Moving faster than a speeding bullet on the the Isle of Man ( sort of)…

The story of this marathon and the way it unfolded is much different from the way I thought it would pan out. As this is one of the later marathons I had been thinking about it for a long time. One of The things I thought most about was the likelihood I’d be last. With the size and quality of the field I thought I’d be dead last. In the end that was far from the case and I passed a steady stream of runners as I smashed my personal best by 37 minutes. That doesn’t tell the whole story as it was also a remarkable 1hr37 quicker than my time two weeks ago. But then this race was different. For the first time I wasn’t apprehensive. I felt stronger than ever after training hard on the street and in the gym and I couldn’t wait to get going. Being fitter gave me lots of confidence. I was hopeful of a decent time, but that to me meant anything under 6 hours, so running 4hrs53 was a real surprise.
A lot faster than I expected to run. I printed the 6hr pace band in anticipation I'd run at that speed

A lot faster than I expected to run. I printed the 6hr pace band in anticipation I’d run at that speed

Running a sub 5hr marathon meant a great deal to me. When I started running years ago, before my diagnosis it was my target was to run, actually run, not jog or walk the distance. A time beginning 4hrs something was my target. Something in that range felt like an achievable, but challenging goal. Obviously I gave up my marathon dream when i was diagnosed. Earlier this year I took up the running gauntlet again. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to despite having terminal cancer, but running a 4hr something marathon was the elusive final piece of my running rehabilitation. I had begun to wonder if there were physiological reasons for not being able to run fast. Maybe my core had been weakened by the surgeries and having a stoma. Finally, I’ve been able to train hard enough to run that fast. Now though my ultimate goal of 4hrs30 is within range. I feel like he sky is the limit. All my distance PBs are within my grasp. I’m looking forward to having a go at my half marathon PB set when I was a fitter man. My 5k and 10k times might be harder to achieve, but I feel they are there for the taking.
Quite tired after the IoM marathon, but it was worth it!!

Quite tired after the IoM marathon, but it was worth it!!

All this with Tornado Bertha to contend with. It was incredibly wet as I stood in a shelter with journalists from ITV and BBC. The weather brightened enough that I could do an interview with Kelly Harvey from the BBC.
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Amy Mulhern from ITV was amazing and followed me around all day. Even if the weather did get considerably better it still mustn’t have been easy for her in the wet and cold.
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I set off really gently as I usually do. Even though I’d been feeling good lately, I still didn’t have enough fitness to know exactly how my body will perform. I got talking to Darren Kennish the sole wheelchair racer. At the end if the Ramsey promenade there’s a sharp hill and he sadly toppled back. It didn’t dampen his spirits and he carried on. We got chatting a little and he briefly overtook me, but unfortunately had to retire on medical advice half way. His wife was amazing have him great support and cheered me on too.
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Cracking guy Darren. He had tons of spirit!!

For the first half of the marathon I wasn’t too concerned about pace. I ran 2hrs30 for the first half, which is probably my fastest and the thought occurred to me that I was on for a PB. I thought I’d gone out too fast and that I’d fade. So much so that I didn’t bother to take photos during my first lap, because I thought I’d have a second chance. Sadly didn’t take many photos of the beautiful landscape on my second lap, because i was going too fast and didn’t want to loose time. It’s a shame because it really was beautiful and I didn’t keep up the video diaries I’d been filming. The possibility of a fast time was something I really couldn’t compromise on.
one of the few photos I took of the beautiful scenery, but i couldnt afford to lose time.

One of the few photos I took of the beautiful scenery, but I couldn’t afford to lose time.

It didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as some of the others. The absence of struggle and the comparative fluidity and calmness of my movement meant I could enjoy the race. I didn’t just like the race I loved it and not just the usual love of achievement against the odds and what my determination allowed me to achieve. I loved the running. The thrill of running a good pace and knowing I was going to smash my PB took hold during the second half, which I ran 10-15 mins quicker than the first. I could barely contain my excitement. I remember shouting to a pair of marshals that I had terminal cancer and I was going to smash my PB. Probably Not what they expected to hear from a marathon runner.
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Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face

I was struggling a little towards the end. my pace dropped to 12 mins/ mile in the penultimate mile. I had to dig in and keep the pace up. Luckily there’s a downhill stretch which gave me some momentum and I kicked on and finished strongly at the Ballacloan Stadium. I got an incredible reception at the finish

A few people came up to me and gave donations. Had a really lovely chat with Nikki Boyde who finished as the fastest woman in 7th place. She was really lovely and made no mention of her achievement. She’s the now the fourth person I know that’s running the Chester marathon, so I’m really tempted.  I met two amazing Celts, Peter an Irishman and Stephane, a Breton tackling 7 Celtic marathons for 3 fantastic children’s charities: Invictus trust, Ellies Haven and Action for children. Had a great chat. Brilliant guys. Had an invitiation to join them for their last marathon at the Eden Project in Cornwall. It’s a long way to travel, but I’m sorely tempted.
Peter McGahan and Stephane Delourme running the Celtic 7 Marathon Challenge

Peter McGahan and Stephane Delourme running the Celtic 7 Marathon Challenge

Another person I met with a the finish line was, my now mate for life, Robin Tillbrock. We got in touch on Facebook in the weeks before the marathon. We were on the same crossing and had a chat. He’s a very interesting bloke who climbed Mont Blanc in the months before. We went for a drink and something to eat with him and his family after the marathon. It was great to have the chance to get to know him, his wife Ruth and son Adam a bit better. Robin also likes to test himself physically and tackle new challenges. He’s taking on the Montane Spine Race in January. It’s an incredibly tough event, but I’ve no doubt he can do it. I really hope to be able to tackle a mountain or a climb with him in the future.
Robin was running his first marathon. He finished in 03:58:49 as 3rd in Men 50 - 54 category. Great work!!

