…Apologies for the inordinate amount of time it’s taken to get this out. I’ve been a busy, but also quite lazy boy. Since, running at Windermere I’ve had three doses of chemo, attended a fundraiser at my daughter’s school and had the distraction of half term and the joy of more time with my girls. I feel so lucky to be running and I’m really loving the life I live…
Well that was truly hard work. Aside from chemo and surgery the Brathay Windermere Marathon is the hardest thing I’ve ever done… ever! I was expecting my second Marathon to be tough, but I had no idea just how tough it would be.The race took me 6 hours 30 to complete, so an hour longer than Blackpool a month ago. But that extra hour is no indication of the extra effort it required to complete. It’s ludicrous to even think they are the same distance and classified in the same way. A friend of mine ran it a few years ago and had given me a few pointers ahead of the big day, but kept to herself just how hard she’d found it, preferring to concentrate (for my benefit) on the positive aspects, like the atmosphere and beautiful scenery. I’m glad she did. Thanks Helen!
The marathon was certainly hard, but it was tempered by the kindness and generosity of my friends and family. Some came to see me start the race, some lined the course at points we’d arranged to cheer me on from the sidelines, some took care of our daughters, so we could get on with the daft pursuit of running along those lakeland roads and others surprised me by appearing on the course and in doing so really humbled and spurred me. There was also an angel who ran with me for the last five or so miles and a two headed beast of awesomeness that gave up everything to make sure I got round. I say two headed, because whenever I thanked them for their help and suggested they press on without me they would always reply in perfect unity with words to the effect of ‘no, we are finishing together’ or ‘we aren’t leaving you’. Amazing! I’ve written before about the generosity of runners, especially marathoners, but I’ve never come across guys who were willing to wholly subvert their own chances of a decent time to help a foolish plodder like me. I’m grateful to them, but more than that I’m completely humbled by their example. There’s much debate as to whether it’s truly possible to commit a selfless act. Tim and Daron had nothing to gain by helping me and committing themselves to 6hrs30 on their feet. Nothing except, perhaps, a better suntan. Thanks guys!
I didn’t have any expectations ahead of the marathon. I only had managed three weeks of training due to my infected blisters (yuck). I was worried, but tried not to show it. I didn’t really know what sort of shape I was in at all. I was like a bear with a sore head and remember being a little impatient with Louise. Sorry love! I felt good at the start of the race I just set off really gently. I was a little anxious going up the first couple of hills, but around that time I bumped into two runners also raising money for Rosemere Cancer Foundation. It’s one of the four charities we are raising money for and it supports patients, like me, that are treated at the Rosemere Cancer Centre. I saw the vest that one of them, Tim, was wearing and made a beeline for them. I’d find out later that the vest was only a recent additon to Tim’s kit and he had originally been planing to wear something else.
I’m glad he wore it, because if it hadn’t been for Tim and Daron the race would have been a very lonely one indeed! As I had been expecting the first half of the marathon was the hardest and it was every bit as hilly as I’d thought. It wasn’t the individual climbs that made it difficult, but the relentless undulating nature of it. The course wasn’t the only reason I found the race hard that day. The weather was simply ridiculous! I’ve never run in such heat and I spent a long spell wishing I’d not skimped on hot training sessions. The heat was crushing. No particular part of my body ached, but I just generally struggled. The worst thing was way the oppressive heat made it difficult to breathe. Heat’s fraternal twin sun was also in attendance. In parts of the course there was very little shade. I struggled with this a lot around mile 13. There was a spell at the bottom of Lake Windermere when we’d finished running south along the western side of the lake and started running on the eastern side heading north. There just wasn’t any cover and being at the mercy of the beating sun drained me in an instant. I did well just to put one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t breathe very well and started getting a stitch, which thankfully eased When I saw my sister Grace around 12-13 miles I was in a stinker of a mood. The video she was recording at the time probably shows as much. I found it very hard, but Tim and Daron stuck by my side and saw me through. My funk probably lasted for another mile or two until I was surprised at a water station by Scarlett, a school friend of my daughter Skye, and her amazing parents Sam and Marc. I had no idea they were planning to travel up and the sheer joy I got from seeing them, not to mention just how humbled I felt at such a kind act really snapped me out of my funk. After all, if they came all the way to see me run I may as well try and and enjoy the running as much as possible.
After seeing Scarlett and I managed to settle in to the race a little more and the three of us made steady progress round the course. I had another nice surprise at Bowness. A friend of ours, Anna, decided on the hoof to come and watch me. The photo she took shows how happy I was to see her and is really no indication of my level of comfort at the time.
Apparently, Anna had got talking to a couple who’d already heard of my fitness challenge and waited with her for a while. Sadly, I took so long getting there that they missed me by minutes. Nice to have to the support though!
A little while later Tim met up with his wife Angela and we all had a quick breather. I was grateful to a hotel receptionist who kindly allowed me the use of their facilities. One more nasty awaited us around mile 20. The guys had told me about the incredible incline Ice Cream Mountain (it’s very steep and there’s an ice cream van at the top). I had missed Ice Cream Mountain all together when I’d studied the elevation profile. It sure was a monster. By this time I’d given up trying to run up the hills. The inclines were so fierce, the weather so hot and I was so unfit that just getting round became my target. The second half of the marathon was definitely a lot easier than the first, but this might have been down to the fact that I was running less and walking more. It was disappointing, but I have to be realistic about what I can achieve. For me, an ostomate, with terminal bowel cancer receiving chemo just lining up at the start of the race is great, so walking, not running up hills isn’t worth getting worried about.
At the top of Ice Cream Mountain an angelic sight greeted me at the top as Louise joined me and the guys for the last few miles.
Louise peeled off a mile before the end and the three of us linked arms and ran across the finish line.
The organisation of the race was excellent. For me in a lot of ways marshals determine the way I view a race as I’m running it. I run so slowly that the lion’s share of support from members of the public has evaporated by the time I get round, so the only people there cheering me on are the marshals. Brathay Windermere’s marshals are the most dedicated and supportive I’ve come across so far. The organisers even put on more water stations and marshals to mitigate the effects of the hot weather. Amazing!
After a huge effort running round Lake Windermere my senses felt heightened. I was left feeling a lot, especially alive. I felt a huge sense of relief at having completed the race despite the hilly course and arduous conditions. In a lot of ways I’m rewriting the rule book in terms of the expectations I have of myself. It’s not so long ago that we thought I was going to die and my idea of what type of life I’d have and the things I’m capable of have shifted a great deal in the last year. My death sentence may only been have commuted, but I’m not going to let thoughts of my own mortality get in the way of living my life. Besides, I’ve not given up hope of a pardon. Even if I get my pardon the time is definitely now or never for achieving my goals. I don’t feel sad, I feel incredibly empowered and determined in a way that I never have before. Freedom is the unlikely bedfellow of terminal cancer and I feel liberated from the obstacles that might stop me from achieving my goals. I’m proud of myself, but really just want my three daughters to be proud of me. They know bits and pieces about what I’m doing and they’ll perhaps only appreciate it fully when they’re older, but it’s certainly very pleasing when they come back from nursery or school and tell me about a teacher or dinner lady that has called me superman or some such. Despite running two tough marathons the enthusiasm I have for my the fitness challenge has only increased. I feel a great determination to train and work harder to make sure I’ve got the fitness to see this through and, god willing, run faster.
Just like my first marathon, the day after Windermere I was back at hospital for my next dose of chemo. There’s nothing like having toxic drugs pumped into your body to bring back to earth with a bump!
Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 Marathons in 6 months in support of cancer charities:
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