month for this final blog entry to be written.  Every time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve had nothing, no inspiration, no drive, no reason to write.  Plus there have been some brilliant blogs written by others in the ‘Fellowship of the Lake’, that simply left me wordless.  The most recent blog post I’ve read has been the stimulus for me to finally publish this one.  Richard Rex you’ll probably hate this but you have been the inspiration for this particular blog post since January of this year and certainly since day one of the 10in10.

This was my ‘treat’ on Monday 22nd May.  Cheap breakfast but bloody cholesterolly lovely.

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Just a word of warning if you intend to read to the end.  I’m not editing this blog, it will be straight from heart and mind to fingers, to keyboard, t’internet; I want to try to recapture the last day, the aftermath, the fallout and how reality is now.  Therefore it might be repetitive (in places I’ve started to write this several times and failed), boring, offensive (although it is not meant to be) perhaps a little eclectic but it will be unadulterated – which will be the first time that I’ve been that pure in a few years.

Leading up to the last day there were many useful utterances, sage sentences and inspired offerings from experienced 10in10ers; have another ‘event’ to look forward to, expect the ‘Brathay Bump’, be prepared for some marathon melancholy.  So I’ve sat on my last post, my last Brathay Ten in Ten blog for over four weeks; my excuse to let the emotions die down, to begin to feel ‘normal’ again, to try to contemplate whether it was such a big deal.  As I’ve written before please don’t misunderstand me, I know ten marathons in ten days is a feat but it really is not that special.  It is simply putting one foot in front of the other for ten days, that’s all.  What about those people in deprived countries who still have to walk for clean water daily, children who trudge to escape war or conflict, children who suffer from exploitation or poverty in this country all hoping for a brighter future, surely what they do is worth more recognition than 20 ‘old people’ running around a big lake.  A few people used the words inspirational.  Now really, who and how have I/we inspired anyone?  The best we’ve done is to hopefully make a small difference to some young people and families, to what end?  Well, I hope that is for them to find out and I do sincerely hope we’ve made a difference, we have to believe we have.

Back in January we were asked what was our motivation for entering the Ten in Ten?  My answer, to demonstrate change, to believe that change was possible, harking back to the title of the ‘first’ Star Wars, ‘A New Hope’, my attempt to defeat the darkness inside of me, my own personal Death Star.

As selfish as ever, I wanted and expected this event to change my life, I was told it would, I believed it would and yet, it has continued much as it has before, I still leave things to the last minute, I still don’t prepare enough in advance, I am still idle and procrastinate just as much as before.  What I thought, was that I would achieve something truly special, like those people who have really attained something that they and their families can be proud of, truly amazing people who have overcome real adversity and who in every understanding of the word are inspirational, like Jane Tomlinson, Claire Lomas, Stephen Hawking, Robert Downey Jr, even my mate Mark Franklin.  Then there are hundreds and thousands of ‘unknowns’ out there who battle and beat their demons and have rebuilt their lives after losing their job, suffered a catastrophic injury, beaten cancer, or chosen to beat the odds, or achieve something that ‘normal’ says they can’t or shouldn’t, and on a daily basis.  I remember when I began to write this and asked a few colleagues who they thought was inspirational, Rachel (Colligan) mentioned her Dad, Mireya (Castell Fernandez) mentioned Frida Kahlo but something didn’t resonate.  My inspiration was (I’ve said it once I’ll say it again) borne of selfish reasons.  To prove to myself I could change, which I haven’t as much as I want.  To profoundly demonstrate to my ex-partner that I’m a better man; but I’m not (just received a text to confirm it, I’m still as poisonous as before).  To be a better father to my children, you’ll have to ask them about that in a few years time, if I’ve not screwed them up in the meantime (Philip Larkin).  Equally to show to my Mum, my sisters they could trust me.  And finally to prove to my Dad that I was capable of seeing something challenging through from beginning to end.

What has changed?  So far nothing, can things change, yes I believe they can.  Do I believe that I’ve been inspiring, no definitely not.  Do I believe I’m a good man, yes, I do, or at least on the way there.  Am I a decent father, yes, I believe I am.  A good son? Getting better.  I beat some demons around that course but not all of them.  Equally I do not think for one moment I’m ‘cured’ nor do I believe I have done myself justice, but we’ll come back to that.