Robin was running his first marathon. He finished in 03:58:49 and 3rd in Men 50 – 54 category. Great work!!

These marathons have given me a new mindset. I’ve got stores of determination built up and a set of endurance skills I never had before  which allow me to tough it out when I think I cant carry on. when coupled with a little fitness this results in a pace I genuinely didn’t think I was capable of. Can this be applied to fighting cancer and enduring chemo?
I'll keep running and fighting cancer as ling as I can!

I’ll keep running and fighting cancer as ling as I can!

The ferry journey back to Heysham was tinged with sadness. We had a great week away on an incredible island, full of amazing sights and lovely people. We were quite unprepared for the beauty of the hills, the incredible views and the breathtaking coastline. It was important for us all to spend some family time together after the marathon. Time with the Louise and the girls is nourishment for my soul and we threw ourselves in to having a great time and enjoying all that wonderful place had to offer.
We got what we came for!

We got what we came for!

I started chemo again last week  (Monday 18th Aug). It has affected my fitness. The side effects have been unkind. But I’ve worked hard to build my fitness in the last few weeks again and I’m going to work hard to maintain it. Not long to go until Berlin. Before then though I’ve got two half marathons to look forward to. There’s the Hilton Half in Blackpool on Sunday (31/08) my cousin Sam is coming to visit and is going to run it with me. Then the week after Louise and I with my sister Grace and our friend Tony and running the Great North Run. For lots of different reasons I’m excited about the GNR. Can’t wait!
Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
 
Giving page:
Facebook:
I’m on twitter too:
@ChemoDadRuns
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Luckiest man in the world…

One of the things I keep on thinking about is the amazing support I had since I started running marathons. I’m a positive person and that has stood me good stead during my cancer adventure. I’ve always tried to see the best in people, but believing in the best of human nature still couldn’t prepare me for the generosity and kindness that I’ve experienced in the last few months. It’s difficult to explain what this means to me, but I’ve received hundreds of messages of support on Facebook, Twitter and through my blog and received more than £8500 in donations from almost 300 people. It’s intoxicating, but in a good way.

Wakefield marathon didn't hand out medals, much to my disappointment. My friend Gina had one made up for herself , but then gave it to me. Thanks mate!

Wakefield marathon didn’t hand out medals, much to my disappointment. My friend Gina had one made up for herself , but then gave it to me. Thanks mate!

These messages seem to come through just when I need them most. There’s a wonderful community of people out there, strangers who share their spirit and warmth with me. This encouragement makes me smile on treatment days when I’m part way through a 7-8 hour bout of toxic, nauseating drugs. Sometimes, it gives me hope when I doubt myself and my determination or fitness. People reached out to me when I was exhausted with chemo side effects before the Wakefield Marathon, when I was wondering how I could possibly run 26.2 miles the next day. Encouragement at that time gave me the strength to dig in and run a whole marathon. There are occasions when I simply can’t be bothered to train. A total stranger reaching out to me at that time gives me the kick I need to get out of bed in the morning.

Chemo selfie. Receiving encouraging messages during treatment makes me smile when I need to most!

Chemo selfie. Receiving encouraging messages during treatment makes me smile when I need to most!

And there are times when the running is the least of my concerns and training is the furthest thing from my mind. I suppose it is inevitable, but there are times when I get in a funk. I’ve lived with terminal Bowel Cancer for 17 months now. It’s been great to focus on the running recently, but there are still times when I worry about my family, especially my wife and girls. I think about their futures and the fact I won’t be around to help them or just to see them grow. When I’m struggling, people’s comments can touch my soul and ease my worries.

It's inevitable, but I worry about my wife and girls.

It’s inevitable that I worry about my wife and girls.

In the last month, inspired by my friend Tom Hacker, I’ve started a Ben’s Bowel Movements Facebook group. In the short amount of time it’s been online the group has had almost 500 likes and a stoma selfie I posted last week had more than 11,000 views, which is an incredible number for a bloke with cancer that runs a bit (and not very well).

Took some courage to post this, but I was rewarded by some amazing comments and it gave me a boost!

Took some courage to post this, but I was rewarded by some amazing comments and it gave me a boost!

It just seems at times like there’s no end to the kindness. Since I began my cancer adventure and especially since I started Ben’s Bowel Movements I’ve experienced a distilled version of life, including only the very best humanity has to offer. People care deeply and are capable of such amazing generosity and warmth and it’s partly because I’m ill I’ve achieved this knowledge. I might be dying, but I often feel like the luckiest man alive.

 

Out running on the docks with my dear mate Simon. Thanks for always waiting for me when I'm late, which is always!

Out running on the docks with my dear mate Simon. Thanks for always waiting for me when I’m late, which is always!

