Week 52 – Part 2 – The Toughest Race I’ve Ever Run

PRE-RACE

I eventually pulled the eye mask, to black out the 24 hour sunlight, off my face at about 11am on the Saturday morning of the race. The race itself started at 8.30pm Norweigan time so my Dad and I had about 9 hours to kill before the serious business of my first #marathon began. It seemed a bit weird to me that despite all the miles I had run in the previous 12 months and all the races that I had completed that the furthest I had ever run was only 20 miles. It was a strange combination of excitement and curiosity that I felt as I ate my Porridge and Wholemeal toast that morning, and to be totally honest I couldn’t wait to just get started!  My Dad and I took a very chilled out approach to the day, partly because I was trying to prepare properly and conserve all my energy for the race and partly because we were knackered from the 5 miles that we walked the previous day being tourists in and around the #Tromso city centre. I ate more porridge, pasta, energy bars and drank lots of water whilst my Dad seemed to match me litre for litre with Tea. (It’s a good job we packed all those PG Tips like proper Brits abroad beforehand!). Around 5pm I Facetimed Kristy back in the UK, jumped in the shower, got dressed, did one last kit check and then my Dad and I headed to the bus stop to catch the 6.30pm bus to the race start back at the City Hall.

  
   Once we arrived there the whole city centre was abuzz with thousands of runners, spectators and excitement. We delivered my bag, containing all the stuff I’d need for immediately after the race, at the bag drop and then sat in the warm with the other marathon runners just trying to focus on the task ahead. My Dad and I enjoyed quite a long chat about the different journeys we had both travelled over the last 12 months, the challenges, the toughest parts, the best parts and the experiences yet to happen and had some real, meaningful, quality time together. Since we found out about his illness my Dad and I have become much closer and keep in touch much more often over SMS, Whatsapp and even Facebook, but this was just so nice, to spend these days in his company. Just the two of us, hanging out, drinking tea, talking nonsense, all rounded off with a 26.2 mile run for the end of my #12in12months challenge. It really felt as if fate and the universe had conspired to bring us together, in Norway, to experience this thing together at this particular point in our lives.

  
  

     The time between arriving at 6.30pm and making my way down to the start line at 8.15pm absolutely flew by and before we knew it I was taking off my waterproof jacket and beginning to limber up. The final task before this was to logout of Facebook on my phone and allow my Dad to log into my account on his phone so that he could fire up the old #Dadcam and post updates on my progress. Everything looked rosy as Dad spoke about “filming it on my Kindle and then blue toothing it to my phone so that I can post it on Facebook” but little did I know that #Dadcam was to become the stuff of legend whilst I was out slogging my way around the course! Once logged into my Facebook however my Dad and I shared some last words, a hug and then he headed off with all his tech gear and I bounced around on the start line trying to keep warm. Despite it only just being 8.30pm I have to say that regardless of the never ending sunshine it was a very cold evening and that it took me until the very last second to make a decision on whether or not to wear my under armour – which I did. Luckily before any time at all had passed the countdown was on, 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – GOOOOO, and we were off! Finally race 12 was underway! I waved at Terje and my Dad as I crossed the start line, started my #Garmin and #MapMyRun and set about trying to think of absolutely anything at all in the whole universe other than the amount of running I had ahead of me. 

  
      MILES 1 – 6

The first 6 miles saw the race take a bit of a zig zag through the city centre streets, a quick pass along the waterfront, over the HUGE road bridge crossing the fjord towards the Arctic Cathedral and then 4 miles out towards the south of the mainland along/towards Innlandsveggen. I always find that the first mile of any race is solely about not getting trodden on, not treading on anyone and not tripping over. With nearly 750 runners starting the race and all of them wanting to look fit, strong, focussed and prepared in front of the huge watching crowd, this sometimes takes a lot of concentration like it did here. Soon enough though the field had naturally spread out a bit and there was more than enough room for everyone. The atmosphere of the race, and the noise and enthusiasm of the predominantly Norweigan crowd, was infectious and the first ascent of the bridge soon upon me. Having had the pleasure of walking over the bridge the day before on mine and my Dads tourist day the climb (from 6m above sea level to 46m above sea level) was slightly less daunting and it didn’t stop me from hitting a steady pace fairly quickly and easily. The views during this first 6 miles were absolutely incredible as well I have to say. I’ve been very lucky during my #12in12months #ManProject to run in some incredible, amazing places like Exmoor, Barcelona, Miami and Gansbaai in South Africa but the views here were the best. Snow tipped mountains, crystal clear Fjords, the beautiful midnight sun and the cute Norweigan houses all helped make these first 6 miles lots of fun. With an average pace of 8m30s during this first 6 miles I was looking bang on target for sub four hours and feeling strong, with little idea of what was to come.

MILES 7 -13

After reaching what felt like the Southern most tip of what I assumed was the mainland there was a turning point, of literally a traffic cone in the road, which we ran around and then headed back the 6 miles we had just come, back over the bridge and back into Tromso. As we turned back for Tromso I was still feeling good, enjoying my Spotify playlist (thanks Rike!) and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The only issue that I had at this particular time was that I was in desperate need of (and please excuse any crudeness here) a sit down toilet stop. Having eaten so much food in the previous 24 hours to stock up on ‘fuel’ I had (and please excuse any crudeness again) already been 4 or 5 times that day but the wolf was at the door again. I was definitely not planning to do a Paula Radcliffe so was desperately looking for any portaloos en route. I couldn’t remember seeing any marked on the course map and also couldn’t remember seeing any yet on the run, so was starting to feel slightly desperate. As miles 7, 8 and 9 passed slight desperation developed into desperation, which in turn became extreme desperation. I was by this stage 100% convinced I was going to have an accident in my support shorts. To make matters even worse there had been 2 portaloos along this part of the run, but 1 had 5 people queuing outside (and if I wanted to crack 4 hours I couldn’t waste 10 minutes in a toilet queue) whilst the second looked and smelled like it had been shipped in after 10 years continual use at Glastonbury. I usually have a fairly strong stomach but this was horrific. By mile 9 my extreme desperation had started to introduce some crazy ideas on how I could solve this issue into my thinking, which I am too ashamed to share even now, but just as I was about to make a very bad life choice I saw a Shell petrol station with a ‘TOILETTES’ sign. Thank the good Lord! Having worked as an all night garage attendant at a Shell Garage in Cornwall when I was younger this seemed like a sign from the gods that they were on my side.