Other things that I wanted to return to ‘normal’ were the hairs to grow back on my legs, the swelling to subside on my shins, the amount of grey hairs that I seemed to have accumulated over the duration of the Ten in Ten to return to their usual dark brown (that’s not happened so maybe I might invest in some Grecian 2000 in the future, not).

Back in January, I managed to ‘catch’ Rexy (but he had already run the course the day previous) on the Saturday reccy run at around 18 miles.  Now, as most of my old friends will tell you I am a competitive stubborn bugger.  Secretly, Richard Rex became my ‘quarry’, my Ceryneian Hind. Gosh, how up myself can I be?  But still I fancied my chances.  Just once I wanted to catch him around the course, just once to run with him, to pass him, to think I could almost be equal to a man who I really think is inspiring.  Rexy became our ‘leader’, he was proposed as Chieftain of the Day Ten Brathay Battle Cry (and rightly so).  There is something about Richard Rex, something I admire in him, just as I admire the other important inspirational male characters in my life (for the record, my Dad, Len Bamford, Mark Franklin, Paul Slater).  I want to be like them, I want my children to believe that I’m as brilliant as these five men are.  I hope…

On the last day I got thinking about my school days, in particular a certain Neil Venning.  I chatted to Dr Katie about him for a good ten minutes, how he could put a ball to feet from 60 yards, how he made things look easy on a pitch, he exuded a quiet and immovable strength partnered with effortless class.  Now, Neil always crops up in conversation whenever, Paul, Mark and I get together.  We laugh about the time Neil collected the Secondary School League Trophy (even though I was the school football captain) at Gresley Old Hall, we laugh about how gifted we all thought he was at that age, I remember how Neil was my unofficial minder on the pitch, how he once nutted a big bloke (when we were still young teenagers) in Sunday League and subsequently got his marching orders and all because this player had given me a kicking.  Neil without question was and still is the best football player I ever set foot on a football pitch with.  I remember those days and Neil with great fondness.  Unfortunately, I think he wasted his talent on beer.  We all have demons, we all get knock-backs, bumps in the road, adversity to overcome, sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t but what we have to do, what we must do is keep believing, keep moving forward, one step at a time, keep hoping.

Neil if you are out there?  If you choose to read this, (and I don’t mean or want to preach) it is never too late for whatever it is you want to be, unless of course you want to sit in the pub, then it is entirely up to you.

On that last day running around Windermere I also remembered Stephen Gadsby, my best friend from primary school.  At one point we were inseparable, football together, scrumping together, even, dare I say it, stealing penny chews from Pratts Shop together.  Almost 40 years later it feels as though that chapter didn’t get properly closed.  The relevance of this is that I miss my mates, I’m too far away from them, too removed from Kim (Geering), Mark (O’Reilly), Debs (White), Sakis (Dinas), Mark (Franklin), Paul (Slater) and even the 19+new ‘friends’ that I’ve now met as a result of the Ten in Ten.  Perhaps we will stay in touch, perhaps we won’t, I just have to hope we do…

Not sure whether I’ve disclosed this yet?  If I have, apologies for repetition (I did warn you) but if I haven’t then excellent, as I need to give thanks.  On the morning of Day 9 I lay on the massage plinth and didn’t want to run, not walk, not shuffle, not move.  I wanted to give up.  I asked why Dr Katie and Aimee were bothering, it was an exercise in futility, I told Aly Knowles as much, I told her I wasn’t worth it, totally pointless wasting their valuable time on massaging my useless muscles and legs.  Yes, melodramatic, but then that’s me.  But I said it, I can’t take it back.  Aly’s response was different, her belief in me unwavering.  She told me I could do it, I was worth it and I was worth believing in.  Adam Smith (who is as straight as a die) spoke with me and told me that day 9 was a day to conquer demons, that he believed I could do it and wanted me to succeed.  Dr Katie explained that day nine was a watershed (how true that was, with the tears that were released that day) and as ever Aimee remained faithful and as hopeful as the first day we met.  During day nine four people gave me belief, gave me hope, without whom I would not have shuffled a single step.  Thank you.

