Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Quest for the Vest is complete!

Warning - this might well be a very long post and will contain lots of photos and ramblings!

Well I've been and gone and done it. 100 marathons/ultra marathons done and dusted. I've got the vest, I've got the medal but most important of all I've raised some more money for Alzheimer's Research UK in the process.

During the days before this momentous occasion I found myself thinking about my mum a lot and getting rather teary so I wasn't sure how I would be on the day, but as it happened I didn't cry once, thank goodness, and had a brilliant time with some wonderful company.

In my last post I mentioned that the place where this was held has a special significance in my marathon journey. The reason for this was that it was there, at Betteshanger Country Park (which was formerly known as Fowlmead Country Park) that I first met Traviss and Rachel who organise these excellent events.

You can read about my first of their events at this venue here (it's actually interesting to see how the area has changed over time).

How lovely that both my first event with them and my 100th was at the same place. It was Traviss and fellow runner Paul Sahota who planted the seed and encouraged me to aim for 100 marathons as I never, ever dreamed that I was capable of such a feat!

Even better, Mike wanted to be there and it was wonderful that he came along and was part of the special day as he's been my chief support crew and rock all the way from my first marathon at Loch Ness back in November 2004 where it all began.

How it all began

We had just made the painful decision for mum to go into a special nursing home for what would turn out to be the last few months of her life and I decided I wanted to run a marathon for her and for me because what was happening to her was just so horrible. I'd been running for just over 2 years, was nowhere near ready for marathon distance and had been suffering with a very tight ITB (illiotibial band which runs from your knee up to your hip) so should not have even contemplated it!

I didn't write a blog back then and I've just re-read my report and I think it might be worth putting it on here as a record of the start of my marathon journey. This is a post from the Runner's World forum so there are some strange names mentioned as we all use nicknames. You can skip past it for my account of my 100th marathon but I wanted to include it on here so I can look back on it in my dotage:

Loch Ness marathon October 2004. My first ever marathon!