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:

 

To make a donation please visit my giving page:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

 

Please like Ben’s Bowel Movements on Facebook:

Facebook.com/6marathons6months

 

I’m on twitter too:

@ChemoDadRuns

 

 

 

New adventures in punishment (aka what it feels like to run a Marathon with little or no fitness)

I’m conscious that each time I write a post-marathon blog I seem to be constructing a tale of runner’s woe: ‘this marathon was hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done and much harder than the last one I ran’. Despite the fact that it’s true and this marathon was indeed harder than the last one, I feel like a broken record repeating the same line again and again. Ben’s Bowel Movements, the challenge I’ve set myself of running 6 marathons in 6 months is fast becoming a thorough examination of my resolve. I’ve written before that I expected to gain fitness as I ran more marathons, not lose it as has happened so far. In fitness terms I’m running on fumes and making up the difference by relying on sheer determination. It feels like each time I run a marathon I’m subjecting my body to a new level of punishment. When I ran Blackpool it was probably the hardest thing I’d done. That effort was surpassed by the Brathay Windermere marathon. My toil there on the hills and in the heat comfortably became the toughest thing I’d ever done. Third time around I didn’t think it possible again, but just when I thought I knew what to expect from chemo, my body and the running something new was thrown up. Whether or not I wanted it, I was again given the chance to master an even more punishing situation.

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The fortnight before my third marathon in Wakefield I’d had probably the worst cycle of chemo I’d ever. At the end of my treatment day I knew something wasn’t right. After 6.5-7hrs of treatment I’m usually crippled by nausea and feel so sick I can’t talk. However, this usually lifts after I’ve slept and had something to eat. The day after I spend most of the day in bed, but I at least feel like I’ve returned to the land of the living. This time, the day after treatment I still felt really shocking. The nausea gave way to exhaustion and it became clear that I was dealing with some pretty severe chemo side effects. Diarrhoea might seem like quite a trivial ailment to have, especially when compared to cancer, but it strips your body of minerals and saps all your strength. For most of the the next two weeks I was in pain, felt weak and didn’t want to get out of bed (which, my wife reminds me, also made me grumpy and frustrated).

Emma and Dan are great friends of us and took care of the girls while we went to the marathon course. They even made a sign with the girls.

Emma and Dan are great friends of us and took care of the girls while we went to the marathon course. They even made a sign with the girls.

 

When it came to the weekend of the marathon I was still poorly and spent the day in bed before the race. I hadn’t trained for almost two weeks and I’d be lying if I said I had no doubts about running the marathon. But before I went to bed on the eve of the race I’d made up my mind to run and was determined to finish, no matter what! By hook or crook the Wakefield marathon was going to be run and with little or no fitness the difference was always going to be made up by my determination and resolve to get to the end. As much as I didn’t want to I was forced to discover new resources of determination and resolve to get to the end. These times of adversity are when you learn most about yourself. Just like receiving a cancer diagnosis, or getting the news that your cancer is terminal. You never know how you’ll fare in a given situation, until you’re there. I’ve faced those things and I’ve learned just how tough I really am. Perhaps I might not look it, but I’m tough, I’d just rather have discovered it some other way, not through cancer. By the same token I’d rather not have woken the morning of the Wakefield marathon facing the prospect or running a marathon without any miles in my legs.

 

It was a hard hard race!

It was a hard hard race! Great to support from Kenny and Pete!

Imperfect or incomplete prep isn’t new to me, but this time it was different. From the start I knew I’d have help getting round from a cracking guy, Tom Hacker. I got a lot of reassurance from that. Tom is an all round great guy and the fittest, most dedicated amateur athlete I’ve met. He has raised £30,000 for cancer charities so far in his fundraising career and is hoping to raise £20,000 during his next challenge running Coast 2 Coast in August. It was great to have a serious fundraiser like Tom along to help me, but more than anything else he’s a top guy and despite his questionable taste in movies (whadyya mean Signs isn’t a great film?) excellent company! During my cancer adventure and especially since I’ve started my fitness challenge I’ve come into contact with lots of people who’ve been touched by cancer, many of whom have lost someone. It would be natural for them to shy away from this snarling beast and not to want to have anything to do with cancer or other sufferers, but in a lot of cases something really special happens. They don’t shy away, they reach out to others and do all they can to help fight cancer by raising money, awareness or supporting patients. In doing so, they turn this snarling beast in to something a little less scary. Tom and I have both faced hardship through cancer, but we are also proof that cancer cannot dim the human spirit. At the Wakefield marathon we spent the day sharing our stories and our determination not to let cancer and all it’s taken from us get in the way of us achieving our goals. I came away feeling more motivated than ever.

