Category Archives: London Marathon 2014

Raising Money for Olive and her friends

What a day! Thank you!

Olive MarathonThat marathon.  It was a cement mixer.  A food blender.  It was a day of everything.  I feel very privileged to have played a ‘moving part’ in such a spectacle.  And what a lesson in all the good things life has to offer.  Overdoing it?  I’ve may have finished, but I’ve not even started yet!

Before the race

It’s all about if you want a wee and getting your head blown off about how many people there are at Greenwich park.  Everyone you see is running for someone else.  Perhaps on behalf of an individual, or in the name of many thousands.  All of a sudden, you go from ‘training for a long run’ to being part of one seriously sensational network.  And then you wonder if you want a wee again.

The start

Everyone starts to walk en mas and in orderly fashion to the start line.  Like any decent cavalry charge, the organisers have figured out what speed a crowd of several thousand needs to be at in order to hit the start line without falling over each other…and that flip from walk to run is a great feeling.  You’re off!

Miles 1-5

It’s a bit like running through a carnival.  Lots of support from the Greenwich crowd and lots of colour, energy and good vibes.  At this point, no one is out of steam and your senses are suitably distracted from the miles ahead.  That first hour is very special.  You get the sense that you’re into something pretty good.

Miles 6-10

The body starts to let you know that you’re running a marathon.  The sun starts to tell you that it’s really hot.  Despite my ongoing knee thing, all worries were focused on nipple burn and blisters in the first half of the run!

Miles 10-15

This is the rock star bit.  Leading up to and going over Tower Bridge, into the sights, is a great buzz.   For a moment, you forget that you have another half marathon ahead.  Maybe I can just run back and across the bridge until the miles are clocked up??  It’s like a football stadium…on a road.

Very Good People

It’s in the hour up to Tower Bridge (13miles) that you also get the Marathon Lesson.  This event is only about distance and time for the Elite.  The vast majority are putting themselves through it for a bunch of incredible causes.

The London Marathon is a real-time reminder of the power, scale and enduring nature of human kindness.  I was in awe.  The runners and the crowd are energised by doing a good thing for other people.

I live in a commercial world.  It’s a world away from the essence of the Marathon.  It struck me how the BIG institutions of the land are wholly reliant on human kindness to prosper.  Government could not function if people were not prepared to work on behalf of others, whatever the conditions.  The BIG brands, Apple, Virgin, Barclays etc…they would have no customers if we as humans were not able to compassionately support each other.  What presents itself as ‘charity’ is really an extension of people doing what people do.  We don’t buy iphones intuitively, we don’t borrow money by default, we don’t fly without thinking about it, but we do help each other.

The London Marathon is 26.2 miles of people helping each other out.

I think that’s what makes it so special.  With that in mind, the last 11 miles were all ahead. And my legs were starting to wobble!

Miles 16-21

Hard Yards.  Water, gels, food, focus, dedications…but somehow you just run out of steam.  The stride shortens, the rhythm syncopates and…you hit the….banking district!  It’s also the points where you see casualties in greater number.  St John’s at work on some people, others attempting roadside cramp removal, others walking in that I’ve-had-enough way.   But always, a moving river of charity vests and a chorus of support from a crowd full of welcomed strangers.

Miles 22-26

Your body and mind get split in two.  The support thickens and the sites of the capital are back!  You do get literally carried along.  But oh that body, those legs, those aches that just won’t let you alone.  It’s all about hanging on.

The last 300 yards

Turning the last bend at Buckingham Palace to face the, thankfully, short stretch to the finish line is a wonderful feeling.  There’s just enough endorphin in the system to let you soak up the vibes and the pain.  The red tarmac of Pall Mall gives a change of tone to the heavy, heavy weather of the past 90 minutes.  You’re home.  Phew!

The Finish

When you stop running after you’ve run for, in my case, 4 hours 46 minutes, you feel….weird?  Exhausted and really quiet.  No thumping feet.

All the pain of moving gets reallocated to the pain of not moving and the interim period is about as close to teleportation as I can imagine.  Not that dreamy Star Trek teleportation.  Think more like, The Fly.

Much like the pain of the run itself, the sense of achievement builds over time.  It’s not til a good few hours later that what you’ve done really sinks in.

The upsides of this experience are numerous.  The money raised from sponsorship, the life lesson, the physical fitness, the love affair with lycra, the family support, the 52 likes on Facebook, the pics, the ‘I was there’ factor.  And yes, I can’t walk properly.  I am the Tin Man.  But…what a day.