Mike and I got to the stadium nice and early so I could get on the first coach. Nessie told us that this one stopped by the portaloos last year and I always need to go beforehand! I saw Nessie and Freefall and sat next to a nice young man called David who was hoping to go sub 4 hours (I hope he managed it). It was quite exciting being in a convoy of coaches with a police escort and the journey passed quickly. Unfortunately the coach went right past the portaloos and there was a mad scramble to get into a queue. Why did I pick the one that took forever to move?! Having relieved myself I did some roadside stretches and then proceeded to the rear of the field so that I wouldn’t be tempted to go off too quickly. Saw Shades, Debbo, Freefall, JaneM. It was quite chilly but JaneM said I would be too hot with my gilet on. I panicked and wondered if I’d made a mistake but rationalised that the Scots are much tougher then me. As it happens, I was very grateful for the extra warmth later on. Then we were off. 
I love the feeling when a race starts; all that anticipation and excitement and I felt really good. I was aiming for 11 minute miles. First mile was 10:30, Shades went past and asked if I was OK. I was. Mile 2 was 10:40, mile 3 10:50, mile 4 11:00. I settled into my pace feeling strong and comfortable. The uphills were OK, in fact they were similar to my training routes. A couple of the downhills were steeper than I’d anticipated but my knee seemed to be holding up OK. I took on water at mile 6 and walked a few steps whilst I drank it. Meerkat had advised me to break the distance down into sections so it didn’t seem as scary so I was just thinking about completing the next mile. I was enjoying the run enormously and the scenery was breathtaking. By mile 12 I was feeling confident. I took some sports drink and headed off for the water station at 12.5 where I walked a few paces to drink. Checked my watch and it said 2:12. Fantastic, I thought, I should get in under 5 hours if I keep this up. This seemed like a good time for a loo break as there was no one around so I nipped behind a bush.  
I started running again and a searing pain shot up the side of my right knee. I stopped, stretched and tried again. Agony. Nooooooooooo!!!!!! I shouted at the empty road. I stretched, I tried running, the pain shot up my leg. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be, it would be alright again if I just walked for a while. So I walked. I use the term ‘walked’ loosely as it was actually a slow stiff-legged limp. Debbo went past and asked if I was OK. I explained I was just taking a walk break because my ITB had tightened. She said I should be resting in bed. I watched her disappear up the hill. A few minutes later JaneM went past. I crossed the 1/2 way mark in 2:29. It had taken me 15 minutes to walk 1/2 a mile. 
I stretched again and tried to run. It was agony and I couldn’t manage a step. When this has happened before I’ve found that I can still walk and that the stiffness wears off after a few miles. But I was only 1/2 way round and although I’m quite happy to run 13 miles, I’ve never walked that distance. Mike had said that if my knee was too bad to continue then I should just say ‘Sh1t, c’est la vie’ and start planning the next marathon attempt. But I didn’t want to stop. There was so much of me invested in this marathon. It was the culmination of running during what had been a very eventful and traumatic year. How could I just give up? I stumbled on. The next mile was full of self pity and doubt. Sometimes I sobbed quietly to myself feeling so small and alone in a strange place miles from anywhere. Thankfully this phase didn’t last long (you’re probably wanting to give me a good slap to snap me out of this!!!) and I thought about John ‘The Penguin’ Bingham’s book that I’ve just read called ‘no need for speed’. In it he talks about how your time and personal goals are of no importance to anyone but you. The minute I let go of my 5 hour dream I was free to get on with what I had to do. It was a liberating experience and I found that inner strength I needed. 
I kept repeating Little Fat Welshman’s mantra ‘pain is temporary, pride is forever’ as I limped ever onwards. At the mile 15.5 water station, the ambulance man hovered like a vulture. I told him I was OK and stomped off in a determined manner. He very kindly kept checking up on me every so often from then on, offering me cups of tea and a nice warm blanket which I declined each time. 
At mile 16 I passed a supervet who was obviously struggling. I checked he was OK then started off up the long hill. I suddenly realised that I was walking easier (well, less stiffly) and had started to look at the scenery again. I marched onwards feeling more determined with each step. I made up marching songs in my head - Who’s that Redhead looking strong?, Got a knee that’s gone so wrong, 1,2,3,4 etc etc. I hadn’t looked at my watch for a while so I had a sneaky peak and worked out that if I maintained a brisk walking pace then I should come in under 6 hours. 
I switched my mobile on to let Mike know I was going to be late but there was no signal. I worried that he’d be worrying about me. He was. 
A couple of guys passed by on motorbikes shouting ‘I see ya baby’ then they came back again shouting ‘shakin’ that ar$e’. I giggled. They came alongside and asked what I was doing and then wished me luck. As a parting gesture one of them stood up and did a big wheelie as he rode off. I waved and they were gone. That was around mile 17 and there were still 9 miles to go. 
I managed to contact Mike who was very upset by my demise. I realised that I was smiling now. I also realised that I was going to make it. 
The police cars kept flashing past and I smiled and waved at them. A very dishy marshall wearing black leather rode his motorbike alongside me for a while and chatted. Then he was gone until his next ride by. I thought it was nice that they kept checking up on us stragglers. Then I started to pass other people who were struggling. Each fighting their own personal battles. There was the lady who was limping up the hill accompanied by her partner on his bike. We nodded encouragement to eachother but I suspect she didn’t make it. Then there was the man and woman who ran for 5 paces then walked for 10, the young girl who was running so slowly that she barely moved forward, the guy over here from Australia on holiday.......... 
Suddenly I was at mile 21 and the traffic started coming past. Some people waved and shouted encouragement, others just stared. I smiled the biggest smile ever. By mile 23 other runners were coming away from the stadium wearing their medals. They clapped and cheered me on. How generous, I thought. At mile 25 I met up with 2 men who had passed me earlier, both walking, or rather hobbling. We joined ranks and chatted. The stadium was deathly silent now and I joked that there would only be my hubby there waiting proudly to film his wife crossing the finish line. We all agreed that we had to run over the finish line so as we rounded the corner into the stadium the 3 of us lurched into a painful limping jog. I was right; my lovely hubby was there to film us, along with a contingent of forumites who had waited around to offer support to us stragglers. We crossed the line in 6:00:03 on the clock but my final chip time was 5:58:59 so I just beat the 6 hour mark. 
Mike could not have been more proud if I had run the course in 3 hours!
I waited to see Nessie come in a few minutes later. As she stood with her supporters (sorry Nessie I don’t know who they were), she said that it had been really hard. The man said simply ‘But you did it, darling, you still did it’. That summed it up for me and I am humbled to think that many people go through the sort of experience I had each time they take part in a marathon.  
It’s jolly hard at the back of the pack, but I'll be back!
Almost immediately after I'd finished that marathon I decided I would run the London marathon for a dementia charity, found ARUK, took a Gold Bond place and made the decision to speak out about what happened to my mum and the rest, as they say, is history.