10407920_1530278237200788_929488733269776017_nObviously I didn’t know what to expect from myself in the race, but we just took it easy to start with. Tom set a good pace at roughly 12 min/ mile pace for the first 12 miles. After that I started to struggle and walked a bit. We still got through the first half marathon in around 2hrs40. If I could have maintained that pace I could have run a PB. I’m not too disappointed the second half took 3hrs30, because I really wasn’t carrying any fitness into this race, but I think it’s encouraging for the future. If I can scrape some fitness together then a sub 5hr marathon in the flat conditions of Berlin might possible. I took a pit stop at the halfway mark, when once again Louise proved how amazing she is. I was quite stressed at the physical state I was in and was a little short with her. But she was at her sunny best, and despite my behaving like a berk she sorted me out. I have never felt so shocking half way through any race I’ve run. It could have been easy to stop. During the race Tom asked me why I was running my marathons. Raising awareness of Bowel Cancer is very important to me, as is raising money, but the thing that really galvanised my resolve was the image I had of my girls and my burning desire to make them proud. I couldn’t stop, despite the times when it hurt and the times when it really hurt and my legs screamed at to stop. There was no spring in my step and at times, roughly every few steps I took after mile 12, it was a nasty attritional effort. I was stopping to walk quick frequently and if Tom hadn’t kept on top of these breaks it could really have taken a great deal longer. Surprisingly, I ran the marathon in 6hrs10, so quicker than Windermere. Tom’s help made a ton of difference. I’ve never felt as bad when running as I did in Wakefield. In a lot of ways I had no right to be running a marathon being so unfit, but I can draw an immense amount of satisfaction from finishing the race, despite how broken my body was. Even though I’d spent a lot of in pain I really enjoyed the day, especially chatting with Tom. It was great to hear his story and share mine. Wish I hadn’t been so wrecked as I could have chatted and appreciated his 80s workout anthems more.

 

Really glad on Tom's support. Most of all it's great meet one of the world's good guys.

Really glad on Tom’s support. Most of all it’s great meet one of the world’s good guys.

I had some great support at the race. Louise and I estimated 25-30 people supported me on the day. Some of them ran with me for a spell, others handed me food or water or simply cheered me on from the side of the road, or like Grace all of the above! I appreciated the time and effort all of them put in. They were always where I needed them and I’m grateful.

Had tons of help on the course

Had tons of help on the course

 

It’s a wonderful feeling having the support of your friends and family, but sometimes I’m guilty of taking the most important one for granted. Some of my friends and family have an idea of how tough my life can be, but Louise knows for sure.

Love you Louise!

Love you Louise!

This isn’t a judgement on everyone else. It’s a tough thing to do to show someone how poorly you get and Louise allows me to keep my dignity by answering the door when I’m ill. Given it’s Louise who puts me back together after chemo, she knows how much harder I’m choosing to make my life, by tackling marathons while undergoing chemo. Love isn’t always in the things people say, but the things they do and even the things they don’t. I felt Louise’s love at the start line. She could have stopped me and other girls might have, but she knows just how much this means to me. This is my chance to do run, to challenge myself and make memories for my daughters, it’s now or never. Now that I’ve got three marathons under my belt nothing is going to stop me now!

Love this lot!

Love this lot!

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 Marathons in 6 months in support of cancer charities:

Giving page: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/6marathons6months

Please follow me on twitter @ChemoDadRuns

 

Scan results come back good…

Apologies for not posting anything for a while, it’s been a hectic time lately. We finished the course of chemo I was going through then I had a CT scan to make sure the treatment worked, before we resumed chemo again. As I mentioned in my last post the scan at the end of treatment is always the time when I get a little anxious. This was no different, in fact I think I was a lot more apprehensive then usual. Perhaps, it was because everything has been going so well lately. I feel fit, but not just fit, strong and healthy too. I’ve been eating well, lifting weights, doing sit ups (but being careful not to herniate my stoma), press ups and of course running.

 

Been feeling great lately and running up big hills like this one at White Coppice.

Been feeling great lately and running up big hills like this one at White Coppice.

It's been great to go running with Louise lately. Perhaps she might run a marathon with me? ;)

It’s been great to go running with Louise lately. Perhaps she might run a marathon with me? 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel great, so was a little concerned that things were almost going a little too well. Lots of people offered me support on Twitter and Facebook. I was quite worried, so all that support was very important to me and helped me before we went to the hospital for the scan and then the results. Anyway, after waiting for a week and getting all nervous all over again we went to see my wonderful Oncologist. He’s seriously fantastic. A friend of mine is fond of saying that people enter your life for a reason. There’s clearly a very straightforward explanation why our Oncologist is in our life. I have have Bowel Cancer, live in Preston and receive treatment at RPH, but I could have lived in a different town, had a different type of cancer and a different medical team. That might sound fanciful, but it’s at least true that I could have been assigned another oncologist at RPH. Regardless of how or why we have our oncologist I’m glad he’s ours!! On scan results day we often try to read the expression on his face, to see what the news is, when he walks in. He’s an amiable, cheery chap, though, so isn’t always easy to read. We were very relieved when he told us we had good news! My cancer is stable and hasn’t grown or spread. He also told us I’d need an ultrasound (which I had last week) because the people performing the scan couldn’t find a vein properly due to how rubbish my veins have become after 15 months of chemo in two years. They did inject the dye, but the vein collapsed (and caused me no small amount of pain, I didn’t scream though, which is usually what happens they said).

 

My arm more than a week after the failed attempt to inject me with imaging dye

My arm more than a week after the failed attempt to inject me with imaging dye

 

The ultrasound showed no abnormalities in my liver. The doctor who did the scan also performed most of the scans, which led to my diagnosis two years ago. He was as kind and gentle last week as he was two years ago. I have been fortunate with the doctors I have had!