Excuse my crudeness, my final apology, but my pit stop in the Shell garage was quicker than a tyre change during a Formula 1 race. The garage attendant looked visibly shocked and surprised at the speed at which I was in and out, but my goodness did I feel better. I had lost very little time and was perfectly set up for the last ascent of the bridge and the second half of the race back in Tromso. Just after the Shell Garage we crossed back under the bridge and then had to do a big 2 mile or so loop back up past the Arctic Cathedral before the climb back up the bridge and into Tromso for the second half of the race. As I ground my way up the bridge I still felt strong, I felt lighter and my per mile pace was consistent at around 8m30s which put me bang on for around 3 hours 45 minutes. I also knew that my Dad and #Dadcam was going to be at the top of the bridge so I put on my best game face and continued to climb. 

You can watch the video HERE!

MILES 14 – 20

Sure enough there, where he promised he would be, was my Dad shouting words of support and cheering me on as I reached the top of the bridge. He was all set to take some video of me but three things scuppered this. Firstly I think I had got there slightly quicker than he expected so he wasn’t quite ready for me. Secondly he was freezing cold at this point, with fairly bad ‘white finger’, so holding and operating a fiddly little phone wasn’t as easy as we thought. Thirdly he wasn’t expecting me to throw my gloves at him. Whilst Dad had ‘white finger’ my hands were boiling and carrying the gloves was annoying me so as I got right by him I shouted “Dad. Gloves!” and launched them at him. The resulting video can be seen here – classic #Dadcam

You can watch the video HERE!

I was laughing about what had happened as the bridge flattened out and I looked up at the amazingly beautiful view of #Tromso ahead of me. At this moment I felt so lucky to be running this race, with my Dad there to support me, and thought about how grateful I was to Kristy and Rachel for allowing Dad and I to go off and do this! As the flat of the bridge became a downhill I was sharply brought back to reality as I felt a twinge in my hamstring. “Oh f**k no!” (For those of you that aren’t regular blog readers, I have been struggling with my hamstrings since before the #Barcelona #HalfMarathon back in February and tweaked them again just a few weeks ago.). As I continued down the bridge the twinge continued and I could feel it starting to pull. I stopped briefly, gave it a rub, did some stretches and set off again but I could immediately feel it pulling again. Desperately trying to ignore it I carried on through miles 14, 15 and 16 but the pain was getting worse and my per mile splits were getting slower. At mile 17 I was convinced that the heavy strapping I had put on before the race had slipped down and was cutting into my hamstring so I stopped to check and adjust it, but it hadn’t – it was just the pain in my hamstring.

Now I had a decision to make. Could I even finish this race now? I had so many thoughts firing through my mind! Could I make it another 9 miles in this condition regardless of whether I could run it or would have to walk it? Could I get 9 more miles out of my broken hamstring? How long would 9 miles take to walk? Isn’t it embarrassing to have to walk the rest? What about all those people who have sponsored you? Dad will be expecting me at the finish line at the 4 hour mark? I don’t want to let anyone down! It was horrible I have to tell you. Knowing that cracking 4 hours had just gone in the twinge of a muscle and now the question was simply ‘can I even do this?’ was heart breaking for me. After 12 months, all that training, all the sacrifice and all the effort, it seemed (at this particular moment) like I wasn’t going to finish what id said I’d do.

So I did what I’d done way back at the beginning of the whole #ManProject I didn’t focus on this being the 12th race, I didn’t focus on how I was going to get to 26.2 miles and I didn’t even focus on running even just the next 100 metres. I focussed solely on taking one step, and then taking another, and then another. I actually remember saying this to myself at the time. “Just stop standing still and feeling sorry for yourself and move forwards!” And you know what, I did! As I was having this debate in my head a few people running past me patted me on the back and gave words of support. Likewise spectators shouted my name and words of encouragement and before long I was striding along at a pace that can only be described as a brisk walk. Once I was walking my brain started questioning my spirit again. “Look, I know your hamstring hurts but you can walk along at quite a pace. Are you sure you can’t run a bit, even if it’s slower than usual? Maybe you can just run to that road sign?” And that’s what happened. I’d walk a bit, convince myself that I could run if I tried, run a bit until my hamstring hurt to much, then walk a bit more until I convinced myself I could run again, and repeat ad infinitum. I was trapped in a mental battle loop between pride and pain. Pride would make me run, then pain would get on top and make me walk, but then pride would make a comeback and I’d start running again. This is how the next 3 miles panned out. Walk, run, rub hamstring, walk, run, etc. I was in my own little world of pain and anguish, destined to have to slog the remaining 6 miles like this trapped in my own head and restrained by my own body and then I noticed someone else going through the same hell! Rob!

MILES 20 – 26

Though we started running and walking together properly at about mile 20, I had noticed Rob at around mile 17. As I made my first stop to rub my hamstring, do some stretches and generally try and figure out WTF had happened to my leg I noticed a guy in a blue t-shirt just ahead of me seemingly doing the same thing. As I then started walking and this developed into a run/shuffle I overtook him and ran until the pain convinced me to stop. As I then walked along with my pride trying to convince my pain that we could run another 500m, this guy in the blue t-shirt came running/shuffling past me and out of sight in the distance. Then as I’d eventually convince myself that I could run again, I’d set off on another 500m run/shuffle and (slowly) re-overtake this guy who was walking again. This pattern happened a few times and then I remember him going past me at about mile 19, when pain was having a particularly strong round against pride, and when I eventually started running again I didn’t see him again in the time I expected to. But this was good because it made me keep running. I thought ‘that guy looked as broken as me and if he has kept running then you can keep running too!’ So whereas I might have stopped to walk before I kept going, and kept going. Eventually I saw him as I came around a corner just near mile 20 and saw him walking again. ‘Thank god for that!’ I thought! Gradually I pulled up alongside him and said “Thank f**k for that, I thought you’d left me on my own!” To which he laughed and we started walking and talking.