I also want and need to thank Mac Knowles, Jim Meta, Chris Heaton, Paul and Trudi Dewar.  They each contributed to the ten days (I don’t care if you think this is a cliche) in ways they will perhaps never appreciate but their support, their words, their faith helped me beyond measure.

This may sound ungrateful but when I crossed the finish line to the smiles of friends who had travelled miles to see me, to the embrace of my Mum, sister and children, I expected to feel something I’d never felt before.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.  What was it I expected?  Elation?  Sure I was happy.  In fact I was overwhelmed that Kim and Debs had made the journey.  I was amazed they’d bothered for me.  They knew how much this meant to me.  Seeing Mum and my sister at how proud (I could feel it) they were of the fact that I’d shuffled round Windermere for a little over a week was amazing.  But me, I didn’t get it.  The finish was an anti-climax, this massive change, this gargantuan shift, this new man I’d expected to become, well, it simply didn’t happen.  I’m still me.  Even a month on, the same, no different, so what next?  Read the last line on the page for the answer.

Now, as much as I hate to admit it (it is certainly not the soundtrack to my life that I’d hope to end this particular chapter of my life so far) but yet it seems to fit, I’d like to leave you having paraphrased Rod Stewart.  Equally, I know now I’m not going to be the iconic individual I somehow hoped I would be and certainly no Heavyweight Champion of the World but I will keep moving forward to be the best I can be

Ever since I was a kid in school
I messed around with all the rules
Apologized, then realized
I’m not different after all
But nothing ever changed
Promises made in the heat of night
I wasted all that precious time
And blamed it on the wine Looking for a way to hide my fear
What kind of fool was I?
I could never win

Now you ask me if I’m sincere
That’s the question that I always fear
‘Cause what I’m doing must be wrong
Pouring my heart out in a song
Owning up for prosperity
For the whole damn world to see

 

I asked Théo whether I should apply for next year’s Ten in Ten?  His answer, yes.  Why, I asked?  His answer, ‘to be better.’

And so, I’ll continue to do more of the same; more sobriety, more moving forwards, more running, and more hope…

Brathay 10in10 – Chapter 11 – Steal the Apples of the Hesperides

Well, it’s over, done, all ten complete.  Having stayed for the celebration meal, many hugs and many a thank you, the children and I have dashed back to home to resume regular, daily, weekly ‘life’.  Nothing like children to help keep you grounded.

As I begin to write it is currently half past midnight.  I’m tired, the drive back home was difficult as I just wanted to fall asleep, but now we’re here and the children are all tucked up in bed, I want to fulfil the promise of completing a diary entry per day during the Brathay 10in10.

George Sherriffs and I set off at a little after 7:15am this morning.  George had unfortunately torn a muscle in his quad only for or five miles in to his run on Day 9 so was in considerable discomfort and pain.  Both of us thought if we set off early we would be back in time for the Presentation Ceremony with our fellow athletes at around 3:30.  Unfortunately, the sacrifice was missing the gladiatorial parade and team huddle compèred by the inimitable Rich Rex at 8:45am.  Twas therefore an early start 6am, up at 5:30 and a disturbed night’s sleep prior, it was after all the ultimate day and jitters are allowed.  On waking my ‘landing gear’ was still not working so the slow walk down to receive physio seemed to take a painfully long time and I’d skipped my usual bowl of pre-marathon Sugar Puffs to boot.

Still, seeing the rather ‘happy 6am face of post-kayli‘ (sarcasm applied) Aimee and at least I was ready to face the day with a smile.  This young woman has for the last ten days put up with me morning and evening, the tantrums, the yells, the old jokes (some of which she didn’t know), the tunes (at least I’ve helped to improve her musical repertoire and expect her downloads to reflect her new learnings, especially the purple one and The Waterboys).  It might sound sentimental and perhaps another physio may well have looked after me as well as Aimee, but the way I feel at this moment and when I was on her plinth yesterday evening and this morning, I sincerely doubt it.  She has tweaked my achilles back to flexibility, compressed my calves, and generally massaged my muscles (including performing DTFM) giving every chance of fulfilling my goal.  I hope we’ve become friends?  The way I feel about this young woman; she deserves success, she deserves to be happy and if there is anyway I can repay her patience (even though I have very little money) she need only ask, I hope she trusts me to be there for her as she has been there for me?  Whether she understands or not, I simply could not have done it without her, we did this, together.  Her reward, experience; my debt at this moment incalculable.  By the way quick shout out to Dr Katie Small, I think I’ve worked out an analogy for the hamstrings; Aimee wasn’t far out, it just didn’t sit well with me, but what about trebuchet?

