Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Guinness World Records (tm) Press Release

I've just been sent this link to the Press Release from the people at GWR. There are photos of me, the chain gang and Angus. This was the first time that GWR people have been at the FLM and I hope they come back again as it's such a great boost to fund-raising.

This is me with Scott Christie. The official length of my scarf was 1.20m so that'll do for me!

Monday, April 23, 2007

London Marathon Day

Where on earth do I begin to explain what an amazing day it was? Well, we were up and out of the house bright and early to avoid the road closures and the crowds. We arrived at the Green Start very early which was nice as we could get settled in, have a cup of coffee and I could go to the toilet several times without having to join a queue! The Green Start is rather an exclusive venue as it is reserved for celebrities and the speedy people from the various Running Clubs so someone such as yours truly wouldn't normally be there. However, the people from Guinness World Records (tm) arranged for all of the hopefuls to be switched there to make our registration process easier. The BBC outside broadcast crews were there setting up in readiness and the security guards were busy patrolling.

The first person I met was Lloyd Scott, the champion of whacky fund-raising stunts (he famously took a week to complete the London marathon wearing a full diving suit). He is dressed as Indiana Jones and would be pulling a giant boulder (made of fibreglass) around the course in a scene from Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. You can read more about Lloyd Scott's adventure here.

It was quite nice getting there really early as we watched everything being put in place. The baggage wagons rolled into place.

Then the balloons were inflated.

I got changed into my running outfit, Mike attached the wool to my apron (we did a trial run of this the day before) and I had a little jog round to check everything felt OK. We checked I'd got everything so that I could check my bag onto the baggage truck, which I duly did.
Then Blisters (from the Runner's World forum), who I'd never met before, came over to say 'hello' as he'd spotted my name on my vest. We chatted for a while and then he casually asked me if I'd put any suncream on. It was at that moment that I realised we had forgotten to put it on even though we'd remembered to bring it with us. DOH! Thankfully, Blisters came to the rescue and very kindly sprayed all my exposed bits. Thank you very much Blisters and I hope you got the time you wanted.

We knew we had to get to the Red Start, just along the Common, by 8:50 as I was doing a live interview on the BBC with Jonathan Edwards so we were acutely aware of the time whilst we were waiting for Scott and Amarilis from the Guinness World Records (tm) team to check us in. We waited as long as we could and then set off, only to bump into Amarilis en-route. Phew! By the time we got to the Red start there were loads of people milling around. The tannoy started playing "what have you done today to make you feel proud" and I got a lump in my throat (it always gets me!). The raised platform where they were doing the 'live' interviews was quite close to the tannoy and it was really loud.

While we were waiting for my turn, we chatted to a nice young man (I'm sorry but I can't remember his name) who was about to do his interview. He is a very brave young man as he is living with a brain tumour, inoperable but thankfully under control with a daily dose of medicine. He said he was nervous but he seemed to do well in his interview. You can see the balls of wool tied to my apron at the back. Mike secured them with pieces of wool that I could undo easily.

Then it was my turn to prepare so I went up the steps to meet Jonathan Edwards (former World triple jump champion!).

Whilst we were waiting for our live link, he asked me what my effort was all about and I gave him the background so he could formulate his questions. I told him about my 50th birthday challenge, the ultra marathon, raising awareness of the work of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, mum's dementia and the knitting whilst running to get into the Guinness Book of Records.

The cameraman did a few checks for position and to see if he could fit my enormous bulk into the frame!

Then Jonathan asked how I would be carrying my wool and that's when I turned and did a little wiggle. They all loved it and Sharon (the lovely director) said we'd end the piece with me doing a wiggle and that would be their cue to go back to the studio.

All of a sudden we were live on air and Jonathan was asking me questions. He was very nice and it felt as if I was just chatting with a friend. He started by saying that he'd heard I'd got a special birthday this year and that it must surely be my 40th - what a sweety! I managed to get the Alzheimer's Research Trust a mention and spoke briefly about mum's condition. In a flash it was all over and he asked me where I had stashed my wool, at which point I turned and flashed my booty on national TV!

By this time Angus had joined us as he was next up for a live interview. We wished eachother good luck in our respective goals, then it was time to go back to the start. By now it was 20 minutes before the start and I had to say goodbye to Mike and join the queue for a final trip to the toilet. As we hugged I got a bit teary, and Mike tried to calm me down and get me back on track. I went and found Amarilis and Scott Christie from the Guinness World Records (tm) team. Scott asked me the size of needle I was using and checked the number of stitches I had cast on. He then checked my stash of yarn in case I'd got a ready knitted scarf stashed away! Once I was given the OK I went to join the queue for the loos.