While talking to our Oncologist following our good news he revealed to us that he plans to come to my next Marathon at Windermere. It was as much as Louise and I could both stand and we almost wept in front of him. Think we managed to maintain our dignity until he’d left the room or at least I hope so! The list of reasons why he’s awesome is becoming almost exhaustive, but suffice to say we were bowled over. I haven’t heard of a busy, hard working Consultant taking time out to watch a reckless patient embarrass himself on a hilly marathon course. Amazing! Certainly can’t let myself down now.  Its given me a little more motivation to train harder, if any was needed.

 

 

In the Lakes to recce the Windermere Marathon route

In the Lakes to recce the Windermere Marathon route

 

Before we left clinic we discussed the possibility of a break in treatment. I hadn’t realised how greedy I’d become and he gently delivered a little reality check. I wanted a break to help me train for and run Marathons. However, as he pointed out, the only reason for taking a break from treatment was if my quality of life was suffering ie. if I was suffering from bad fatigue, sickness, loss of appetite or anything else related to the side effects of treatment. He pointed out that if I’m well enough to run marathons then I hadn’t any great quality of life issues. I have always been grateful to be able run and do other exercise and it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I might be asking too much. I’m happy to push myself and try and defy popular wisdom around what terminal cancer patients can achieve, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of treatment or family. Louise my wife has reason enough to be cross with me, especially recently when I turned up half an hour late for church after a long run.

 

My beautiful wife Louise always makes sure I make time for training, but also that it doesn't completely take over

My beautiful wife Louise always makes sure I make time for training, but also that it doesn’t completely take over

 

Perhaps sometimes the running takes over a little and I need to achieve a better balance. I’m grateful to our Oncologist and Louise for gently reminding me of the balance that needs to be struck between life, treatment and running.

 

The three of us decided that I would resume treatment the week after, so balance was restored. Treatment is the foundation of my well being and it’s an understatement to say that running certainly would be difficult if my cancer grew or spread. Obviously that could happen at any time if my treatment stopped working, so there’s no point in making things more difficult for myself.

 

Starting chemo again. My sixth course in total. Note my cheerful tee. I always try to get my head in the right place for treatment

Starting chemo again. My sixth course in total. Note my cheerful tee. I always try to get my head in the right place for treatment

 

We were very happy indeed we as left hospital. So happy in fact that we both felt like carefree teenagers madly in love with each other. The relief at getting good scan results is huge and it briefly removes the spectre hanging over us. This feeling gives us an idea of what life could be if not for cancer. It’s not a depressing thought though. It just makes us feel extra grateful for good news and the times when we get to forget about it all. Besides, regardless of our situation, it’s great to feel in love with each other. Louise’s parents have given us huge support throughout my illness and have travelled over from Leeds at least once week since. They were looking after the girls that morning, so Louise and I went for a pub lunch. We had a happy, soppy time gazing lovingly at each other. On the way out we visited the conveniences and shared a kiss as we temporarily went our separate ways. There was a table of good old boys putting the world to rites who shouted for us to ‘get a room’. Louise was already talking to them as I came out of the toilet. It was good, jovial stuff and I shared with them the reason for our display of affection and they offered us congratulations and shook my hand. There’s moments in life that bind you to the rest of humanity and give you the opportunity to share something that people have a universal understanding of, like getting married or the birth of a child. Getting good scan results is definitely worth sharing with other people.

 

Love my girls. They really give me a boost. I want to do my best in the races for them.

Love my girls. They really give me a boost. I want to do my best in the races for them.

 

I then ran the 3-4 miles home from the hospital. I was determined to do that run come what may and I’m really glad we’d had positive results. Can’t imagine what that run would have been like otherwise. Even still I’d just had a nice lunch and tried getting out of it, but Louise wouldn’t let me. It was quite a hard run. It was warm and I’d not run in a while due to a nasty blister occupying the instep of my right foot. I got it during the Blackpool Marathon and because I don’t have an immune system it became infected.

 

My blister. Probably a little tto nasty for a blog post. Comment if you don't like it and I take it down :)

My blister. It stopped me running for weeks. Probably a little too nasty for a blog post. Comment if you don’t like it and I’ll take it down 🙂

 

I started off hard and then ran out of steam, but I wasn’t bothered about pacing it just was great to feel the wind in my… face. 6 days until my second marathon in Windermere. Can’t wait!

 

Added motivation provided by the gorgeous scenery around Lake Windermere

Added motivation provided by the gorgeous scenery around Lake Windermere

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Twitter:
@ChemoDadRuns

 

 

I ran a marathon (aka one down five to go)…

So, I’ve got the first of my marathons out of the way. I ran it in 5hrs35. It was slow, so slow that by the end that my wife, who along with my brother Tom ran along side me and got me to within sight of the finish, said she could have walked. Obviously pace isn’t a huge consideration for me in my situation and especially given my shocking last fortnight of training. I’m grateful to Tom’s physio mate Chris for his advice. Without him, and the foam roller he encouraged me to buy, I would have been walking it. Indeed the most important thing for me was the fact I carried on running and didn’t at any stage walk. This obviously doesn’t tell the whole story, which really for me

Just about to start. Less smiling, more stretching!