Right, back to marathon 100 with lots and lots of photos

It was another weekend of 100 celebrations as the lovely Maryanne had completed hers the day before in what were perfect weather conditions. I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would be kind to me too and was delighted that it was indeed perfect. It was all misty when we left home but by the time we reached the park the sun was peeping through. I thought I might get teary when we got there but I seemed to have got all that out of my system in the days before thank goodness.

Mike took loads of photos to capture the day for me but I'll try not to bore everyone and have been selective (although there are still loads even though I've been selective!).

First thing we did was head off to the Visitor Centre so Mike got the layout of the place in his head and checked out the cafe menu for his lunch. There we met up with Gary and had a nice chat before heading off to register and deposit my cakes on the cake stall.

As it was a Cakeathon and my 100th I made 3 cakes, one of my usual banana cakes, one chocolate and orange cake and one vegan chocolate cake. What I forgot was an extra one for afterwards to celebrate finishing my 100th - DOH, so sorry peeps! I'm hoping everyone had already eaten enough cake for it not to matter too much.

Registering and collecting my lap counter

At the end of each lap you get it hole-punched - 6 laps for marathon distance (I love the instructions!)

One of many hugs, here with Lorraine (who went on to complete her first double marathon - clever girlie) with the boys providing the bunny ears (Traviss, Eddie, Enda and Gary)

Liz proudly sporting her 100 MC attire

Kirsty also showing her 100MC colours and Paul who was presented with his before the start

Andy who was just supporting Elaine rather than running

Millsy was more interested in the cake stall than he was in me!

With Paul waiting for the race briefing

Paul was presented with his 100 MC shirt

Then I had to go up to collect my number which had been signed by everyone.

Traviss took the opportunity to use me as an example of someone who never believed they could do it and used all sorts of excuses (eg asthma, arthritis, too old etc etc) before I knuckled down and just got on with it. He's quite right too as I never even contemplated aiming for 100 marathons. Nor did I think I'd run doubles, ultras or 5 marathons in 8 days, but I have. It just goes to show what you can achieve if you set your mind to it.

My special number. I didn't wear it as I want to save it so it was handed to Mike to put back in the car for safe keeping.

I was actually overwhelmed by the number of cards and presents people gave me, none of which I had expected

Speedy Lee lead the pack off - I must add that yet again he was still going strong long after everyone had finished (10 laps!). Amazing young man.

Setting off with Kirsty for a short while

Coming towards the turnaround point after Lap 1

A quick hug with Philip...

...then one with Mike (who was taking photos of everything!

I'd targeted 5.5 hours and soon settled into my pace so when Mike asked me when I'd be back again I was able to give him a time so he could spot me and he said I was metronomic in my pacing on every lap.

I pointed him in the direction of part of the course so he'd get some nice views and he next popped up about 1.5 miles from the turning point before he headed off for some lunch.

I was really pleased that he was able to see some of things I've seen here many times and it was interesting what had caught his eye.

Heading into Base camp at the end of Lap 3 and heading off for some cake and a drink!

My chocolate orange cake had won a 'highly commended' trophy

My vegan and gluten-free chocolate cake got 2nd prize

I loved the decorative icing work on this cake

I ran with several different people for short spells for the first 3 laps but I was delighted when Karen caught up with me and we headed out on Lap 4 together and stayed together until the end. She's such a lovely person and is a shining example of someone who battles on no matter what nonsense life throws at her and I love her to bits. The only reason I was able to keep up with her on the day was that she'd run the marathon the day before (in 4:38:17) and she was feeling a bit off colour so taking it easy!

The large steel frame you can seen front of us is part of the redevelopment project and will eventually house a new Mining museum, green energy centre and new Visitor Centre, due to open in 2017.

Deep in conversation and putting the world to rights really helped pass the miles

Checking-in at the end of Lap 4. There's Maryanne sporting her blue and yellow hoody with her lovely bright turquoise hair, dyed especially for her celebrations tthe day before. She popped along for a victory lap. Trisha, who's punching our cards, completed her 2nd marathon the day before.

A few glugs of water before heading out for Lap 5

Off out on our penultimate Lap. We hadn't seen Mike for a while and I wondered where he was.

