Berlin marathon aka new PB or bust…

It’s been a funny week. On Tuesday I had a great 5 mile run, an uplifting prayer meeting with some of the guys from church, then back home and straight into the morning routine with the girls. Tried to make the most of it. It’s the last morning we are going to have together for over a week.

Had a lovely walk to school with Skye. We always have such a laugh and sing songs. I’m really going to miss her and her sisters when we are away. Before heading home I went to the gym for a great pre-Berlin weights session.

I’m excited about the marathon, but I love my girls. Time away from them while I’m running these races could prove a little counter productive. If my health should fail I don’t want to regret spending time taking part in marathons, when I could have been with them. I need to make sure every time take my place at the start line I give it my all. That’s what’s going to happen in Berlin. I’m going to leave it all on the course. I can rest when I’m done.

The afternoon was packed with an interview with the lovely Rachel Hurst from Lancashire Evening Post, a much needed catch up with the always patient Gemma Ali from Beating Bowel Cancer and then an unexpected trip to Salford and the ITV studio of Granada Reports. We were chared by all we met and had a real blast. We were worried about talking over each other and coming across as a bickering couple, but it passed without incident.

To see us not fall out (for once) please follow the link: http://goo.gl/KgYGop

Had a wonderful time at Granada reports

Had a wonderful time at Granada reports

Didn’t then get much sleep as we hadn’t packed or even bought currency. Thank heavens for our mate Dan who drove us to the airport. In the past few days in Berlin we’ve had a great relaxing time. Just what Louise and I needed. We’ve seen some amazing things, meet some wonderful people and spent valuable time with friends and family that have travelled. Including my brother Will who’s been away in the States for months. I’ve missed him a great deal!

Berlin is an amazing city. So lucky to be here!

Berlin is an amazing city. So lucky to be here!

I registered at the marathon expo and got my race number on Friday. There’s lots of stalls promoting sportswear companies, other marathons on the calendar and many other aspects of running. It was huge and occupied the whole of the old Nazi era Templehof Airport. On the way the most amazing thing happened.

As we were leaving the subway Louise and I were chatting about my fitness challenge and running 6 marathons in 6 months, despite constant chemo for terminal bowel cancer, when I heard someone from behind me asked if I’m Ben. It was surprising to say the least and totally amazing!

It was cool to be recognised in the street all the way over here in Berlin. I know I’m not really famous, but it feels in some small way that I might be making a difference, that we are reaching people and we might really be helping to get the message out about bowel cancer. The extra Facebook likes we’ve gained this week is only going to help us carry on this work.

Lindsey and Leona are from Chorlton Runners, a running club I have no connection to, but have been supporting me ever since I setup my Facebook page. I heard a while back that they had runners at Berlin, but the idea that we’d actually find each other amongst thousands of others is amazing.

 

Amazing to bump into Lindsey and Leona

Amazing to bump into Lindsey and Leona

Today is the last of my 6 marathons. I’ve run a marathon a month since April. Now it’s the big one… Berlin! I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve had chemo throughout and it’s been cruel. My body has been battered with cancer fighting toxic drugs, but I’ve carried on training. I’ve never lost sight of my goal.

So much has happened since my cancer adventure began

So much has happened since my cancer adventure began

Berlin is a great course and I’ve got a decent chance of running a personal best (anything under 4hrs50 would be great) but whatever happens I’ve done well to get here.

Last year we thought my cancer might kill me, but this year with the help of everyone around me I’ve been fighting hard. With each training run and gym session I feel like I’ve been clawing my life back and gaining fitness. And not just so I can run marathons, but to help me get as strong as possible, so I can fight cancer for as long as possible. I love my life and I’ve no intention of giving it up easily I’ve too much to live for. I want to carry on watching my daughters grow!!

I can’t wait. It’s going to be great!

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

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

Facebook:
Facebook.com/6marathons6months

I’m on twitter too:
@ChemoDadRuns

Great North Run 2014, didn’t think I’d be here again…

The Great North Run is a very important race for me. It was the first long race I did. My dreams of running marathons were born as I trained for, and ran, it in 2011. Taking part again on Sunday felt like I’d come full circle. There are lots of things I thought I’d never do. I say it all the time, so much so that it has become a bit of a cliché, but there was definitely a time when I thought Louise and I wouldn’t get the chance to take part in a Great North Run together. It’s another milestone reached, despite terminal cancer. I feel very fortunate!