Just about to start. Less smiling, more stretching!

was one of kindness, generosity, compassion and camaraderie, but with large helping of determination and utter stubbornness. Beforehand I was a little concerned about my prospects in the race. I had a painful 10 mile training run on the Monday before I ran in Blackpool and ended up walking the last three miles. The day before the race I’d felt tired just walking the 30mins into town and told everyone who’d listen how much of a nightmare the race would be. The day itself was great though. My sister, who’s been handling so much of the organisational and PR side of my fitness challenge picked up me and Pete (my awesome get-things-done buddy). Registration was straight forward and then spent 15-20mins with the awesome David from BBC Northwest Tonight, the regional BBC news programme. I wasn’t very organised, so quickly nipped to the loo and got ready. I got the start line just before the gun fired, but had no time to stretch.

 

I set off and no sooner had I put in my headphones then a man who was running to the side of me jogged over. He introduced himself as Mike and told me he’d decided to sign up

Running with Mike. He really helped me settle into the race!

Running with Mike. He really helped me settle into the race!

for the Half Marathon after he’d seen me in the Lancashire Evening Post the night before. I spent the next 10 miles talking to him about faith, running and lots of other things. I had worried about my race, so much and in the end I had Mike to help me ease into the race. The first miles would definitely have been harder if not for him.

 

 

After Mike and I got separated (he nipped to the loo and urged me not to stop) I passed a

Was lovely to run with Sara and Jodie for a while and hear about their wonderful cause.

Was lovely to run with Sara and Jodie for a while and hear about their wonderful cause.

few back marker half marathon runners and met up with two ladies, Sara and her niece Jodie, who were raising money in memory of Sara’s grandchild who died at birth. I ran with them for 5 miles, but after they stopped for a loo break I ran on my own spurred on by a playlist I spent an inordinate amount of time putting together. I was particularly inspired at around 18 miles listening to the Inches speech from the movie Any Given Sunday. In the movie the fictional Miami Sharks American Football team are a side in crisis. The idea Al Pacino’s coach D’Amato expresses is that the margin for success or failure in a game is small, inches in fact. He tells his team that they can fight their way back into the light, that they can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. I could definitely relate to that point. Facing a mini wall at 18 miles is like being a one person team in crisis. The body is suffering with pain and in my case a lack of fuel, while the mind is struggling with motivation. A team suffers from discord too. To put things right a team can work and fight harder to achieve victory and I was fighting against the distance and myself to keep going. I dug in, fought harder and just carried on placing one foot in front of the other and eventually climbed out of hell inch by inch, step by step. Sadly, I’d need to do that again at 22 miles and every mile after that up until the end.

 

One of the things I learned during the race was that Marathon runners are hugely generous and immensely kind. And not just the ones running in your race, but generally speaking too. One such unselfish runner was a man called David who ran alongside me at around 21/22 miles. We got talking and I explained what I was up to and why and I found out he was on a training run for the London Marathon, the following weekend. After a while the run got tough. The route had dropped down right along the sea, the tide was in and the wind got up. Perhaps it was running close to the sea with the wind that made it harder to breathe, or perhaps I was just tired after 22 miles, either way the run got really difficult. I told David that my goal was just to keep going and he told me that while he was running with me, I wouldn’t be stopping. Such kind words and they gave me the courage to push on. He ran with me for another couple of miles and handed me on to my brother, Tom, who had jogged down the front to find me. This fitness challenge has been like a microcosm of life, but containing only the best aspects of human nature. I have no right to expect kindness from strangers, but receive it in bucketloads. People that I have no connection to have heard about what I’m doing, made donations and sent some truly humbling messages infused with such incredible encouragement. I couldn’t expect such kindnesses from fellow marathon runners either. Let alone David who wasn’t even in the same race as me, but he’d run marathons and knew what I was going through and wanted to help. I can say confidently that without that help I wouldn’t have run all the way and I know that I’d have been desperately disappointed if I’d walked. I may well walk in the upcoming marathons, but I can derive a lot of confidence from digging out a good performance in the first marathon, despite the difficulties I had faced in the run up.

 

My brother Tom really helped me get over the finish line.

My brother Tom really helped me get over the finish line.

Anyway, when David left Tom and I, I still had more than two miles to go and they really were the hardest miles I have ever run. I’ve run two miles or more probably hundreds of times and I was surprised how hard it was to finish the race with such a short distance to go. If David and Mike’s generosity was incredible and unexpected, my brother Tom’s effort was no less profound. My siblings seem to have a habit of being in the right place at the right time. When I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in March 2012 I was on my own. I had been in hospital for days and after number of scans I was still none the wiser. Finally, a doctor and one of the nurses I knew from the ward came to my bed and broke the news. They left and my head was swimming. I wandered out into the corridor in a daze and bumped into Grace, my sister who’d arrived for visiting time. If I could have phoned a friend, or teleported anyone, other than my wife, to my side at that moment then level-headed, practical, lovely Grace would have been it. At mile 23/24 seeing Tom coming towards me was awesome. Not the mundane everyday awe I feel when I see a great goal on the TV, I mean I was genuinely awestruck to see my brother running towards me. In many ways Tom is my hero and if I could have called on anyone in that moment, again other than my smiling Louise, it would definitely have been Tom. I was so glad. He couldn’t possibly have known that I was struggling and that I needed his help so desperately. I was even more grateful to see him as he has had more than his fair share of injury problems and can’t run for much more than 20mins without discomfort. Without any concern for his own well being he set to work boosting my morale, pumping me full of positive vibes and acting as a general packhorse holding my water and getting me food. I’d hugely underestimated how much I’d need to eat

Sprint finish! Don't know where I got the energy.