The cuddle at the end?  Priceless.

I will continue to thank everyone who has given money to the RLSB as part of my Marathon sponsorship.  But in blog world, I have to say officially, again, Thank You.  You have made a contribution to the futures of young visually impaired people…and one of them happens to be one of the most important people I know!

20131208_141210

As for next year?  Well, being a dad it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is it! (Nearly)

jacko IIThe last person to coin the phrase ‘this is it’ was, I believe, Michael Jackson?  However, my intention is not to bribe a doctor to administer me with fatal doses of hospital grade anesthetic.  My intention is only to run the London Marathon…next Sunday.  Gulp!!

I have done most of my training runs (knee permitting) with a woman called Nathalie.  We break up the run by talking…mostly about pain (mental, physical, emotional), pressure points, event logistics, fund raising, self-doubt, hydration, clothing, weather, trains, celebrations yada yada yada.  We’re both running for charities that have impacted our family lives.  So, in terms of big deals, we share a bigness!

Yesterday’s run, however, was a day of referring to all the above and then getting, dare I say, a little bit excited.

The ‘journey’ of training for the marathon makes you ‘dizzy’.   I genuinely thought I could run a sub-4 hour marathon for about…hmmm…two weeks?  It was a temporary belief.  I had found my calling!   A balding forty-something marathon man.  My middle years spent taking on ever more extreme endurance as my face became a gristled grid of windburned wire.

What a numbnut!?

The reality of marathon training is that it is super tough.  There are reasons why I haven’t bought a pair of real trainers for the past 20 years.  There are reasons why I have been getting progressively heavier over the past decade.  There are reasons why I used to bunk-off PE at school.  There are reasons why my knee nearly fell off during training! Innate, genetic, immutable reasons!

My training plan sort of went out the window due to knee issues.  I have ground through the final weeks with a combo of cycling, funny exercises and some running.  My plan for the race is really one of hope that the knee holds up – but as the start line approaches, it’s a good hope, not a prayer.   Thankfully, the remedial work on my bum (glute) has helped some and, luckily, the advice of ‘not running  very fast’ is one I am more than happy with.

The trouble with such a physically demanding event is that you get immersed in the ‘performance’ and lose sight of the motivation for signing up.   My family couldn’t give a fig what time I run the marathon.  Olive doesn’t even know what time is?  The RLSB just want me to get round and (ahem) enjoy it, raising money on the way. None of my fellow runners are concerned for my time.  It’s just me, then?

We live in a world that is judged on performance and that seems to creep into your skin, even in fun running.

Kids that are visually impaired know a lot about performance.  As an infant, the performance is, in Olive’s case anyway, a series of trips to GOSH to be observed and evaluated against a set of benchmarks for VI children.  This is a very benign yet important process.   We get an idea of where she is at and what she can see.  We also get some perspective on where her development is against sited and VI children on an objective scale.  I think it also gives the team at GOSH some sense of red flags to watch for as well.  If her motor skills, speech etc are delayed any more than is to be expected as a result of her blurry world, they may need to look for other cues as to what’s up.

I’m sure there will be times between now and Olive being a grown-up where her ‘performance’ is evaluated in more subjective ways.   It’s hard not to judge people that sit outside the physical, emotional or intellectual norm.   Humans don’t do outliers very well.  There’s probably some sort of Darwinian imperative that ‘forces’ us down this track.   For most of us though, it’s to do with a lack of familiarity and plain old bad habits leading us down often faulty roads of judgement against a person’s character and capabilities.

Olive, thankfully, swims at the shallow end of adversity with her condition.  She has some sight.  It’s improving.  Her development is good.  Her attitude is enchanting! But, she’s still going to run the gauntlet of feeling excluded, vulnerable, ‘out there’ in the big wide world at some point.  Maybe no more than any other kid.  Maybe less?  But as the work of the RLSB keenly points out, the need for VI children to be supported in infancy, through the school years, through adolescence, and be given all the chances possible to realise their potential is crucial.

If children are given the right preparation for life, they thrive.  VI children benefit from some of that preparation being tailored to them – peer groups, skills development, training, confidence building – even the simple mantra of living life without limits – they are all guiding hands to give VI kids a fair start.  With that, the ‘performance’ measures that life places on all of us, stand a better chance of being met.  In some case, exceeded.  On others, completely smashed to pieces!