The queue for the portaloos was enormous and with 5 minutes to go I was still waiting. The chain-gang of 17 convicts also needed to go - the first few managed to get into the loos but the remainder didn't (if you get the picture!). At this point all the men disappeared round the back and all of a sudden I was right at the front of the queue. I legged it to the start and joined the back of the queue. All of a sudden we were off. It only took a few minutes to get over the start line and then the big knit began.

The first part was really very relaxed because the Green Start is really quiet in the first few hundred metres. As I was right at the back I had loads of room to get into my stride and find my knitting rhythm. There were a few people supporting at the side of the road and several of them shouted that they'd seen me on the TV and wished me luck. Wow, how fantastic I thought. Little did I know what amazing support I was going to receive all the way round the course. After a short while the Green and Red starts merged and all of a sudden there were loads of people around me and the reality of it struck me. Oh heck, I thought (or something along those lines!).

Along I plodded, bang on 12 minute miling as I'd practised, knit, knit, knit, counting my stitches all the time for fear of dropping any. Then it started. Runners coming past started exclaiming "Oh my god, she's really knitting and running", "have you dropped any stitches yet?", "oh wow, I can't believe you're going to do that all the way round!". I'd hear them coming up behind, notice the wool, exclaim "what's she doing.......she's KNITTING" then as they came alongside they wished me luck and said lots of very kind and encouraging things. Of course, many people also called me a nutter too, but only in a nice way and with a smile! Some of them, including Plodding Hippo from the Runner's World forum, took photos of me as they ran alongside.

I tried to keep near to the side of the road to keep out of the way and allow people to pass. As the field spread out a bit the spectators started to notice what I as doing too as my knitting had started to grow. I'd hear shouts of "come on knitting lady", "oh look, there's the runner who's knitting, I read about her in the papers", "I saw you on the telly this morning, good luck" and that's how it was all the way round.

It was predicted to be a very hot day and the weather forecasters were right - it was hot, hot, HOT! The organisers had said that they were worried about the heat and had put on extra water stations. What I hadn't thought about though was sweaty hands. By the half-way point my wooden needles were getting a bit uncomfy and difficult to work as the sweat had made them rough. I adapted my technique and had to push the stitches along more firmly. Then people started appearing with hosepipes to shower the runners. Noooooooooooooo, please don't spray me, I thought, as I didn't want my wool to get wet and heavy. There were so many people walking from before the halfway point that I spent a lot of time weaving my way through the crowd (which isn't easy carrying knitting and needles!).

My knitting was growing quite well now and I was changing the colour of wool every 5 miles or so to make it stand out and help people spot it. By the time I got to the 14 mile mark it was a fair length. I was on the look out for the Grapes Pub on Narrow Street which is where I would see Rachael Matthews with her spinning wheel (and any others knitters who had joined her), the supporters from the Alzheimer's Research Trust and, best of all my hubby Mike who had promised to be there too.
As I spotted the pub I lost concentration for a minute and for the first time I nearly lost a stitch and had to concentrate really hard to get it back. Then I spotted Mike and I was filled with an overwhelming happiness and got a bit teary. He gave me a great big hug and I stopped for a photo opportunity with Robin (centre) and Michelle (right) from the Alzheimer's Research Trust (you can just see part of Mike on the left too!). He caught quite a tan on his face through being in the sun all day without a hat (I did try nagging him to wear one, but would he listen? NO!!!!!!!)

From then on it was just a case of knitting and running at a steady enough pace to get me round in under 6 hours which was the time limit set by Guinness World Records (tm) - it is a running record after all so there had to be a reasonable time limit. Ordinarily I wouldn't have worried about it but I had been stopping at regular intervals to take on water (well, have you tried running, knitting and drinking water from an open bottle?!) and this was eating into my running/knitting time. At one point someone in the crowd spotted me, shrieked and came running alongside me. It was a forumite (so sorry, but I didn't catch your name) and it was so kind of her to run along and wish me luck. Thank you. I saw some of the support crew from Runner's World (Cath and Sweetie whose names I knew) but I seemed to have lost the power to string a sentence together coherently so apologies to you guys and thank you for turning out to support us all.