As we headed around the path, next to the tarmac cycle track, deep in conversation I heard his voice and looked around to see Mike on a bike!

He'd hired the bike and helmet for 1 hour for just £5 which I thought was really good value for money and he looked as if he was really enjoying himself.

After he'd returned the bike he went back to base camp to wait for us heading out for our last lap and then walked along the home stretch to catch us coming in. As we headed off for the last lap, Traviss gave me a hug and told me to take it easy and not fall over (which is exactly what had happened the last time I ran there and I arrived at the finish all bloodied) and Karen snitched on me and told him I'd had a bit of a stumble (but I didn't fall over thank goodness!).

Heading for the finish

"Let's ring it together" said Karen

And so we did! Our time was 5:31:21

Then we each got our Cakeathon medals

I got an extra special badge for my ribbon

Ryan looks a bit bored in the background (or perhaps he's still hungover from the night before!

I couldn't believe that the medal this time was purple - my favourite colour!

Then it turned into a HUGathon for a while which Mike managed to capture but I won't show all of them.

I love this one. Thanks for sharing my journey Karen xxxxxxx

Janet, who's wedding to Greg was celebrated with the Wedding Challenge earlier this year - love your White Star Running flat cap!

Then Rachel presented me with a lovely plaque which I really wasn't expecting as you can see from my expression!

More hugging ensued - I am absolutely amazed I didn't cry at that stage!

What a lovely surprise!

The obligatory bunny ears shot with my plaque!

 After which there was a lot of posing for photos with our medals ahead of my 100th presentation.

With Rachel, who's such a lovely person

I was so very pleased that Mike was there to share he moment with me - thank you so much Dee for all the lovely photos

I hadn't really expected anyone to hang around for my presentation so I was surprised and moved to see lots of people waiting patiently for Traviss to begin. Dee very kindly filmed it for me but I can't seem to get it onto my blog at the moment so will have to re-enact it with a few photos:

Traviss gave a lovely little speech about my journey to 100, mulitple marathons, never believed I could do it, Guinness World Records for knitting/crochet, being smiley etc etc

He tried to persuade me to take my long-sleeved top off to put on my special new vest - cheeky boy!

I donned my vest and did a victory dance

Then adopted the traditional post-vest-presentation pose for photos

Then I was given my lovely medal - I look rather pleased don't I!

What a fab medal. I'm going to mount it with my number when I get my plaque engraved with the details.

Then a hug from Traviss and a pose with my medal

Feeling proud with Mike by my side

So here I am, a proud member of the 100 marathon club having completed my latest fund-raising challenge some 8 months ahead of my 60th birthday next year. What's a girl to do about that then? Easy-peasy, add in something extra just for good measure so people who have made such generous donations to ARUK in support of my efforts feel that I'm pushing myself even further.

My original 60th birthday challenge was to complete 60 marathons by 60; which morphed into 100 by 60 as I completed it quite quickly. When I mapped out my route to 100 marathons I added in lots of extra marathons in case of injury etc but by some minor miracle I managed not to get injured and found I would complete my 100th some 2 months earlier than I'd predicted. Then life interfered and threw a spanner in the works when I reached marathon 95 and I had to miss a couple, managed to make them up then had to miss 3 more and postpone my 100th - it got very complicated!

In a conversation with Maryanne a while back she'd commented that I must be getting close to what's known as a '52 in 52' (that's 52 marathon in a 52 week period) for which you get a special mention on the 100 marathon website. On completion of my 100th I have run 40 marathons in 2016. On checking out the marathons I've already booked up until the end of the year I would end the year on 50 marathons. Can you see where this is going yet?!!!

Yep, I've added another 2 marathons into the mix and if all goes to plan, and keeping my fingers well and truly crossed that I manage to stay injury-free etc., I shall complete my 52nd marathon of the year on New Years Eve at the very same place as my 100th.

My journey to 100 marathons has been amazing, made even more special by the wonderful and inspiring people I have met en-route. Thank you all for being part of my journey and may you all achieve your own special goals, whatever they may be.

At the risk of this turning into some sort of Oscar acceptance speech, I must thank everyone who has made a donation to ARUK as a result of my endeavours over the past 11 years. With your generous support, my fund-raising total has reached nearly £50,000 which is absolutely brilliant. To help put that into context, that amount has helped fund 2500 hours of vital research into this devastating disease.

Thank you.