And that’s why I’m running the London Marathon 2014 for the RLSB.   I signed up because this worthy charity has helped my daughter and family, because I have met so many other children that benefit from its work and because the notion of running a long way motivates people to give me money to do so!  My marathon is not a tick box event for the middle-aged professional.  It’s not a passion to test my limits.  It’s a commitment to my Olive and an investment in all the great people at this remarkable organisation.

You can help me on this big ole run by donating here.

That really is it.

 

(for now)

 

 

Toothless Highs and Lows

What’s the difference between a set of false teeth and a weak arse?  One makes you laugh, the other makes you cry.  Let me explain…

teeth

The marathon training has hit a bit of a wall.  Four weeks ago – about nine weeks from the big day – I got a bug and missed a week of training.  The following week I went back to training and, whilst on a long run, had to pull out at ten miles as my grumbling knee problem really went up a gear. It could have been a lack of stretching, the early start, the new trainers, or just miles on the clock, but it was a watershed for sure.

The week after, I got another bug!  This time a vomiting virus that presented itself to me as I was presenting to my whole company at the Octopus Group Kick Off event.  Oh the humiliation of public-toilet-based retching.

That adds up to three weeks out of the game.  More importantly, it’s a critical three weeks as there’s no time for recovery and rest before the big day.  I am faced with a balancing act of pain management, lighter runs, strengthening exercises and prayer.   I went for a run yesterday with my marathon training buddies and again bailed at 10 miles.  So, with four weekends to go, it’s all looking iffy.

The source of the knee problem is, according to a very nice physio chap, that I have a weak left ‘glute’…aka arse.  This causes my knee to twist each time a strike the pavement and, over time, causes pain.

I’ve always sensed that my literal and figurative arse have been a bit on the light side, but to have it confirmed by a professional….well.  Let’s just say it was enlightening and humiliating in equal measure.

What to do?

It’s a question of getting the muscle stronger.  If I had three months (if only i’d gone to the guy sooner) no problem.  But, with time against me, the intensive repair routine started in earnest on Saturday when I asked my mate Pete to accompany me on a bike ride.  Bike means good – a bum workout + minimal knee distress.  Off we went!

Pete, who has a tendency to enjoy the suffering of others, did a great job of motivating me up Box Hill a couple of times with his ‘left leg, left leg’ mantra.  I was depressingly slow.  At one point I was passed by roadkill.

Speed aside, it felt good to be out and, on the way home, I decided to attack a couple of lesser hills in a higher gear.

On the final hill of the day, my batteries were running out and I grimaced and cursed on the busy A25.  My last outburst combined the F word with a desperate exhale and….thwpah….

…my false teeth went flying into the air and onto the tarmac behind us!

I have false teeth as I am in the middle of having some ‘screw-in’ teeth fitted at the front of my mouth. That’s a long story for another time.

I pulled on the brakes and pivoted to track the trajectory of my temporary teeth, praying to God that they weren’t crushed by a car.  The thought of having no teeth for a week whilst the dentist made some more?  I tell you, I am not a vain guy, but hillbilly smiles and a constant consonant whistle?  Not good!

Luckily the teeth had pinged onto the verge.  I clambered after them.  A lycra-clad tooth fairy doing the funny bike shoe shuffle.  I bent down and, following a quick rinse with the water bottle, popped them back in my gob.  Back to normal.  Phew!

However, I turned to Pete and he seemed to be in trouble.  He was doubled over his bike, dribbling and very, very red.  He appeared to be crying?  He was having a schadenfreude seizure!

See text below.

Screenshot_2014-03-10-16-53-29

Despite the toothless episode, the knee felt pretty good after the ride.  Okay, it came unstuck the next day running and hurts like stink today, but at least I can keep my fitness going in the saddle.

The moral of the story?

Well there are lots.  Friends find funny things even funnier at your expense. You have to get up and get on with stuff.  Innate slowness is not something you shake off with machinery.  And, training is a game of highs and lows.

So, the road to recovery continues.  My sub 4hrs 30mins goal is going to require a rethink, but I have a very special oil at my disposal to help me through.  It’s an oil that cures all doubt, transcends pain and makes you feel like you walk on clouds.

Olive Oil!

20140125_131359

Poster Child

Olive has made it into the promo materials for the RLSB’s expanding regional services around the Southeast.  She was snapped at the drop in nursery the other day.  I love this pic!

