Monday, April 14, 2014

Crocheting to link people with dementia, and their families, together - you are not alone

So here we are again, at the start of the London marathon. It was my 9th running of this marathon and my 34th marathon in total. As usual we had to leave home at silly o'clock to get there in time so we'd already been in Blackheath for 1.5 hours by the time I had to go and register with Guinness World Records adjudicators.

I was greeted by the lovely Amarilis who has now returned from maternity leave (you can see a photo of her and the little crochet boottees I made for her baby here). Then Damian arrived and there was more hugging and catching up to do. I wasn't able to stay around for the group photo because I had a TV interview to do in a different area so we decided I should get into my running gear and have everything checked so that I could head off.

Heading back to Mike to get into my outfit
Attaching the timing chip to my shoe
All blinged-up and ready to go
Cheeky pose!
Part of what I was doing on marathon day was to start crocheting a blanket when I got up in the morning (4am since you asked!) and I continued working on it during the journey into London. Here's what I managed to do before the start:

Blankie beginnings
The joy of using a chunky yarn is that your work grows really quickly! I used a really nice granny heart pattern from Kara's blog as the centrepiece. I chose it because I liked the raised edge which made it very tactile. Then I just did some basic granny rounds in many different colours of Lion Brand Hometown USA - I love the range of bright zingy colours and this yarn is so soft, not at all like the scratchy acrylic yarns I grew up with.

The blanket then went into my baggage and onto one of the many lorries that transport our stuff to the finish area. The idea was that I would add the chain I crocheted during the marathon to the blanket and then it would be donated to someone suffering from dementia to let them know they are not forgotten and to wrap them in love * see below.

Then I was checked by an adjudicator, briefed with my final instructions and headed off to meet Eleanor to give her the little crocheted birdy for her baby. Sadly, the best laid plans often go awry when public transport is involved and she couldn't get to our meeting place in time. We tried to meet up in another area but couldn't find oneanother and by then I was rushing to get to my interview so had to dash off without meeting her! Hey ho.

Waving goodbye to Mike to go into the Red Start area
The interview with Helen Skelton was great (she's lovely) and was shown on the morning in the general marathon coverage on the BBC and then again in the marathon highlights. All fab publicity for Alzheimer's Research UK and it was brilliant because a lot of the spectators had seen it, as indeed had many fellow runners, and were looking out for me en-route.

There seemed to be a lot of tooing and froing between starting areas for me yesterday which helped pass the time. Before I left the Red Start area I had the presence of mind to nip to the toilet before I left as the queue wasn't too long and I knew I'd want to go before the start of the marathon. Thank goodness I did as when I got back to the Green Start the queues for the toilets and for the baggage lorries were huge!

The weather had been overcast and cool first thing but by 10am when the marathon started it was already getting rather warm. Hmmm, not great when you're wrapped up in yarn. As usual I started near the back of the field with the people wearing large costumes; amongst them there was a man with a fridge on his back (yes, really), a telephone box, a giant fire extinguisher, a womble and the Jamaican bobsleigh team carrying a huge structure.

I settled into my own rhythm but was a bit miffed when the telephone box went striding off ahead of me. Humph! I'm experienced enough not to get carried along by the speedier runners and just stuck to my own pace.

The race was mostly a blur of crocheting, attaching chains to my waistband, tying-in new yarn, waving to spectators and trying not to trip over the speed humps on the road - they are tricksy little blighters and you can easily trip up on them.

Lots of fellow runners came to say "hi" and wished me well as they went past - I just love the camaraderie you get in a marathon. Plus, the spectators at London are always brilliant and they don't just stick around for the speedy runners, many stay out there for hours on end to support the slower runners. I was delighted that lots of people shouted out that they'd seen the interview with Helen.

As it got hotter and hotter, more and more people started to walk which doesn't often happen in the early stages. This meant that I was forever dodging around people which made it hard to concentrate on what I was doing.

In the area around Narrow Street it became increasingly difficult to get past as it lives up to it's name and is indeed very narrow. I was looking out for a sea of purple where the ARUK supporters would be and was delighted at how many people were there supporting this year. Their numbers had been bolstered by the ARUK London Supporter's Group.

Tim, head of communications at ARUK, had his chief photographers hat on and snapped this photo of me as I ran past.

My large deramores badge had started to peel off and my yarn kept getting stuck underneath it!
As it got hotter my hands got very sweaty (sorry if that's too much info!) which meant the yarn dragged and became difficult to work with. Then there were lots of people out with hoses trying to help cool down the runners and I got sprayed several times just to make things even harder.

We redheads don't like the heat at all and by mile 20 I was getting rather overheated. Although I'd paced myself to finish in around 5:50 - 5:55 I decided not to risk making myself ill and so I increased my pace for the last 6 miles to finish in 5:40:47. After all the dodging around people my GPS watch told me I'd run 27.10 miles.

I was greeted by Fran from the press team at VLM and people from Guinness World Records and after lots of hugging it was time to measure the chain. I had no idea how long it was but I was jolly glad to get rid of it as the weight had been hurting my back!

Of course, the chains had been jiggling around tied to my waist and were quite tangled so first of all I had to to carefully cut them off my waistband. Then we wound them into loose hanks and the measuring began. Crochet is stretchy and so they were careful to find a neutral position as they measured (i.e. somewhere between slack and stretched).

The measuring process
It soon became obvious that it was a bit longer than my previous chain of 77.4 metres. This wasn't really a surprise because last time I did it my neck and shoulders were still very sore following a road traffic accident and I struggled all the way round even with a lightweight yarn.

So what did it measure?

139.42 metres.

Tee hee!

Here's my new Guinness World Record certificate
* When I saw just how long it was I realised that I'd have to revise my plans for the blanket as there was just too much of it. So what I've decided is that I'll take a section of it, undo it and crochet some more rounds onto the blanket. That way, the yarn used will have been part of the chain that I created whilst running the marathon and there will be enough yarn left to make another blanket for someone else.

Finally, at last, I could head off to meet Mike who was bursting with pride. After much hugging he took the obligatory post-London-marathon photo, which is always my favourite.

You can see someone's had a good day shopping in London!
Usually we head off to a pub to meet up with fellow runners or just head home, depending on how tired I'm feeling. This time we were off to the Phoenix Artists' Club where we held the first ever ARUK Supporters' Day to meet up with the team from ARUK and fellow runners and their families.

It's probably only about a 15 - 20 minute walk from where we were but Mike had a surprise for me - we had a ride in a rickshaw. It was a complete tourist rip-off but we didn't care and we giggled like teenagers and ate chocolate as the driver pedalled away. We saw lots of fellow runners and their partners doing exactly the same thing!

It was lovely chatting to fellow runners and the ARUK team. Tim was taking photos of everyone for their social media sites so I had a few more mug shots.

He'd also created a whiteboard for people to hold with their reason for running the marathon. As always I ran in memory of my mum, which is what I wrote. 

However, this time it was also about joining people together, hence the crochet chain. It's wonderful to have another Guinness World Record but I really hope that people understand the metaphor of the chain; linking people suffering from dementia together.

Thank you to everyone who's supported me and to my fellow runners - together we can defeat this devastating disease. 


Mereknits said...

Oh my goodness you have so inspired me. I happened upon your blog and I am thrilled I did. Congrats to you on a terrific run.

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Meredith!

Alice said...

Wow. Just wow.

I'm always amazed at anyone who can run that far, but to do it while crocheting (and breaking world records) too... You are an absolute inspiration. You've already raised awareness. I hope you raise bucketloads of money too. Bravo!

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Alice!