Sensible head on this morning; Adam taped me up, I swallowed my two ibuprofen and hobbled down to the start.  George galloped off and for about two to three hours (who knows because time is irrelevant out there) I was officially second (out of two starters).

It is about time I mentioned the pair of Dave(y) Green (apples), who have both been gentlemen all week, one slightly more reserved than the other, you know who you are Davey Green, but gentlemen nonetheless.  Dave Green has been very kind to me, and whilst our conversations have been brief, he has never felt the need to pass on unwanted advice, he’s remained considered, impartial, reverent.

One of the last comments I made on facebook was that it was time to ‘man up’ in less eloquent terms, ‘grow a pair’.  I didn’t grow a ‘pear’ today but my hard work, and the selfless encouraging nourishment through the support we’ve received at Brathay; from the Support Team, our fellow athletes, the physios and the hard work from everyone has yielded the physical harvest (if you wish the Apples of Hesperides) I desired (medals, my name on the list of 10in10 finishers and an official hoodie, at some stage).  What was unexpected was the emotional rewards; at the start line was my Mum, I’d never expected her to be there and it took two glances to realise.  I’m still incredulous at the support I’ve received and can’t quite understand why others think I deserve it.  Maybe this exercise will help me to realise that whilst I cannot change the past I can have a say in the future.  I appreciate this is a lot of waffle but these thoughts are fresh and I want to capture them whilst they can still be frozen, like Bird’s Eye peas.  I knew my sister was due to be at the finish line with my children, but I didn’t expect Kim or Debs.  Why they had travelled hundreds of miles to see me put one foot in front of the other I’ll never know?  But even if I never know I’ll always be grateful, I must be worth something to have such good friends and family.  In a way I feel guilty for not always being there for Emma but I am proud to share today with her, she deserves some acknowledgement and recognition for putting up with her daft older brother!

What was amazing at the finish was the hugs, the crowd, and even tears from Aimee (gotcha!), bang went her street cred credentials.  I forgot to mention yesterday, Day 9 we ran in together to our own sound track of Oasis

Today is gonna be the day
That they’re gonna throw it back to youCushendall
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you gotta do
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do, about you now
Because Aimee, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, we’re from Cushendall
Today was slow and once again painful, but once the legs got moving and I accepted the discomfort I shuffled from mile 2 right through to 26.2 (I may have walked Devil’s Gallop, but only to protect Dad’s Army and my worryingly dodgy left Trebuchet).
At just after mile twenty coming down the hill into Bowness (after being passed by the amazingly poised and powerful Paul Brown – mile 15, the relentless and efficient Jonathan Carter – mile 16, metronomic Malc – mile 17 and the resolute Sean – mile 18) I felt a pop in my lower left leg (maybe it was nothing but it bloody hurt for a moment).  Two hundred yards later one of my heroes, Rich Rex passed me, gave me a hug and said something along the lines of ‘amazing effort’.  I mentioned that I thought something had gone in my leg, his reply, in his true Northern Grit style ‘aye probably, but let’s get it done’.  Left to my own devices there was nothing more for it than to keep shuffling.  The real marathon lead car passed me at mile 21 and the first runner loped past me towards the foot of Ice-cream Mountain.  How did he make it look so effortless?  Barely two miles later and the Silent Assassin eased by, how she does it (as well) I’ll never know (unless she gets a sneaky lift)?  Anyhow, no other female runners went by me until almost mile 25 at which point I was hoping that Liane, might even get first female.  It clearly wasn’t to be and her time wasn’t even as fast as the previous day; all I can say is that there is a lot to be said for microwaved scrambled eggs!
Before mile 20 it felt like my top was catching, at the top of Ice-cream Mountain I was sure it had been and asked Mac Knowles if he had any vaseline (unfortunately not), so for the next 4.5 miles I ran with my left hand clutching my Brathay 10in10 shirt away from my chest.  People watching me perhaps thought ‘look at him, he’s giving everything for Brathay and even holding the badge to indicate his desire for the charity’?  At least I hope they thought that?  The truth of the matter is that I was ill-prepared this morning, forgot plasters and vaseline and ended up with blood all over my left breast, now off to nurse sore nipples!  At least it took my mind off my shins for a while.
Can’t explain how I feel now, I’ve not watched TV for ten days, barely read, all that I’ve done is eaten, slept, been pummelled and pulled in physio and for 262 miles put one foot in front of the other.  There is a story in there somewhere, a meaning for all of this, after all I asked for it, and I’m sure I’ve found out more about myself for struggling through for several days and never giving in (despite wanting to yesterday).  Will it serve as a lesson to me, to others, who knows?  Aly said it would change my life.  Katie and Adam said to make the most of what I’d achieved.  At this point in time (it is now 2:38am), I wish I was back at Brathay amongst it all still, may be for me it is a once in a lifetime event, may be it is the beginning of something new, all I know is that even though I’ve got the ‘apples’, I simply cannot let the pips go to waste.
One more blog to come and then perhaps I’ll sign off for a while…