Sprint finish! Don’t know where I got the energy.

on the way round and had ran out of running snacks some time before. We got to within sight of family gathered at mile 25 and my brother sprinted off to get me something to eat and returned with a protein bar and a banana from Grace. It’s not stuff I usually eat, but I was crashing badly, so I ganneted the lot. My beautiful, smiley Louise joined us at mile 25 and we together until we could see the finish. Those two then left me for dust as they sprinted away ready to see me finish. Inspired by the sight of the finish line I kicked on and sprinted home.

 

Carrying my two eldest girls to collect my medal.

Carrying my two eldest girls to collect my medal.

I got such a lovely reception at the finish, not merely from the family there to greet me, but also from the Race Commentator Brian and Organiser Tia. Evidently, someone, my bet’s on Grace, had told them why I was running and they praised my efforts. It was really kind. As I walked with girls in my arms to collect my medal the sense of achievement was immense.

 

 

 

It may be the first of six marathons I’m planning to run but running a Marathon is something

Something nice and sparkly to celebrate completing my first marathon. Thanks Jenn!

Something nice and sparkly to celebrate completing my first marathon. Thanks Jenn!

I thought I’d never get to do, so getting over the finish line was a massive achievement! I was pleased I wasn’t in last place and didn’t stop. After the race I could hardly move. While the steep stairs at our new home provided quite a challenge, the new bath, which felt twice as big as the one in our old house, was certainly appreciated and I had a nice post marathon soak. We went for a celebratory meal at our dear friends Jenn and Duncan’s house (my ex wife and mother of my eldest Skye and her husband). Later we watched me on the news, which was an odd experience. Then it was time for a well deserved sleep and prepare for chemo the next day.

 

 

 

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Twitter:
@ChemoDadRuns

 

My lovely, smiley wife, Louise, and I at the finish

My lovely, smiley wife, Louise, and I at the finish

Was very grateful to Tom for his efforts to get me to the finish!

Was very grateful to Tom for  ensuring I got to the finish without walking!

I'm a lucky man indeed to have such a great family

I’m a lucky man indeed to have such a great family

So this is what they were doing while I was running.

So this is what they were doing while I was running.

Beautiful artwork from my eldest Skye. I didn't really win ;)

Beautiful artwork from my eldest Skye. I didn’t really win 😉

Ben’s (and the family’s) House Movements

Certainly been a hectic time recently. Over the past fortnight we’ve been moving house, which obviously created huge turmoil. I’m full of admiration for people who can move house in a seamless and dignified manner, but we are sadly not in that camp. Can’t believe we’ve got so much stuff! In fairness I did have chemo part way in to the move, which certainly complicated things. This cycle has been especially hard work. I’m coming to the end of this course now, so I’m more tired than ever and it means I’ve been next to useless in helping with the move. I guess this just gives my superhuman wife Louise the chance to overcome yet more adversity. I don’t know how she gets us to hospital appointments, cooks, cleans, cares for the girls, get them to school, supports me in my running and let’s me have naps at all times of day, when I’m tired. This is all after waking up with the girls at 6am. I’ve omitted tons of other things she does, but I’m just constantly amazed at how hard she works and yet how positive she is, no matter how hard things can be sometimes. I don’t want to paint an excessively negative picture of my contribution at home. I’m not totally useless and consider myself a committed and loving Daddy, but there’s only so much I can do when I’m tired from chemo. Louise is my hero. A character in a movie I like says that the key to a successful marriage is to just pick the right person to be in the foxhole with. No matter how bad things get I know that Louise will never leave me in that foxhole to fight alone. I love her more than I could ever say and I’m so glad of her.

So far this week has been busy, but really exciting. In some ways it’s been a tale of two siblings. On Monday I went to Blackburn to be interviewed on BBC Radio Lancashire.

It was great fun and my wonderful sister Grace filmed it. I’m really proud of her. She’s an award winning filmmaker and is documenting my progress, so we can no doubt laugh at my ungainly running style later. Grace has also been firing off press releases following which I spoke to a journalist from the Lancashire Evening Post, who’ll hopefully be printing a story about my fitness challenge tomorrow (Saturday 5th April). After my brief appearance on the Graham Liver’s Breakfast show I caught up with beloved colleagues at the Central Library in Blackburn, where I used to work.

Me outside part-refurbed Blackburn Central Library

 

I then tried running back to Preston from Blackburn, something I used to do after work.

 

Tiring hill on the way to past Pleasington on the way to Preston.

Tiring hill past Pleasington on the way to Preston.