It transpired that Rob had ‘enjoyed’ a similar race and build up to the race to me. He’d tweaked his Achilles 3 or 4 weeks before but was doing fine in the race until just after the descent of the bridge when his Achilles had gone again. He had been running the race with his wife, but she’d powered on when he was reduced to run/walk/run/walk and since then he’d been going through a similar battle as myself. It’s often said that ‘misery likes company’ but I have to say that walking and talking with Rob helped me 100% as I realised that everyone is going through their own journey during a marathon and I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t having everything go exactly how they wanted! After a bit of walking he or I said “shall we try and run down this hill for a bit” and we did. Then one of us would say “let’s walk to this road sign and the run a bit” and that’s how it continued. We chatted about our training, our race experiences, our injuries, our experiences of Norway, living in London and anything and everything not to focus on the fact we were running a marathon. Eventually the KM to go markers counted down from 9 to 1, and realising we had a chance of getting over the finish line in under 4 hours 30 minutes, Rob and I gritted our teeth and turned our shuffles up to full power as we entered the city centre for the last KM.

With the time now being around 1am in Tromso, despite the constant sunlight, the mood in the final KM in and around the centre had become more rowdy. Crowds in bars and pubs shouted encouragement and screamed my name as Rob and I gingerly ‘ran’ out way up the Main Street desperately trying to look strong and give it the big Hollywood ending. The crowds grew bigger and the cheering louder as the timer above the finishing line came into sight. The timer already had 4 hours 29 minutes being displayed! “One last push mate!” I said as we tried to lengthen our stride as much as possible. It was going to be a struggle and it was going to be tight!

Then I heard my Dads voice! Instantly recognisable, strong and full of encouragement, but also breaking with emotion a little! ” C’mon Ant!” he bellowed and I just caught him out of the corner of my eye. He looked and sounded so proud of me that for a brief moment, just long enough, I couldn’t feel any pain in my hamstring and Rob and I gunned it for the line which we crossed as the timer displayed 4 hours 29 minutes and 59 seconds! We’d made it!

You can watch the video HERE!

  
       After the race is a bit if a blur to be honest. Rob and I hugged and exchanged some words of thanks to each other. My Dad came racing down to the finishing area where we hugged, cried a bit and told each other how proud we were of each other and how glad we were to both be there at that moment and that was it. #12in12months was done dusted and over. 4 hours 29 minutes and 19 seconds was my official time in the end but you know what I realise now…..it doesn’t matter!   

 If there’s one thing that the #12in12months and indeed the last twelve months have taught me it is that it’s definitely not about the destination, it’s 100% about the journey…and what a journey I’ve had! Thanks to everyone that has been on it with me in any way!  

THE CHARITY BIT

The easiest ‘the charity bit’ I’ve had to write in the whole 52 weeks because WE MADE IT!  That’s right, Thursday evening at about 7pm we crept over the £2,000 mark for donations to Make A Wish after I posted on Facebook that we were £62 short, in the hope that a number of people might donate £5 or £10 each, and then Dexter Woodhead (one of my Dads friends) donated the whole £62 to get us over the line!

Thanks so much to Dexter obviously, but a massive thanks to everyone that donated no matter how large or small! Every single penny is hugely appreciated by my Dad and I and it gives us both enormous pride to have exceeded our target by 4 times the original amount. Every single one of you that donated helped get me around that course on Saturday and without you (and my new BFF Rob of course) there is no way I would be sat here now having completed #12in12months

For those that didn’t donate – shame on you!, but it’s never too late you know….

PLEASE DONATE HERE!

SO WHATS NEXT?

Still the question I get asked most all of the time but I can honestly say I have no idea at the moment. I definitely need to run another full marathon with full strength hamstrings, I absolutely want to join Benny The Fireman for his #3in3days marathon challenge in Cornwall in October and I’d also like to try an open water swim of a decent length. What I am going to do immediately is completely rest my hamstring for 4-6 weeks and then re-group and figure out the next challenge. I’m sure if you keep following me on Twitter @12in12months on Instagram @OneAceGuy and via this blog then you’ll know as soon as I know. 

Thanks so much to everyone for all your good wishes, support and love over the last 12 months. It has been a pleasure!

God bless!

Here’s a little video that sums up the last 12 months…just hit the play button!

DADS EPILOGUE by Dad/Dave/Dadcam

All in all Antony and I travelled over 8750 kilometres to Tromso and back and when we left I wasn’t even sure I was up to the journey as I tire very easily these days. 

 Just being there with Antony however gave me a strength I thought was gone, sharing this last race in my own small way, (apologies for the Dadcam moments LOL) meeting the wonderful and generous people of Tromso (great crowd) especially Terje and seeing the respect given to Antony for his achievements this last 12 month was inspiring, humbling and left me as the proudest Dad in Tromso. 

I never doubted for one moment that he would finish this journey or indeed the last race, despite getting rather worried after 4 hours knowing how well he had been going or hearing from the organisers that an English runner had been picked up by the ambulance after collapsing around mile 18! 

In my heart I knew that whatever the time he would return, finish and that I would be there to cheer him in at the end. An Awesome journey that I have been proud, privileged and grateful to have shared. Mange takk Antony Mange takk. 

Dave  

Week 52 – Part 1 – Planes, Trains and Automobiles 

On Saturday I completed the 12th and final race of my #12in12months challenge, the #MidnightSunMarathon in #Tromso #Norway

To the victor the spoils!