Brathay 10in10 – Chapter 10 – Slay the Nine-headed Lernaean Hydra

This morning, on the penultimate game of Marathon Deal or No Deal, ‘Noel’ offered me a glance inside the last box, very generous of him I thought.  An exceptionally generous offer.

DON-LOGO-STILL-REVERSE

I’d like to take a flash back 48 hours, cue subtitles, location and audio commentary.  Thursday, I completed a marathon with shin splints in a little over 5½ hours.  How I thought I needed to do this was to take four ibuprofen before I started running, another four around 2½ hours later and then the last four at the top of Ice-cream Mountain.  That amount of self-medication is absolutely crazy, I know it, but I felt like I needed it to get round with the least amount of discomfort possible.  So, Thursday evening when I was asked how I was getting round and getting quicker I explained.  That’s me.  Heart on my sleeve, I clearly have no emotional filter and say too much.  If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to associate with me.  Your choice.  The one thing I know about myself now is that I will not lie, not even a white one (except of course if the Tooth Fairy or Santa is involved, which of course if Santa is involved, isn’t lying anyway).  Advice delivered and received, don’t take that much medication, mix ibuprofen with paracetamol, be sensible.  So I listened but equally didn’t and made the conscious choice to take a combination of ibuprofen and paracetamol.  So on Friday’s run, I struggled, the swelling and pain didn’t dissipate.

Following the run, there was concern about my health and well-being.  Everyone has been fantastic, and very professional.  All that was asked of me was to medicate within accepted healthy guidelines.  My reaction; stroppy teenager.  Instead of accepting that people were concerned I behaved in true drama queen style; did my bottles (some bottles minus electrolytes – funnily enough essential today – Saturday – due to the heat), missed food and decided that instead of taking some medication to try to get round, I would attempt a marathon, with shin splints but without any form of pain relief.  Why cannot I just accept help and be ‘normal’?  In my state of mind last night I felt as though I was asking myself to climb Everest but the Sherpas had taken away my crampons and ropes.

Luckily, even though I’m a child, we are supported by adults here, people who know what they are doing and talking about.  Eventually they gave me the impetus to get me to the start line.  They believed in me when I had lost all faith.

Back to Noel’s Box.  As of this morning we had 24 refreshment stations to run (we’ve already run through 216 of them, and about 100 of those I’ve done with shin splints).  Inside the last Box (this is a metaphor by the way) was the phrase ‘give up, you’ve achieved more than you thought, the pain will go away and you can still be satisfied with what you’ve already done’.  I was ready to accept it, for the pain to be over, the emotional rollercoaster to cease.  It’s easy to give up, much harder to never give in.  But in this game of Marathon Deal or No Deal, we have supporters, the very same people who I thought were making it extra difficult for me to achieve my dreams 14 hours previous were the very same people that were telling me I was capable of completing not just one marathon but two more days of marathons.  Aly, Katie, Adam and Aimee, I will never be able to thank you enough but by helping to realise that some things are worth going through a little pain for you helped me believe in myself.  It took me another 3 boxes and a little over six miles for me to appreciate and understand that it is possible, and as each drink station box appeared I declined the Bankers Offer.  We now only have 12 boxes to go tomorrow.  There is no glittering prize, there will not even be a new found belief in myself (although this last ten, eleven days has taught me so much more about me that I ever thought possible), but if anything what this has taught me is that if something is worthwhile struggling for you have to do it, one step at a time and one foot in front of the other.