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I was very excited to be running a half marathon with Louise and so proud of her effort on the day and her determination in training!

When I was diagnosed in March 2012 my fitness was a huge conciliation to me. Knowing that I ran the Great North Run in 2011 gave me courage to fight the disease. My doctors told me that being fit and healthy meant I would recover from surgery more quickly. This kept me going, in fact I used to wear my 2011 Great North Run finishers shirt a lot at the start of my cancer adventure. It was my shirt of choice as I recovered from surgery and went for treatment, a symbol of my resistance and determination to run again

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My Great North Run shirt was a symbol of my resistance and my determination to run again!

I wouldn’t take part in another race for more than two years after the 2011 Great North Run. A lot happened in the intervening years. Immediately afterwards I was very tired, so fatigued in fact I struggled to resume training. I put this down to the fact that I had run my first half marathon, my longest distance yet. Likewise, my poo was loose, but that was ok as it was obviously runner’s trots. Also, I was losing weight too, but that was fine, because I was training hard and I was becoming more lithe, great for a runner. But I definitely knew something was wrong when I started to get pain in my tummy before Christmas. Then in March 2012 I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer.

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Didn’t realise how ill I’d become around the time of my diagnosis. This was shortly after my Bowel surgery in March 2012

I ran the Great North Run this year for Beating Bowel Cancer. They’ve been a tremendous support to us and are one of the four cancer charities we’ve been raising money for. I ran just for them, because they work tirelessly to promote awareness of Bowel Cancer symptoms. If I had been aware of the symptoms I would not have dismissed mine.

I ran the Great North Run in a pair Beating Bowel Cancer bum shorts. They're a great awareness tool that get people thinking about poo and Bowel Cancer symptoms. Unfortunately I found myself at the butt of everyone's jokes. I had no choice but to turn the other cheek! There was a pair of runners in a donkey costume, so at least I wasn't the only ass!

I ran the Great North Run in a pair Beating Bowel Cancer bum shorts. They’re a great awareness tool that get people thinking about poo and Bowel Cancer symptoms. Sadly, I found myself at the butt of everyone’s jokes. I had no choice but to turn the other cheek! There was a pair of runners in a donkey costume, so at least I wasn’t the only ass!

People can be cured in 90% of cases if Bowel Cancer is caught early enough and knowing the symptoms is the key to early diagnosis. More info on symptoms can be found on the Beating Bowel Cancer website . If you have any symptoms please don’t ignore them, visit your GP.

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I met Mark Flanagan CEO of Beating Bowel Cancer in the GNR charity village. It was wonderful to meet him and Gemma Ali, one of the Fundraising coordinators. They and others at the charity have been very supportive of my efforts. I’m grateful for their praise and encouragement.

When I ran it on my own in 2011, Louise walked me to the start where it felt like a party was taking place. She made her mind up then that she wanted to be part of it herself one day. I know how hard it has been for her to train for it. She always prioritises my training over her’s. Also, sometimes I’m so tired from treatment that Louise is unable to leave the girls with me. Other times she’s too busy in the house or looking after me and the girls to go out.

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She’s not always been much of a runner, so to stick with her training through all these obstacles makes it quite an achievement. I never thought I’d ever see Louise run a half marathon and I think she surprised herself. Now, knowing that she’s capable of a half marathon I bet she’ll have a go at another half and then who knows? There certainly won’t have been many husbands more proud than I on Sunday in South Shields.

We did it!

We did it! Was very proud of Louise at the finish and of course Grace and Tony too!

It was an incredible day. Louise and I ran with my sister Grace and our friend Tony. The atmosphere was amazing. It’s a real festival of running and a celebration of all the different charities and causes being represented.

The Red Arrows at the GNR is always an amazing sight!

The Red Arrows at the GNR is always an amazing sight!

There are 56,000 runners each with their own stories, motivations and reasons for running. Passing over the Tyne Bridge with thousands of others is still one of the stand out sights and best feelings I’ve had in running.