 Despite having run over 1,500 miles in training over the last 12 months, and completed 14 #HalfMarathons and a #HalfIronMan over that time I have to say that Saturday’s run is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to physically do…ever!  I’ll go into all the reasons for this in the race report a bit later, but first let me tell you about the epic trip my Dad (who came to support) and I made to #Tromso and about the few days that we spent in the land of the 24 hour sunlight. 

Tromso.

 THURSDAY

It required an early departure from home on the Thursday for my Dad and I to catch our first flight to #Oslo, before further connecting on to #Tromso. The old iPhone alarm was chirping away at 4.30am for a 5.00am taxi pick-up to get us away on the first flight by 07.05am from #Heathrow. It was frankly a brutal start to what was going to be a tiring, but hopefully exceptional, 4 days. My poor Dad had already slogged his way through a days travel the day before with a 7 hour train journey from Redruth to Paddington, before connecting on to Richmond. He had to depart from Redruth because apparently the train seriously doesn’t stop at Camborne Wednesday? I honestly thought that was just a Jethro joke!   

Dad at Paddington.

 Anyhow, before we we’d even managed to wearily wipe the sleep from our eyes we had checked in, ‘enjoyed’ an over-priced Heathrow latte (over-priced until we got to #Norway at least), an Orange Juice and a Scone and were in our seats en route to #Oslo Dad was VERY impressed that I had managed to book us the emergency exit seats, the ones with the extra legroom, and took great delight in telling me all about the last time he’d taken a flight with two guys who were named Orvil and Wilbur (or something like that!) We had a short 4 hour stop in #Oslo where we had to collect our international suitcases and turn them into domestic suitcases. Whilst there we tasted a local delicacy, which seemed suspiciously like a ‘hot dog’, before we were on the next plane enjoying more emergency exit legroom and a story from Dad about some girl he once dated called Emelia Earhart or something.  

Dad and I arriving at Heathrow at 5am.

The plane for our first leg to Oslo.

Let’s go to Oslo.

The views from the plane grew increasingly breath-taking the further North we headed and the closer to #Tromso that we got. The plane flew from #Oslo towards #Sweden and then seemed to fly right along the mountains all the way North. Beautiful snow covered mountains and, what looked like, Glaciers all the way. No houses, no roads, no cars, actually nothing, for most of the flight. After a couple of hours we saw the familiar (from all our pre-trip googling) sight of #Tromso and particularly the main bridge into the island.

  
            We landed at about 4pm, jumped straight into a cab and were inside our #AirBnB apartment by 4.30pm. We were staying at an apartment belonging to a lady named Silje in a block called Tennergen which was right by the airport but 15 minutes from #Tromso city centre. Our first night was VERY low key as we did some supermarket shopping, where we realised #Norway was the most expensive place we’d ever been* and chilled out in the apartment watching England Under 21’s lose 1-0 to Portugal. In fairness we were both shattered and just wanted to go to sleep by this stage! (*To give an example of how expensive Norway is 2 large bottles of Coca-Cola were on ‘offer’ for £6!)   

 

FRIDAY

After a weird nights sleep, because it literally didn’t get any darker than it was when we arrived at any point, Dad and I quickly formed a plan to make this our ‘tourist’ day. This meant we could do any ‘racing’ around today to help ensure we got a great nights sleep tonight and then took it very easy pre-race tomorrow. We were very proud of ourselves for fathoming out the local bus system, catching the bus to #Tromso centre and finding the City Hall where the #MidnightSunMarathon expo was situated all within 30 minutes. There we took some selfies, collected my race pack, met Terge (who’d I’d been speaking with over Instagram) and generally got our bearings ahead of race day. On picking up my race number my Dad and I were fairly astounded when we realised it was 1323.   

            Regardless of the piss taking from Steve Jones on Facebook about this, cheers Jonesie, this actually felt like a ‘spooky’ number to get! My date of birth is the 13th April and my Dads date of birth is 23rd April. Here we both were, in #Tromso #Norway for the last of my #12in12months races, which I started partly because of the battles my Dad was facing with his own Cancer treatments, and the race number randomly assigned to me was 1323. I find it hard to believe that is anything other than fate….because I don’t believe in coincidences. Either way, my Dad and I both loved the number.  After collecting the race pack and getting our bearings we went for a quick coffee at a place my Dad had found on Google Street View about 3 weeks ago, much to his delight, and then decided to head off on foot over the road bridge to check out the Arctic Cathedral and catch the cable car up to the viewing point. The bridge looked fairly daunting from where we were, but Dad felt strong so we set off walking.  After following the #Marathon #BlueLine for a bit we soon found ourselves stomping up the bridge in a slight drizzle. Dad looked #stong as we both stomped from 6m to 43m above sea level as we climbed the bridge but I think it’s fair to say we were both happy to take a break at the top to take some pictures of the incredible views on either side. The mountains, fjords and sky were so beautiful That the whole place really did look like a picture postcard. If it wasn’t for the endless drone of the traffic on the bridge, along with the constant thought of ‘f**k me, I’ve got to run up and down this thing twice tomorrow’ then I am sure everything could have been considered idyllic.     

      From there we had a look at the outside of the Arctic Cathedral, mainly because it was £5 each to have a look around the inside, followed by the worlds worst cup of tea along with tasty homemade cake that we purchased from some (giggly) girl guides outside the Cathedral. Whilst the tea was poor, it was only £1.50 which was the cheapest hot drink we found in 5 days. We didn’t have the heart to tell them they could have doubled their prices.    

       Warmed up by our awful tea we continued our walk to the bottom of the cable car that takes you up to the viewing point at the top of mountain and happily paid the £15 each required to get up there. I have to say that it was 100% worth every single penny of the £15 once we were up there as the views over #Tromso were absolutely breathtaking. We spent around an hour up there in the end strolling around, taking selfies and enjoying the scenery. Whilst up there taking some incredibly staged photographs in and around the snow my Dad found a plank embedded in the mountain so I showed off all my snowboarding skills and zig-zagged down one if the snow filled slopes on it. No big deal! I’m just a natural boarder!    