I promised myself that I would not or at least try not to include any clichés whilst writing tonight’s entry so I’ll try to describe a few other things on the run instead.  Getting through the first 2 miles was excruciating, it was no easier getting to 4.5 miles either.  Obviously with it being a Saturday none of the school children at Hawkshead were there to cheer us on, which always pulls at the heart strings, instead there was a placard with the children’s palm prints and each and every 10in10ers name emblazoned boldly.  After eight days of running, your emotions can be stirred by the most random acts of kindness and although it bought a tear to my eye it did nothing to alleviate the pixies and their clubs hammering away at my shins.

From Hawkshead to Newby Bridge is my favourite part of the course, Esthwaite Water is beautiful, the forest, the hills, the peace, the road ahead, even Devil’s Gallop but still I couldn’t shuffle forward with the same impetus I’d had in previous days.  The Principality of Pain I was in had decided to annexe the Sovereign State of Suffering and had blitzkrieged the Territory of Torture.  How I felt sorry for myself.  At box three Paul, Trudi and Aly were there again, telling me how well I was doing.  It didn’t feel like it.  You equally need to appreciate that a week ago my marathon times were a tad over four hours, and I was over the moon with that.  Clearly someone was telling porkies because once upon a time I’d said I’d be happy just to finish ten marathons, perhaps that wasn’t entirely correct and as ever I expected more from myself.  How selfish!  As Mark had said earlier in the week ‘we’ were the lucky, there were absent friends who would never get to achieve what we were trying and succeeding doing.  Just 48 hours previous I’d mentioned to myself that if Jane Tomlinson could run marathons, complete triathlons and Iron-man, I was damned sure I could find something to get me through this.  That talking to had worked once before, but not on Day 7 and not today.  What worked today was actions not words.  Aly said she would be there for me and she was.  Who was I going to let down?  No-one, not Aly, not Aimee, not Adam, not Chris, not Katie, not my children and not me, not ever again.  It’s taken me thirty years to appreciate that whilst I’m not perfect and I have my faults, so does every bugger else, I just have to do the best that I can, whenever I can.

As I write this I think of all the people I’ve previously let down and all the lies I’ve told and whilst it satisfied the child in me it did nothing to help me to grow.  Just like the hydra’s heads, as one betrayal occurred another two sprang to take it’s place.  The last two years I’ve tried to take responsibility for that, sometimes I get it wrong still, sometimes I throw a teenager tantrum, but if I can only put things in perspective and take a moment maybe those steps forward will take me further along that journey towards being a proud person, proud of me.

It is now late in the evening, my shins are still swollen, the ice melting quickly and not reducing any swelling but sharing a room with Mark (someone has overcome real adversity and won) and thinking about how each and every day we’ve got up, got prepared, received physio and gone out to slay a Marathon Monster, we surely, each and everyone of us face tomorrow with a huge sense of excitement.  For me, I hope a new found belief, tomorrow when I believe and expect to finish it (the end of 262 miles) might allow me to exorcise a demon or two, but if it doesn’t we’ve had some fun, some tears, some laughs and found some new friends, each one a warrior of sorts in their own right.