Then my nightmare became reality - there was a water cannon spewing water all across the road and I couldn't shield my wool properly. I got soaked, the wool got soaked, my sunglasses got soaked. I had to stop to wipe my glasses, squeezed my knitting as best I could and try to wipe my needles. Unfortunately the stitches became really hard to drag along the needles and it took a few miles to dry off enough to become manageable again. At some point after the water cannon incident I remember going past the supporters from FETCH and someone shouted out "REDHEAD". I tried to wave my knitting and I hope they saw me - thanks for the shout guys. Suddenly I was at mile 24 and as I checked my time it became obvious that I needed to increase my pace in order to get round under 6 hours. Oh great, all of a sudden I had to dig deep and find 11 minute miles so I stashed my needles and yarn in the pocket of my apron and I pushed the pace as best I could. At mile 25 I knew I was going to be OK so I got my knitting back out and carried on.

The scarf looked long enough to justify it's title so I wasn't worried about that any more (at the start I had no idea how long it would end up). When I saw the '400 metres to go' sign I felt such elation and I could feel the tears starting to well up already. I turned the corner into The Mall, raised my knitting above my head and ran towards the finish line. I heard the commentator saying "oh look, she's been doing her knitting!' (some of my neighbours saw me crossing the line with my knitting held high). I crossed the line, stopped my watch and just burst into tears. I was thinking of my mum and why I'd done this. What I hadn't shared with anyone was that I'd worn her engagement ring so that she was with me all the way round. The tears fell freely. My time was 5:50:06 which is almost an hour slower than usual. Most people would be gutted I'm sure but I'm very pleased with that!

I saw Scott Christie from Guinness World Records (tm) waiting for me holding my certificate and he came over and gave me a hug which made me sob even more. He took the knitting away to measure it then we met up again for him to present me with my temporary certificate. The final details of the length of my scarf (which I think was either 1.27 or 1.37 metres but I was too emotional and teary to pay much attention) will be entered onto the final certificate which they'll send to me sometime next week. Amarilis was on hand to take some photos but I haven't got the copies yet.

I just wanted to see my Mike but of course he wasn't allowed into the finish area. I had to try phoning him 5 times before I could get through then I collected my bag from the truck and headed off to Admiralty Arch to meet him.

There was more sobbing and hugging then I had to be cleaned up a bit so he could take some photos. First with the scarf, which I am proud to say has no holes in it and is knitted rather well!

Then with the scarf and the certficate, not forgetting the all-important medal! I'd already peeped in the goody bag to see what the tee shirt was like this year and it looked rather nice - black with white lettering saying something like "You see impossible, I see the finish line - Impossible is nothing". I must get a photo of that at some stage.

Then I'd had enough and just had to sit down wearing my attractive silver cape! I think my face says "please don't make me stand up for any more photos"! Then it was time to delve into the goody bag and see what I could eat as I was ravenous. After a short rest we headed off to the station for the train ride home and that was that for another year.

I'm sure any knitters out there watching will have thought my technique was ropey and that I didn't knit very much in all that time. Well, I know I could have knitted a lot more but I wanted it to be a fun day as well so it was more about getting round in memory of my mum whilst knitting a bit, but most important of all it was about raising awareness of the work of the Alzheimer's Research Trust - the Guinness World Record was an added bonus and something I will always treasure. I expect someone will come along and break it with ease but I will always be the first person to do it!

How was it? FANTASTIC!

Would I do it again? OF COURSE!

The run up to the marathon

Well, so much happened last week that I couldn't keep up with it all. There were interviews with the Press, a Press Photo Call at the Thistle Hotel by Tower Bridge in London, a live interview on BBC Radio London & a filmed interview with BBC South East Today.

On friday morning, 4 London Marathoners who each hoped to get a Guinness World Record on Sunday met in the Press Area of the FLM suite at the Thistle Hotel, Tower Bridge, London. Captain Sally Orange (or maybe Fizzy Orange is a better name as she is a Physiotherapist in the army) intends to be the fastest marathoner dressed as a superhero (Supergirl in her case), Gary Speakman wants to complete the fastest marathon dressed in full fireman's uniform (this included his fireman's boots, very heavy jacket and carrying a full tank of oxygen) and Angus Macfadyen wants to complete the fastest marathon on crutches (he had a terrible accident last year which left one of his legs in plaster for many months so he is raising money for the victims of landmines).

Here we all are dressed in our costumes to face the Press photographers. We've been joined by Ian Sharman who wants to complete the fastest marathon dressed as Elvis and Lesley Isle who already holds the record for the oldest heart pacemaker (25 years).

Lesley proudly holding her certificate from the GWR people.