                    Once we’d ridden the cable car back down and jumped another bus back into #Tromso we headed off to the official #PastaParty in the Scandic Hotel on the waterfront. The #PastaParty was held in one of the function rooms where there was a chap speaking about how he had run 19 marathons in 19 days (there’s always one hey?) . Following his interesting presentation there was then an open buffet where everyone attending could essentially eat as much Lasagne and Pasta as they wanted in preparation for the next day’s run…so that’s exactly what my Dad and I did. I got through about 25KG’s and Dad even managed to scoff down about 10KG….in fairness though we both only ate so much really just to try and justify the 275 kroner admission fee.     

 After dinner we jumped the bus back to Silje’s again and settled down for an evening lay on the sofa (Dad) and bed (me) watching some truly awful TV, eating pasta, followed by pack after pack of Jaffa Cakes and drinking a ridiculous number of cups of tea in preparation for tomorrow’s run.   With the race not starting my until 8.30pm on Saturday we also wanted to try and re-set our body clocks a bit, so with the help of the endless sunshine we stayed awake until about 2.30am. When I eventually drifted off there was less than 20 hours until the start of my 12th an final race and I was, by this point, very, VERY excited!  I had absolutely no idea of the highs and lows that lay ahead for me, and no appreciation of exactly how deep I was going to have to dig in the next 24 hours in order to complete my #12in12months challenge!  

…but you’ll get to read all about that race in tomorrow’s post: Week 52 – Part 2 – Just Keep Going…

THE CHARITY BIT

As of 9.30am today (Tuesday 24th June 2015) the total donated to the #JustGiving page in my Dad and mines names is £1,936! That shows incredible generosity from all our families, friends and colleagues for which we are both extremely grateful!  When my Dad and I first discussed setting up the page, and selected #MakeAWish as our charity, we would of genuinely been happy to hit our original £500 target so £1,936 leaves us speechless.  

For everyone that donated we’d both like to sincerely thank you for your support. For those of you that haven’t quite made it yet, for whatever reason, then there’s still plenty of time. Who know, it could be you guys who help us top £2,000 – how fantastic would that be? 

Please make a donation HERE!

Thanks

Antony and Dave 

Week 51 – What has it all meant?

With just one week to go before the final race of my #12in12months challenge I’ve started contemplating what it all means and what effect the last 12 months has had on me. 

Makes perfect sense to me…now.

 Despite some “Jesus, is this still going on comments” from some friends (which I appreciate/hope were in jest) I can’t actually believe that 52 weeks have passed already since I set the challenge.  Looking back in hindsight it feels to me like it has absolutely flown by, which feels like an odd thing to say for one whole year of your life, but I can remember coming up with the idea and writing the first blog as clear as day.  I have a self satisfying laugh to myself now when I see one of those ‘A Year from now you’ll wish you had started today’ quotes because you know what?  I did start, and then I stuck at it, for one whole year.

Not just a clever saying any more.

 Sticking at something for a whole year is bloody hard you know, even sticking at something nice, yet alone running.  It’s been a real test of my mental resolve to push to get out there 3 or 4 times a week regardless of the conditions or how I was feeling.  Rowing for an hour, swimming 60 lengths or cycling on a stationary bicycle for an hour is all very dull, monotonous work that ensures that dig deep within yourself to find the motivation required.  Then there is the running itself, come rain, wind or shine!  At least the previous three disciplines all take place in a nice warm gym, with road running you are literally in the laps of the Gods.  Add in those inevitable little niggly aches and pains, more serious injuries, illness or general lethargy/tiredness from life and it’s a miracle that I ever went at all….but I did, and I kept on going.

You know what? It really does!

Then you have to factor in the races.  I can’t over emphasise how physically and mentally hard a #HalfMarathon is when you are truly pushing yourself.  Something as simple as continuing to put one foot in front of the other and keeping on ‘running’ can develop into an epic test of will over instinct during the course of a half marathon.  A slight incline can literally see your brain develop a mountain out of a molehill and going through this experience again and again (11 times officially and 14 times unofficially) has helped me develop a willpower to keep on going that I know makes me a better, stronger person in so many ways.  I have been absolutely delighted with how my body has (generally) held up and also responded to all of the challenges I have thrown at it in the last twelve months.  For a chap of 42 years old I am impressed with what my mind and body combined can achieve, and know that with the right motivation I could probably work towards achieving a lot, lot more in the future.  This definitely gets my mind racing about the next challenge, after #12in12months, that’s for sure!  Anything is possible 

Anything is possible!

And that’s generally the crux of what the last 12 months, 11 races, 1,500 training miles and hours of blood, sweat and tears have ultimately taught me.  If you plan, focus, commit, apply yourself and then dig deep within yourself then you could probably do anything you wanted to, be it physically, intellectually, professionally or spiritually.  Then by commiting to these things your spirit, your attitude and your outlook changes which in turn opens up new opportunities and possibilities. Would the me of 13 months ago truly think that I could run 14 half marathons, a half iron man and a full marathon in the next 12 months?  Absolutely not, no way!  Would the me of 13 months ago plan to meet up with so many friends in so many different places?  100% nope.  Finally, would the me of 13 months ago EVER imagine that I would get to run races in such beautiful places as Gansbaai, Barcelona, Miami and Tromso?  What do you think?  If I had to give you a single piece of advice from my experiences of the last year I would simply say ‘set yourself a challenge’. You’ll learn more about yourself, your body, your mind, your friends, your family and your own pre-set limitations (which are definitely holding you back) than you would ever hope, imagine or believe. 

Happy in Gansbaai.


Drunk in Barcelona.

  

Hot and broken in Miami.