About to run across the amazing Tyne Bridge.

About to run across the amazing Tyne Bridge.

Countless spectators cheered us runners on. The support was fantastic, just like in 2011, with people lining the whole 13.1 route. We got round in 2hrs37 (taking off time for breaks). Grace found it a little tough, but despite having trouble with her knee she didn’t stop running. I was really proud of her.

She's a tough one my sis Grace!

She’s a tough one my sis Grace!

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

 

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

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

 

One sleep till Windermere…

I really can’t wait. By this time tomorrow I’ll be running round Lake Windermere in what will no doubt be the toughest race of my life. The Brathay Windermere Marathon is a hard course. There’s more than 600 feet of elevation gain during the race and it’s going to be hot, very hot (at least for me). Recently, I’ve developed an enjoyment of hill running and love nothing more than to (at least attempt to) sprint up them. I’ve even tackled Great Hill at White Coppice a couple of times with Louise and a friend of ours. It’s 640 feet of elevation in two miles of distance. It’s sheer elevation, but also sheer exhilaration. Running on the side of that hill has given me a great sense of freedom, feeling totally unfettered by cancer or chemo. Getting up that monster should should prepare me for Sunday, but Windermere also has fantastic undulation, not to mention the simple fact that it’s 26.2 miles.

Being battered in the park by middle daughter Isobel is the perfect release from training.

Being battered in the park by middle daughter Isobel is the perfect release from training.

Just as last time my preparation for this marathon has been interrupted by injury. Grace, my sister, asked me how much training I’d managed to get in after recovering from my infected blister. I looked at the calendar and was really surprised that I’d only trained for 2 weeks for this marathon. I guess I’d just slotted back into things and had forgotten about my layoff. Probably the best way to be really. I’m not trying to talk myself out of running in Windermere far from it. I am awed by the challenge, but not deterred. I’m really excited.

Louise and I at the Blackpool 10k finish line

Louise and I at the Blackpool 10k finish line last Sunday. Great training with one week to go until Marathon #2

This weekend is also the weekend of the Great Manchester 10k. I was a little saddened to already be occupied running a Marathon. Mummy’s Star is a charity set up by my good mate and genuine inspiration Pete. It’s is the only charity in the UK that caters for pregnant women that have cancer, or have been diagnosed soon after giving birth. They have runners taking part in the Great Manchester Run and I would really like to have been one of them.

Bumped into Steve, one of the Mummy's Star runners at the Blackpool 10k. Such a nice guy!

Bumped into Steve, one of the Mummy’s Star runners at the Blackpool 10k. Such a nice guy!

It is also the weekend of Rugby League’s Magic Weekend. Last year I was given free tickets to go and a friend and I had a wonderful time. On our journey to the Etihad I saw runners taking on the 2013 Great Manchester 10k. I felt sad that I wasn’t able to run and chided myself for not pushing myself to do more. I remember seeing those runners and their families and thought ‘I can do that’. Now only a year later I’m on the cusp of my second marathon and will be running at least a further four by the end of the year (I say at least, because I’ve really caught the bug). In the last year I feel like I’ve undergone a bit of a transformation. I’ve achieved a lot and learned to live with my cancer and treatment a little better. I’m very happy. I’ve got my beautiful wife and daughters to thank for that.

Running has helped me be more active and participate more fully in family life, like putting the girls to bed.

Running has helped me be more active and participate more fully in family life, like putting the girls to bed.

I’m really grateful to our Oncologist who’s been a tremendous support. I’m also really grateful to Beating Bowel Cancer who believed in me and gave me a place in the Berlin Marathon. Without that place I wouldn’t have had the confidence to set up my fitness challenge Ben’s Bowel Movements.

No matter how difficult it is and how much it hurts tomorrow I won’t be able to wipe the smile off my face!

 

I was bowled over that some great friends of mine wanted to do their own 'bowel movement' in support if my fitness challenge. Thanks Phil, Sam & Pots

I was bowled over that some great friends of mine wanted to do their own ‘bowel movement’ in support of my fitness challenge. It was an honour to run with them! Thanks Phil, Sam & Pots!

 

 

 

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

virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Please follow me on 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 😉