Here I am showing my knitting to Amarilis Espanoza, the Communications Officer from the GWR team. She was laughing loudly as we'd just had to run towards the cameras while they clicked away and it was the first time she'd actually seen me knitting whilst I ran!

Sally Gunnell, Matt Dawson and Dee Caffari pose for the cameras. It made me chuckle when one of the photographers shouted out to them "pretend you know eachother!"

There are a few more photos on the Press photo website

After the photo shoot we had a few hours to spare so I went to the marathon EXPO in the Excel centre to collect my running number and timing chip. Thankfully it wasn't too busy there so I had a little look round at the various stands and then headed off for a bite to eat.

Next it was back to the Thistle Hotel to meet up with Sally Orange so we could go over to the BBC studios on Marylebone High Street for a live radio interview with Bob Mills (standing in for Danny Baker).

Mike had gone there already and was waiting for us in the reception area. It took ages to get there as the traffic was really bad. Bob had already been talking about "marathon widows" and had people phoning in about their experiences of supporting their running spouses. As we were about to go in he was talking about a lady who had phoned in to talk about supporting her husband in the New York marathon. She said she thought she was going to NY for a nice holiday but spent all her time dashing from one vantage point to another to get a good view of her husband, pass him his special drinks and cheer him on. Bob said that the non-running spouses are the real heros and as he said that Mike was nodding and giving him the 'thumbs up' sign. Well, that served him right because he got ushered, rather reluctantly, into the studio to join in the interview. We had such a laugh. Bob was very funny and had me in stitches all the time. The 20 minute slot flew by as we all joined in the light-hearted banter. Both Sally and I were given time to talk about what we were doing and our charities and it was a very worthwhile exercise. I was thrilled that Mike got to take part in it as well as he's been such a fantastic support throughout all of this.

This article appeared on the BBC website and here's a link to the article on BBC South East Today BBC South East Today The film spot went out on the Friday morning and lunchtime news but was cut down for the evening session. One of our neighbours spotted it and very kindly recorded it in its entirety for us so we saw me and my knitting in all our glory! Another neighbour phoned to say that he was sitting having his brekkie and couldn't believe it when I suddenly appeared on-screen running along our lane!

The lady from the BBC who came to interview and film me was Susana Mendonca and she came armed with a gigantic tripod, camera and microphones. She took so many shots from different angles that I couldn't possibly put them all on here so I've selected a few from the photos Mike took. She filmed me sitting knitting outside at a table (which is where she interviewed me too).

Then again inside - I think the caption should be "oh my, that's a big furry thing!" She spent ages filming me, from every angle, putting on my running shoes and doing up the laces.

In the middle of it all I got a call from Garinda from BBC Southern Counties Radio. Malcolm Wicks, the Science Minister, had announced that he thought people with Alzheimer's should be 'tagged' and she wanted my reaction to it (I've been interviewed by them several times before so she thought I could give my gut reaction). I hadn't heard about it so I had to go off and find out what he'd said which you can read about here make some notes and be ready to do a live interview at 5pm. Whilst I was doing the interview, Susana busied herself by filming some knitwear I'd produced and a couple of photos of my mum (I really wanted people to see her because it makes everything more real.

Then it was back outside to film me running backwards and forwards along the lane. By this time she'd been with us for about 3 hours and the cats were peeping out of the windows at us because it was their teatime!

After that we went into the field again and I ran backwards and forwards again many, many times. This time I was being watched by the horses who came galloping over because it was their teatime too. I think Red's saying "Look at me, I'm gorgeous, now have you got food in that camera case?"

Next Susana wanted to do her own 'piece to camera' where she summarised what I'm hoping to achieve. She wanted me to run around in a very small circle behind her whilst knitting. It is very hard to run properly in a tight circle and I felt very silly and Mike and I were getting a bit giggly by now because it was quite surreal - it was like a sketch from Monty Python! Finally, she filmed me doing some stretches, again from every different angle.

There were articles in The Argus and the Battle Observer (with a photo on the front cover!) on friday. Both these articles lead to more phone calls and some more donations from local people. All good stuff and great publicity for the Alzheimer's Research Trust

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's arrived!

How exciting, my pattern for the glove KAL arrived this morning all the way from Kansas City. Pity the wool I ordered from the UK at the same time hasn't arrived! Actually, I did get an email yesterday telling me it's been dispatched so hopefully it will be with me tomorrow. I can hardly wait as I have so much nervous energy this week that I need something else to occupy me. I'm still crocheting the bag but I don't seem able to concentrate on one thing for long at the moment.