Olive NurseyI can’t help but think that she’s singing “I’ll be there” (the Four Tops, not the Jackson Five’s version).  Dum dadda dum dadda dum dum ha…I’ll be there!!!

I am running the London Marathon 2014 on behalf of the RLSB, a charity that does amazing work in building the confidence of children with visual impairments.  You can sponsor me here.

Squeaky Bum Time

There are NINE weeks to go to the London Marathon 2014.  The bum is squeaking.  The knee is grinding.  Surprisingly, I am also suffering from heated seat-based chaffing of what I will call ‘the leg-bum delta’…more on that later.

14 miles were run yesterday.  Here’s the bonkers bit: wow, that’s a long way, yet, ooh, there are 12.2 miles to go???

20140209_180933My pride and joy are the pair of trainers I have knackered during the winter training sessions.

So many boxes ticked!  Virtue – I have been running a lot (tick).  Sympathy – oh you poor thing, soldiering on with holes in them slippers (tick). Validation – I am tougher than a pair of shoes (tick), Retail – I can go shopping for some new sports gear!!! (tick).

A man comes of age when he starts taking an interest in utility sportswear ahead over other apparel.  Walking boots, trainers, weather appropriate garb.  To hell with the price, this is about survival.

North Face exists on this basis.  I need a $400 jacket.  I may get stuck in a snowdrift. The fact I get to look like I work on a film set is a fringe benefit.   Survival is paramount.  Pass me the clapperboard.

But running the marathon is the real deal.  It’s the snowdrift. And my right of passage will come in the shape of brand spanking new pair of trainers.  I will, of course, pay them no heed.  They are just a tool of the trade, now.  An overhead.  All in a days work.  Show me the puddle.

The chaffing?

Well, after my run yesterday in Dorset – where me mam and dad lives – I went through the standard protocol – hydration, stretching, small amount of crying, then this sort of cock sure limp-walk around the house to stamp my authority on the morning.  All done.

Imagine then my surprise when, after the 2.5 hour drive home later that day, I experience chaffing…of the lower butt??  I walked from the car as if supported by imaginary calipers, a bow-legged cowhand in  a hurry.    The heated leather seats of the Seat Alhambra had roasted my open-pored upper hamstrings.  I can only think that a combination of exercise, shower, jean-pants-heat-fatigue had assaulted my unsuspecting ‘arris.

For those of you who have ever chaffed, you’ll know how unsettling it is.  However, most times, it comes from a build-up of movement.  You can see it coming.  Imagine then a chaffing surprise?  A ninja rash assassin when you thought you were home and dry.  What surprises lay head on the road to 26.2 miles I know not.  Even at rest, you are vulnerable.

But enough of me…

20140125_131359

Olive has also gone up a gear this week, too.  She has walked with a stroller.  Whoop!  She does it a bit like I do running, with a sense of begrudging necessity.  But does it she does! Go Luffalo!

It’s one of those teary parent moments that you never forget.  And with Olive, it always comes with the consideration of how much her eyesight affects her ability to do things.   There’s this peculiar balance you strike as a parent with a visually impaired kid, or I expect, as a parent of any child with special needs.  You want them to be ‘normal’ and you want them to be ‘special’.  You want to tell the world they walked today and then forget about it.   Jump for joy then back to business.

What you can never underestimate is the how hard Olive tries.  She ran the gauntlet of critical neonatal illness.  From day one she has had to dig really deep.  She invests huge amounts of energy in getting on with things.  We notice with Olive that when she is poorly, with a cold for example, her eyesight is not as good.  It’s because she’s low on resources.  And what comes spontaneously to most people she has to work for.  She has to apply herself.

However, to sanctify her efforts also serves to undermine them.   That’s the weird bit.  You know that for every milestone reached, another waits round the corner and that Olive’s motivation is not based on a need for recognition.  She just wants to get on, to survive.  North Face doesn’t even get a look in.

Here’s to a thousand more magically modest milestones.  There’s plenty more footwear to tear up yet.

20140209_180948

As always, you can sponsor my efforts to raise money for the RLSB here.

The little big things

imagesOlive  managed to put all the rings back on a building pyramid today.  It was a real milestone.  We don’t know exactly how or what Olive sees in detail, but having her make a connection like this and see ‘enough’ to do it is a big deal.