 Another thing I have been appreciating is how supportive people have generally been about my stupid little challenge.  A lot of friends, colleagues and acquaintances have been very generous and kind to me throughout my challenge in so many ways.  Some have even been kind enough to say that I might have played some part in inspiring them to start doing exercise that they wouldn’t previously have undertaken.  If that is true, in any way, and I have indeed inspired anyone to do anything at all then I am very humbled to hear that.  Very humbled and extremely flattered.  What I’d like to say back to all those people, with only one week to go, is that you all inspired me far, far more I promise you!  Every Endemo, Strava, MapMyRun, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram update was hugely inspiring and motivating for me, as was every kind comment that I got along the way.  People’s interest and support is 100% what got me through the tough times, and believe me over the course of 12 months there were plenty of tough times when I needed it this help!  From the bottom of my heart thanks to everyone who took, or even just feigned, an interest in the #ManProject for whatever reason.  Every single person who has reached out to me in the last 12 months has contributed to my achievement, so thank you very much!

Speaking of contributing, to everyone that made a donation to any of the 12 chosen charities throughout my #12in12months challenge I’d like to give special thanks to you.  As of 5 minutes ago my #JustGiving page for #MakeAWish had a total of £785 in donations, which is absolutely incredible.  You should all be very proud of yourselves, I certainly am! I salute you all!   Double, extra special thanks however is reserved for two people, without whose help and support I would not have made it through any of this nonsense, my Dad (Dave) and my amazing girlfriend Kristy.  They have through the last 51 weeks both displayed incredible love, support, understanding and patience…especially patience, for which I’m very grateful.  I don’t want to get all soppy and turn this into an Gwyneth Paltrow-esque Oscar acceptance speech but these two have shown/feigned interest above and beyond what was required and made personal sacrifices of both time and money that have helped make the last 12 months such an amazing, memorable time in my life.  I know I’ve not completed the challenge yet, but I also know 100% that with these two backing me I simply can’t fail! 

Thanks so much to my Dad and Kristy.

 THE CHARITY BIT 
So as I mentioned earlier we have currently raised £785 so far for #MakeAWishUK which is absolutely brilliant….but I think we could hit £1,000 if we could all make even just a £5 donation today.  For those of you that don’t know much about #MakeAWishUK they exist for 1 reason only, to grant magical wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.  My Dad chose this charity for race 12 and by focusing on wanting to raise money for those who are yet to really have a life is an amazing gesture on his part and totally reflects the man that he is.  His exact words were “people like me have at least had a shot at life, but with kids it’s the only time you’ll hear me say it isn’t bloody fair!”

C’mon…whats £5 going to get you, really? Whereas for kids like these!

 Tell me now that his ideology and such an amazing charity don’t deserve just £5 of your money today?  If you can give up and donate the cost of just one Starbucks, a pint, a McDonalds, a Pasty, a magazine or even a bottle of wine for one day, imagine how much that might help put a smile on a poorly child’s face?  Go on…..good things happen to good people remember, and you can’t escape Karma!

PLEASE DONATE HERE!

Thanks for reading all the blog if you made it!

Antony

#12in12months #OneWeekLeft   

Week 50 – Hamstrings, Swimming with Dead Rats, Coach Micky and my Beautiful, Generous friends.

Well I have to say, it has been a very funny 10 days or so since I booked my final race last week.  The elation of finally choosing and booking the race, flights and accommodation was very swiftly ruined by the tweaking my hamstring during interval training the day after.  The timing of this tweak couldn’t have been more annoying because I’d really begun to focus on my training again and was feeling motivated and committed towards my #MidnightSunMarathon and then ‘pop’.   The injury itself felt almost exactly the same as when I tweaked it prior to the #Barcelona #HalfMarathon back in September.  Same leg as last time (my left), same spot in my hamstring (about 4 inches up from the back of my knee) and a similar strength of pull.  Whilst this similarity was slightly worrying from the point of view that I only had 3 weeks until the #marathon I was also confident that I knew how to treat it and (after a little online research) how to strengthen it ahead of resuming my training. So it was back to the boring old routine of icing, rolling, strapping it up and resting it for a week to give it time to heal a bit, followed by some activity to strengthen it.  I’m quite the doctor these days don’t you know.   I’d researched online that the best two exercises for strengthening your hamstring were swimming and cycling, and after rediscovering my hatred of cycling during my #HalfIronMan last year I decided to start my strengthening efforts with some swimming.  I do my swimming in the outdoor pool at #PoolsInThePark on the Old Deer Park in Richmond, Surrey so I headed there to try and slog out 60 lengths.  About 10 lengths into my session I noticed something odd out of the corner of my eye as I passed the halfway point, but as I was in full flow I carried on, did my turn and headed back towards that spot again.  When I reached that point again I looked down to the spot where I thought I saw something and there, on its back, looking up at me, was a big brown dead rat.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a little bit sick in my mouth when I realised what it was and that I had been swimming so close to it.  I’m happy to say that the Lifeguard soon scooped it out and I continued on my way, but I will now forever be looking around for dead rodents when I swim.  Gross!!!! 

There’s a rat in my pool.

  The dead rat didn’t put me off my swimming too much though, and I went 2 or 3 more times along with a few hours on the bike in the gym and I am pleased to say that my hamstring felt strong enough by the Saturday to attempt my final long run prior to the #Marathon – 20 miles was the plan.  As I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago I have been struggling to find the motivation to go training on my own so my very good friend Steve ‘Crap’ Jones kindly agreed to accompany me on my (planned) 20 mile run, and help motivate me along the way. 

Steve ‘Crap’ Jones

 Now I was VERY grateful to Steve for his kind offer, and I don’t want to be too critical, but I think it’s fair to Steve has some work to do on his motivational techniques.  I can only guess that the inspiration for Steve’s coaching techniques came from watching Coach Micky in the Rocky films from the 80’s.  A few examples of his approach:

  • Mile completed Steve goes “Jesus, that 1 mile took ages imagine how long another 19 are going to take!”
  • Mile 10 completed Steve goes “Just think mate, you’re only half way there.  I don’t think you’ve got another 10 miles in you!”
  • Mile 19 completed Steve goes “You should probably walk the rest at the speed you’re going!”

I believe they call it tough love and whilst not overly motivational it was highly amusing and helped pass the 3 hours and 4 minutes that it took me to complete my 20 miles.  Thanks Steve!