Also, I just popped over to see Nicki at to get this lovely purple yarn as part of my London Marathon scarf. Purple is the colour of the Alzheimer's Research Trust so it seemed appropriate to have it knitted into the scarf somehow.

Mary Massage Lady

I thought it was about time that Mary got a mention on here because she helps keep me injury-free. She may look all sweet and innocent here but she has the boniest fingers in the world, which she uses to great effect in torturing me!

You see, Mary provides me with what's known as a Sports Massage, aka soft tissue massage. Now don't be mislead by the word 'massage' which implies something gentle and soothing - it's anything but, as anyone who has experienced it will attest. However, what Mary does is find any stiff bits in my muscles and works deep down in the tissue to loosen them off. I first met her nearly 3 years ago when I was having terrible trouble with running related injuries and she worked miracles on my tight ITB, or Illiotibial Band (which is like an elastic band running from the hip to the knee). It was the most painful treatment I have ever had but it worked really well and now I trust Mary to spot any problems before they get too bad.

Yesterday I went to see her for a general pre-marathon loosening session. She did some work on my neck and back, both of which have been very stiff lately (probably pre-race tension) and just worked all over my legs to make sure I'm in good shape for the big day. I'd recommend it to anyone and would hate to miss my sessions.

Thanks Mary, you're a star for keeping me mobile (even though I squeal and grumble when you dig deep into my muscles)!

Monday, April 16, 2007

BBC Sport and some great yarn news

Well, that's my bubble burst! On friday evening I had a phone call from a lovely director from BBC Sport who said that she wanted to come and film me knitting and running and do an interview with Phil Jones (who's a commentator on lots of the athletics programmes). She said she was also going to interview another lady who is a pensioner and is undertaking all sorts of daredevil sports so the plan was to film me in the morning and her in the afternoon.

They say that pride comes before a fall. How true! I emailed everyone I could think of to tell them about it and of course they were all excited for me. Then this evening I get the 'fall' part - Sharon phoned to say that they can't make it. Instead the cameramen have been instructed to look out for me during the race and try to pick me out. She was very kind in letting me down and said that she'd try and get me in shot at the finish and hopefully we'll meet up at the start too.

Hey ho, that's show business!

It's not all bad news though because I've just had an email from Angel yarns telling me that the wool for the Glove KAL has been dispatched. Now I've just got to wait for the pattern to arrive from Kansas City.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A new World Record?

Well, again something amazing has happened. Following the article in the Daily Express, I was forwarded an email from the people at Guinness World Records (tm) who will be present at the London Marathon. I completed their questionnaire and didn't really expect to hear back from them but today I have confirmation that I can attempt a record for a new category entitled "Longest Scarf Knitted whilst running a marathon". How cool is that?!!!!!

There are lots of guidelines to follow and my progress will be monitored by 'spotters' positioned around the 26.2 mile course and my position can be established from the micro chip attached to my running shoe. Then, when I get to the finish there will be an Adjudicator to measure the scarf, check the quality and then (hopefully) issue me with a certificate. Crikey. Now all I've got to do is run a marathon whilst knitting (whose stupid idea was that?).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I'm a Centrefold Girl

Well, at last I can claim to be a centrefold girl as the Daily Express has printed the article about me and 2 other runners on the centre pages today! The article was entitled "We're Running For Glory".

It's not the most flattering photo of me but the story is OK (albeit edited a great deal) and they give details of the Alzheimer's Research Trust and my 'justgiving' page. This copy was kindly scanned in by Ceal from the Runner's World forum.

I was pleased that they also printed a photo of my mum that was taken at her 80th birthday party (you can see half of her on the bottom right of the photo!).

Here's the text - you can read it if you click on it.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Taper Time again!

Yesterday I completed my final 20 mile run before the London Marathon on 22nd April. I was a bit sluggish because it was very hot by the time I was finishing, even though I set out at 6:30am to try and avoid the heat.

I'm finding it difficult to get my tapering and recovery just right - usually I'd have a nice relaxed 3 week taper before a marathon, but because my goal is actually the 50 miler in July I have to make sure I don't lose too much fitness in the process. Then, after the marathon I would normally take a couple of weeks to recover and just do gentle plodding over shorter distances but I can't afford to do that as I need to keep my milage base right up. What I've done so far is to taper for 2 weeks, run the marathon (or ultra), take a week of gentle plodding and then increase my mileage right up to 50+ miles again. So far my body has coped OK. Fingers crossed it stays that way!