In the words of Stevie G, tomorrow ‘We go again!’  I hope we get to bring silverware back this time though…

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Brathay 10in10 – Chapter 9 – Obtain the Cattle of the Monster Geryon

So we are sat in the ‘Athletes’ Room’ this morning and Janet and John (no, this is not a Terry Wogan radio fable) are sat next to one another looking very sage.  It was almost as if they sit there knowing something.  I’ve always admired managers, directors, owners of businesses, confident people in general, they emit this ‘I know something you don’t vibe’, well that’s how I feel and think any way.  In fact the four elder states-people of this little Fellowship (Janet, John, Diane and George) have quietly and confidently been getting the job done, day in day out.  Why would I think they know something?  Perhaps because they do.  They know what it takes to complete a marathon and they go about it each and every day with a quiet, confident, methodical manner.  No screaming in the treatment room like yours truly, no dramatics, like yours truly, they are simply accomplished.  They still join in with all of the fun and antics with a dry witty line here and there but to me they ooze confidence and it is about time they were acknowledged for their professionalism and conduct.  Still, it takes all sorts and everyone fits one way or another.

Adrian achieved his 100th marathon today which was fantastic.  Aimee and I decided on day 4 that we were going to recreate the dress of 118-118.  Why?  Just for a giggle.  Except in my twisted way I decided to make it more complicated than it actually was.  In explanations to my compadres, I’d suggested that today was Day 8, it was May 18th and 1+1+8=10 and 1+1+8=10, both 10s multiplied together equalled Adrian’s 100, a homage to him.  Apologies for boring everyone with the convoluted story.  We are two marathons away now from achieving the 10in10, a little light-hearted relief was perhaps needed?  The giggles really flowed when we found out that Aimee can’t pronounce ‘Poirot’.

The shin splint treatment has now officially been abandoned, the daily agony of trying to release the inflamed muscles over my shins with two to go, not required.  Screaming in agony today and even the extra jokes to stimulate laughter and endorphins did not help, perhaps the jokes need improvement?  What do you call a bird without any eyes?  BRD!  Oh well, can’t say we didn’t try.

On the plinth next to me this morning was Linda, who is fast becoming a legend.  She hardly winces (to me it looks like she doesn’t) when she is clearly in some discomfort and pain, either out on the course or when receiving physio.  Her comment the other day was something akin (you have to do a slightly Geordie accent here to get the full effect) to ‘it’s just a little ache in me leg, man’.  Her legs are taped, ankle to hip and she’s still banging out marathons and never giving up.  To me she’s like the Black Knight from Monty Python, ‘ tis but a flesh wound’.  Amazing.  She is not the only one, all of us are steadily falling apart and yet the determination is more resolute, whatever we are built on seems unshakeable.  Twenty out and twenty in, eight times, that’s 160 marathons complete or 4,192 miles, now try to be unimpressed?

 

Today was a bitter-sweet day; the first two ‘boxes’ incredibly painful, until the pain in my shin dissipated, or I got used to it, or the pain relief kicked in, or the muscle warmed up, or a combination of the four.  The relief was relatively temporary when at Box 10, the little pixies who were using mini walnut hammers evolved.  Charles Darwin has a lot to answer for.  The pixies have now got so clever and have honed their tool making skills so much that they have now made little clubs and are trying to use my shins as some sort of xylophone.  Accompany that with their attempts to play strings on my achilles and hamstrings and you might get some idea of how dramatic I’m making this.

Pixies

Forgot to mention, yesterday a ‘tourist’ (I think) stopped me at Newby Bridge to ask me, how far is it?  ‘26.2 miles,’ I replied.  Oh, so it’s a real marathon!  I ask you?

How are you feeling?  There’s a little pain in my hip, tiredness in my legs and my shoulder aches.  That’s okay says Aimee we’ll sort you out.  So another session trying to put me back together.  Roll over and let me sort your shoulder out.  Face down on the plinth with my head through the face hole and she sets to work.  I tried to write the word ‘HELP’ on the floor below in dribble, but none came.

Massage Plinth Face Hole

Why am I putting myself through this process day in and day out?  Why do I want to be part of this so much?  Why?  Because I want to achieve something, I want to be part of the ‘family’ the Marathon Mafia (this is meant to be a joke, so please accept it for what it is), just two more days and hopefully I’ll have earned my stripes?

Don Corleone

Brathay 10in10 – Chapter 8 – Clean the Augean Stables in a Single Day

My sister just sent me a text, ‘Day 7 on the Big Brother Marathon!  One foot in front of the other and so on!’  Putting one foot in front of the other is becoming incrementally more difficult as the days progress.  Today, was the lowest point for me so far.  Between Box 5 and Box 9, my shins have never hurt so much, my eyes welled up so often and the frustration, anger and (looking back on a positive) grit never been more apparent.  If anyone had taken any form of picture during that eight miles it would have been acutely apparent how I felt, no translation necessary.