  
On the plus side, having ground out the 20 miles from St Margaret’s to Wandsworth and back along the river I am now fairly confident on being able to complete my full marathon and hopeful of being able to break 4 hours.  Watch this space – 10 days to go! 

Makes sense to me!

THE CHARITY BIT

I asked my Dad (Dave) to pick the charity for me for race 12 because whilst he has been so incredibly supportive, helpful and involved in my ridiculous #12in12months #ManProject he has also been a bit busy fighting his own battle after being diagnosed with Cancer of the Osesophagus, so I thought it’d be nice to raise some money on his behalf for the final race.

My Dad & i after the Exeter Half.

 As I would expect from my Dad, he has chosen a fantastic charity in Make A Wish who exist for 1 reason only – to grant magical wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.  Focusing on wanting to raise money for those who are yet to really have a life is an amazing gesture on his part and totally reflects the man that he is.  His exact words were “people like me have at least had a shot at life, but with kids it’s the only time you’ll hear me say it isn’t bloody fair!”

 
With all that in mind my Dad and I would really appreciate any donation that you could make to Make A Wish on our behalf.  (It is our behalf, because whilst he chose the charity I am the one who has to run the 26.2 miles!)

 https://www.justgiving.com/AntonysManProject12in12months

MY BEAUTIFUL, GENEROUS FRIENDS

Thanks so much to the following people for donating so far…you are all very, VERY good eggs…

  • Joanne
  • David B
  • Jon, Tamsyn & the boys
  • Mel
  • Betty
  • Paul Lewis
  • Susan & Mark
  • Andi McCoombe
  • Burz & Nikki
  • Dad & Rachel
  • Georgina
  • Joe at TFL
  • Carmen at BDCH
  • Lucy W
  • Laura Grieve
  • Greig from Logical
  • Lucy Fairburn
  • Femke
  • Emma
  • Anna
  • Phu
  • Aggy
  • Andy P – nice one
  • Georges from Bronto
  • Kestrel from Bronto
  • Michelle H
  • Beth Skelton
  • Ryan
  • Claudia
  • Terri
  • Jones
  • Cara 

Thanks all!

Antony

  
 

Week 49 – I’m kommer til Norge med min far til å kjøre Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon!*

I am so pleased and excited to be able to confirm that I have finally booked my last race for the #12in12months project, and what a corker it is for so many reasons!!!!

First things first the #marathon I will be running is the  Midnight Sun Marathon which is held in Tromso, Norway on Sunday 20th June 2015.  As the name suggests the race is run at the time of year when, in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, it’s light for pretty much 24 hours a day, so the race starts at 9.30pm in the evening and most people complete it after midnight in beautiful midnight sunshine.  As an aside, it is officially recognised as the most Northern Marathon outside of the arctic circle!  How amazing is that!  But wait, there’s more!
  
Not only am I running this amazing race as race number 12 but my Dad and I are going to have a bit of a ‘Dad and Lad’ road trip along the way to explore Norway, enjoy Tromso hospitality, the Midnight Sun, the Northern Lights and all that business.  To give my excitement around this a bit of background the last time my Dad and I had a bit of ‘Dad and Lad’ time was roughly in 1988 when as the CEO of Chiefton Timber my Dad had to deliver an articulated lorry full of sheds to Gwent and then Tonbridge Wells to fulfil an order over a double bank holiday weekend, with the 15 year old version of me going along as co-pilot.  My memories of this trip, some 27 years ago, are of lots of travelling, excessive food, getting more drunk than a 15 year old really should and of EXTREME tiredness. Looking at our travel itinerary for Tromso I suspect this trip will create similar memories!
  

 Our travel plans are to leave London Heathrow at 7.05am in Thursday 18th June to connect in Oslo for our flight to Tromso and arrive at 15.45pm on the same day, Thursday.  My Dad and I are going to pop our #AirBnB cherries in Tromso and I have booked us to stay in a 2 bedroom apartment near to Tromso airport.  We’ll stay there  Thursday night, Friday night and then Saturday night after the race and then start our mammoth trip home on Sunday.  It seems there is no route back that doesn’t involve 2 flight connections and an overnight stay in Stavanger, so that’s what we are doing.  We leave Tromso at 19.20pm on Sundsy to connect in Oslo for our flight to Stavanger, and arrive at 22.40 on the same day, Sunday.  Then we have to stay overnight, for which I’m still conversing with possible #AirBnB hosts about, and then depart Stavanger at 10.05am on Monday landing back home at Heathrow at 11.05am. Whilst I know I only scraped a ‘C’ at GCSE Geography I have to say I didn’t think Norway was such a pain in the ass to get to, and then my poor Dad also has the trip from Cornwall to London to add onto either end!

 But you know what, I am looking forward to every single second of it!  I have realised that once you live away from home (as I have on and off since I was 16) and as you get older it gets more and more difficult to just spend quality time with your parents.  Having the opportunity to go exploring Norway with my Dad, spending some quality time in each other’s company, topped off by running the #MidnightSun #Marathon to complete my #12in12months challenge is an amazing privilege for which I am extremely grateful to my Dads partner Rachel and my own amazing girlfriend Kristy (and my Dad – of course) for their wholehearted support.  I already know it is going to be an epic trip, full of lots of fun, laughs and amazing memories and anecdotes.  Now I just need to shake off this hamstring strain and get training.  20 days to go until the marathon! 

THE CHARITY BIT 
Being 11 races in and having already chosen 11 charities that mean so much to me I wanted to let my Dad decide on the final charity for the final race, especially as he’s now coming with me to my last race in Norway – have I mentioned that already?  
He has been thinking about what charity to choose for a couple of days and I should be able to update on this tomorrow.  Once he’s let me know I will be posting a link to how you donate and it’d mean so much to me if you could support it, and my efforts, and make a donation. 
 
Next week I promise to blog about running and/or training at some point. 
 
i’m going to Norway with my father to run Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon !

Week 48 – Help wanted! 