Wish I hadn’t bothered. It was the worst, most horrible run I’ve been on since I started running again. I think I basically didn’t have enough respect for how fatigued chemo had made me. Running 12 miles, especially so close to a marathon, shouldn’t have been a problem, but I’d been really tired all the week before, so I hadn’t run for 7 days. Sadly I hurt my knee. I’d been tempted to run, because my training has been so disrupted by chemo and illness the last 6 weeks that that I’ve not put in enough miles. Guess there’s no training plan for chemo patients tackling ridiculous fitness challenges. My brother Tom is a 400m runner and a friend in his training group, Chris, is a physio. Chris phoned and gave some very useful advice. The next day I bought a foam roller and tennis ball and have been working on the muscles in my hip and leg every day since. Hopefully, it’ll stop my knee feeling like it’s falling off when I’m running. In addition to having well informed friends, Tom is a great motivator. This and the fact that he’s an athlete means he’s ideally placed to give great advice about my running. He’s always full of encouragement and stops me getting down when things haven’t gone well. I’m very lucky to have such a clever brother and sister. In different ways Tom and Grace have been instrumental to my progress this week. It ought to be said that my three other siblings are equally as ace and help me in different ways. Someone else who deserves a mention is my good friend Pete. He’s helped us out as a family in lots of ways since my diagnosis. Recently he’s convinced Johnson and Johnson to send me some Compeed blister plasters:

Thank heavens for Compeed!

My feet thank you Pete!

I’ve had big problems with blisters in the last few weeks and the plasters were gratefully received! Yesterday though Pete trumped even Compeed when he brought me a running vest he’d had printed for my fitness challenge:

At least I'll look the part

I might be slow, but at least I’ll look the part

Those letters couldn’t have been any larger.

Sunday and my first marathon in Blackpool is only days away. In the last fortnight the training has been either nonexistent or miserable, so it promises to be quite an interesting day! I’d originally hoped for a 5 hour marathon, but I’ve revised that target and I’d be happy with 6 hours now. That’s ok though, because this way the Marathon represents better value for money. I’ll be on the course for another hour, so that’s another 20% what a bargain! My Dad would be proud. Regardless of how hard the race will be nothing will wipe the smile off my face. I thought I’d lost the chance to run a marathon forever, so just being at the start line on Sunday will be the realisation of a dream.

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Twitter:
@ChemoDadRuns

 

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages…

I originally wanted to write a blog to share my largely positive experiences of having terminal Bowel Cancer, but in a good way life got in the way. Life, having life, being alive! I was too well to sit back and muse on things. I was too busy having fun with my family.

Back in the summer when I first thought about writing a blog things were much different. We were about to start a new treatment and while we’ve always been positive about my cancer, we’d been through two failed courses of Chemo and two major surgeries to remove my bowel and half of my liver, so we were understandably dubious about the prospects of success with this new regimen. In February, our Oncologist told us that our second course had failed and that, because the two main treatments for Bowel Cancer had left my cancer untouched, it was sadly incurable. Later, when we’d plucked up the courage to ask, he told us that without successful treatment my life expectancy was 6-12 months. I’m told I’m quite a positive person and that I have a good attitude towards my cancer, but when someone tells you that you might not see out the year, in that instant no amount of positivity helps and suddenly, at least for a few days, the great attitude for which you’ve been known, deserts you. In truth, no matter how difficult it is for you, the cancer patient (I really resent the term Cancer Sufferer), it’s always a lot more difficult for the family and friends around you. It’s easy for me to get my head around being ill, but it’s obviously a lot harder for those around me to watch me going through this cancer experience. That time was really hard on my family, especially my wife.

Anyway, in the run up to starting chemo again in June our Oncologist, who I like to refer to as, the Indian Uncle I never knew I had, told us to have a break from treatment for a few months and have as much fun as possible with my young family. He was concerned that my new treatment might be quite gruelling and might not work, so the time before the start of treatment might be the best time I have left. This certainly got me thinking and I started making plans for letters I wanted to write to my girls. I also thought about writing a blog and sharing some of my experiences and my dreadful sense of humour, so that they might read it later.  We also decided to go to Disneyland Paris. Thankfully with the help of our friends and family we could afford to spend a few days just getting away from it all and immersing ourselves in the amazing, fantasy world that is Disneyland. It was brilliant! My mum also organised a holiday to Cornwall (I’d always wanted to go)  and we spent a wonderful week in a cottage with my Mum, Stepfather, siblings and their partners.  In the time we had before treatment started we crammed in as many laughs, smiles, photos, videos and experiences as we possibly could. My senses were so overwhelmed by all the things we were doing that I totally forgot about writing a blog.  

We were apprehensive about starting chemo again and focused on getting through it and trying to make it to Christmas. As treatment progressed we realised that it wasn’t as gruelling as we’d thought and when we got our scan results we got our first positive results. We got on with life. I retired from the Blackburn with Darwen Library Service. Louise and I went away for a week, spending time in Innsbruck, Verona and Venice… the honeymoon we never had. In December we went away with the girls to Disneyland again. Not only had we made it to Christmas, but we had the best one ever!

Around this time I decided to start running again. 5 months before I was diagnosed I had run the Great North Run and was trying to train for my first marathon in March 2012, unfortunately I was diagnosed that month instead. I began gently on the treadmill at the gym and then in mid-January started running with friends on the street again. Things went so well I upped my mileage even after starting treatment again. I’ve decided to write a blog, but not for the same reasons as before. Now, I want to share my experiences of running with Bowel Cancer, while carrying on with treatment. I’ve signed up to run Blackpool Marathon in April with the intention of running a marathon a month for six months. I’m hoping to raise money for various cancer charities in a challenge I’m calling Ben’s Bowel Movements. I’ve really missed running and I’m very excited about my first Marathon. It’s totally crazy to consider running so many marathons, but after the year we had I’m not going to let anything hold me back!

If you’re interested in making a donation please head to:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

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