When your kid has a visual impairment, specifically a cerebral visual impairment (CVI), the developmental path is a jaggedy one.  There are lots of things about seeing that, as a baby and toddler, represent more than seeing itself.  Making connections between objects and words, or objects and functions are all part of figuring out what the world is about.  When those objects are less clear, or completely obscured, those connections aren’t made as easily.

Olive does fantastic things.  To think that 9 months ago she couldn’t see much at all.  She spent the majority of her sitting up time facing the floor.  Her head would move towards, or in the direction of, noises, but you could creep past her undetected with ease.  Now, she’ll spot an object, pick it up if she can and put it…well…somewhere?  She also gets around really well and has enough vision to be curious about the stuff in a room, or the people, animals and all that.

Faces?  Well, that’s a work in progress.  Faces are tricky things to figure out if you don’t see them quite properly.  In fact, faces are a whole ballgame in themselves when it comes to VI.

A consultant at Great Ormand Street Hospital that we see regularly said something once that has stayed with me ever since.  In one of the many tests that Olive has undertaken when in hospital she observed that Olive “responded to my silent face”.  The words just hung in mid air for a while and really made me think.  I’d never heard that phrase before.  I expect it’s an occupational term, but it sounded so weird.  It meant, of course, that Olive was responding to what she saw, not a noise (a voice) attached to it.

A silent face?  Who ever thinks of a face as being silent, or loud, or audible in any sense?  I had fast-tracked a layman’s understanding of the terms that surround VI, such as MRI scans, white matter, the visual cortex, neural pathways, corpus callosum et al. Their scientifically sinister undertones accompanied us on the road to finding out what was up with Olive’s vision.  But it was the ‘silent face’ that ‘done me in, guv’.

A world without sound is a different world for kids that don’t see very well.  Removing the sound changes the rules.  And faces…they are so…important.  Bringing the notion of a silent face into our family brought with it a sobering recognition that Olive’s world was…different.

Olive can see a silent face now.  Maybe not clearly, but enough to smile and reach out a hand to say hello.  Enough to recognise features and tell mum from dad etc. And so her path to seeing stuff continues.

There are lots of children with VI that face the same challenges as Olive.  There are also those who don’t have the potential for their vision to improve at all.  Moreover, many have conditions where their site is degenerating.   They all share a common ground of having to adapt to a visually impaired world as they grow, seek independence and find the gumption to get over the hurdles.   That’s why I am running the London Marathon 2014 on behalf of the RLSB to help visually impaired and blind children live life without limits. 

You can help me, and them, via the sponsorship link above and know that you are making a real difference to some seriously special people!

Jog Du Vin

wine-wit-wine-and-running-L-lGwLnlPeople who say that you can’t train for a marathon and drink to your heart’s content are…right!  I have tried to prove the theory wrong over the past three weeks whilst climbing the hill to the London Marathon 2014.  I have failed.

Drinking is easy.  I come from a long line of drinking folk.  I was born to publicans, so what chance did I have?  The lure of the vines is strong.  Jedi-like force, it has.

Running is hard.  I come from a long line of non-running folk.

As if running wasn’t hard enough, I have made it harder in recent weeks by combining it with a sub-optimal-training-lifestyle.  Christmas comes but once a year, but it arrives with bells on.

There is some solace in being a few months ahead of the New Years Resolution runners that are doing the hard yards right now.  As a blogger on runnersworld.co.uk delicately puts it – New Years jogging cab be a real headf*%k!

I made it a goal to run 10 miles before the year ended, which I achieved on 29th December.  Yay!  Go go gamification personal best mapmyrun app thingy.  But, oh my knee!  I have a niggle that has transformed into a nobble.  I hope it’s all part of the journey, but it doesn’t feel l like it’s going away.

And there’s the rub.  All the good running advice is about taking things easy, but the April 13th clock is now a-ticking and I have to get my game face on, or game knee on at least.

Who would have thought that legs only exposed to walking for the majority of their 41 years on Earth would struggle with 15,000 strides on tarmac and concrete over a windy coastal jog in the rain.  I mean, really?

Maybe it was the wine?  Maybe the blood sugars and boozification of the system plays havoc with ones joints?  What a painful price to pay.  A pious January with the NY resolution hoards at my side should prove a useful benchmark for the route cause of my creakiness.  Miles 11, 12, 13…it’s all to play for.

Jog Du Vin encore?  Non, non et non.  Puet etre?

And remember folks, you can sponsor me here for the London Marathon 2014 on behalf of the RLSB.