As anyone who knows me, I don’t do pain well.  If you think I’m negative this evening or down or disappointed, I’m not, I’ve just had to dig the deepest to achieve something that for the longest period since I’ve been here I thought I couldn’t or wouldn’t.  Let’s consider it a low tide, but with every wane or wax of the moon, the tide ebbs and flows.  Tomorrow is another day.  Back to the topic in hand.  I don’t do pain well.  The strange thing about pain is that it bleeding hurts.  To inflect pain on self, regardless of the reason, may be attention seeking, a cry for help, or determination to exorcise demons.  Clean house.  This seventh marathon helped me tidy a few things away, just it hurt.  And on return a little chat with Adam Smith about my self medication.  My favourite sweeties now seem to be sugar coated Ibu made by Profen.  I’m taking what I need to get the job done.  Aimee and I got up to deliver and receive physio at 6:30.  Preparation is all important now.  The days are getting longer, but at least the sun is shining.  After active recovery (Sheldon’s Spot was taken) we had to settle for a plinth by the window with the ‘elite’ runners (Jonathan Carter and Liane Warren).  Sean Warburton‘s fish finger recovery sandwiches are going down a treat by the way, tip for any recovery athletes, this is top fodder.

It seemed like there was some sort of tag-team challenge going on, each part of my leg was being worked on by Dr Katie, Adam or Aimee.  At one point I was yelping, screaming, snorting and even tried to laugh to see if that would help.  It didn’t (well a little) but physio today was a necessary evil.  It hurt, and I was howling (sorry fellow 10in10ers) so much, that Dr Katie asked me who (as in who was hurting me most), I replied both of you; her reply ‘there’s three of us’.

So today was about doing the necessary.  Another marathon done.  Doing the essential, last night I limped back to Shackleton Lodge, where we all stay, and before doing my bottles noticed all of the crap that day in day out the Support Crew (Sandra Wade, Jim Meta, Aly, Paul and Trudy Dewar) clear away for us and no doubt the Chefs, Housekeepers and all of the other back of house staff who we barely see but ensure that everything is put away for us, prepared on time for us, all so that we can make old fart fools of ourselves as we attempt to run another marathon around a bloody big pond.

This morning there was a couple of announcements (everything happens for a reason), Mark Haynes reminded us we were the lucky ones, that some people were no longer with us and didn’t have the opportunity we have.  He had two hand-made signs from his daughters which stir the soul (I’d read them when he’d unpacked and left them on his bed day 1) and shared them with our Fellowship.  I couldn’t read them, couldn’t look up even, it would have been too much.  Too hard, too emotional and too early in the day.  I remembered what Mark said as I passed the chalked Miles for Matt sign on the pavement at White Cross Bay, it was all I needed to get me round.  Another phrase that was used this morning to help us appreciate how lucky we actually are was, ‘look left’; Windermere sits on our left shoulder from Newby Bridge back home, even on a crap day, you’d have to be cold to not appreciate the emotive natural beauty of all around us, add that to the people who are putting themselves to Hell (Newby Bridge) and back daily and you have to hand it to us, we have right cause to be proud of ourselves.

There were some bobble heads in a window at Bowness, it was like I felt today, wobbly! But another 15 minutes off my time from yesterday and another Radio interview this evening.  Perhaps that’s why I was frustrated because I wanted to Copy and Paste my mood from yesterday, unfortunately you cannot take anything for granted as each day is different on the Brathay Bounce.  Today, computer said, ‘NO!’  I can’t wait to CTRL-ALT-DELETE after Sunday and reboot, ready to re-apply for next year and do myself some more justice…

Today was a ‘Flake’ day for Adrian Brooks, his 99th marathon, tomorrow he joins the 100 Club.

So I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the Support Team who keep us going and clean our crap away, I’m sure it must be like cleaning the Augean Stables daily, so thank you.

Day 8 tomorrow, the journey continues… or a story of ‘there and back’ again…