Right, I know I said on the last blog that it was my target to have confirmed my final race, booked that race, chosen a charity, ordered my final vest and upped my longest distance to 18 miles all in the next week, but… I am actually writing this blog only 3 days after the last blog (which was itself 6 days late) so in reality I’ve still got 4 more days to do all those things, which is when Week 49’s blog is due, so in actual fact I am bang on target if not a little bit ahead of schedule. Confused? Not sure whether I’m talking nonsense? Baffled? Excellent, job done! Now, onto this week’s blog…

confused

With only 5 more weeks, and indeed blogs, to go I’m currently finding it extremely hard to maintain the same intensity to my training that I have had the majority of the way through so far. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m still doing a considerable amount of training, but I am struggling to be as single minded and as focused on it as I was before. I guess this could have been expected some 48 weeks into a 52 week challenge, but it’s something I am really struggling to counter at the moment. Presently it feels as if long runs are less frequent, it’s getting harder to push myself during intervals and hill training has almost completely dropped off the radar. My training since the last #HalfMarathon has been as follows…

• 10th May – Ran 6 miles (7m47s pace)
• 11th May – Swam 1.2 miles (45 minutes)
• 12th May – Ran 4 miles (7m37s pace)
• 13th May – Ran 3.85 miles (7m14s pace)
• 16th May – Ran 15 miles (8m27s pace)
• 23rd May – Ran 8 miles (7m55s pace)
• 27th May – Ran 5 miles (8m00s pace)

Listed like this it probably doesn’t seem too bad to the un-trained eye, but I know that my intensity during some of these runs has just not been there and I’m struggling to get it back.

courage

Trying to think back to what the difference was back then I feel like I’ve allowed other factors to influence my focus too much. In the beginning it was all 100% about getting a plan and sticking to it. Work colleagues and friends both gave me grief about being a boring old fart because I’d blow off everything if I had a training run, I used to bore Kristy to death with my “I’ve got to run/swim tonight – see you in an hour” texts and the dogs #GeorgeAndCharley positively hated me because I’d always run/swim ahead of taking them for a walk. I think it’s fair to say that all of that has completely changed of late.

accomp

Being aware of a problem is always the first step to resolving it however, so the fact I (think I) have recognised this now should help me attack it and fix it over the coming, final few weeks. With the last race being a full marathon I also simply can’t rely on my base level of fitness to get me over the line, as I arguably may have done over the last race or two, and I need to push myself in order to improve to the levels that I need. This is not going to be easy on my own so I have to ask a favour.

loneliness

I put out this plea put to you, my friends, to help me during this, the final stages of my #12in12months challenge. Below is my training plan for between now and the final race. If you think you can help me by joining me for some intervals, hill training, a warm down run, a swim or best of all one of my weekend long runs then PLEASE get in touch. Having some people to train with during these last few weeks would be of a massive help to me I promise you. You can tweet me @12in12months if you think you can, and want to, join me to help me get over the line…

• Thursday 28th May – Run 4 miles
• Friday 29th May – Swim 60 lengths
• Saturday 30th May – Rest Day
• Sunday 31st May – Run 18 miles
• Monday 1st June – Swim 30 lengths
• Tuesday 2nd June – Rest Day
• Wednesday 3rd June – Hills Training
• Thursday 4th June – Rest Day
• Friday 5th June – Run 4 miles
• Saturday 6th June – Rest Day
• Sunday 7th June – Run 20 miles
• Monday 8th June – Rest Day
• Tuesday 9th June – 60 lengths
• Wednesday 10th June – Start tapering

Please help me guys! I need to tap into some additional motivation and focus from somewhere to help me get over the line. Maybe we can inspire each other?

give up

THE CHARITY BIT
Before I confirm the charity for my final #12in12months run I just wanted to give all of you, my generous, kind hearted, positive Karma seeking friends one last go at donating to any of the previous 11 charities. There is, in theory, something for everyone and hopefully at least one of these incredible charities will resonate enough to motivate you into donating the cost of only one drink, or one snack or ‘treat’. These wonderful charities were, in no particular order of preference…

PAWS MAURITIUS
Donate HERE

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BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION
Donate HERE
Text FIGHT to 70123 to give £3

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UNICEF
Donate HERE
Text UNICEF to 70099 to give £5

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CANCER RESEARCH UK
Donate HERE
Text RESEARCH to 70200 to give £5

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GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND
Donate HERE
Text ‘Dogs05 £5’ to 70070 to give £5

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SHELTER
Donate HERE
Text HOMES to 87085 to give £3

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SAVE THE CHILDREN
Donate HERE
Text SAVE to 70008 to give £5

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MIND
Donate HERE
Text SUPPORT to 70660 to give £3 or Text GIVE to 82773 to give £5

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OXFAM
Donate HERE
Text ‘DONATE’ to 70066 to give £5

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BATTERSEA DOGS AND CATS HOME
Donate HERE
Text DOGS to 70800 & donate £5

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DIABETES UK
Donate HERE
Text PROGRESS to 70300 to donate £3

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Thanks everyone – you’re the best!

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Week 47 – a slight change in focus

Those of you with functioning eyes and a basic understanding of the Gregorian calendar will no doubt notice that I haven’t posted any blogs for 13 days!  I’d love to be able to say that was because I have been flat out training for my final challenge, the full marathon in June, but that would be an outright lie.  The sole reason for my inactivity on the blog has been because I have been struggling for any motivation at this (very) late stage in my #12in12months challenge.   Actually, that’s not completely true.  When I say struggling for motivation I don’t mean to do the exercise or the training.  In the past two weeks I have been running and swimming regularly, including my longest run ever on Sunday when I ground out 15 miles along the towpath of the beautiful Kennet and Avon canal. What I am struggling with is finding the motivation to do the more functional, administrative aspects of the challenge, which it would appear seems to include writing the blog.    A tactic that I found quite motivational earlier on in the challenge was writing about what I was hoping to achieve each week in the blog and then updating on my progress or achievements in the following weeks blog, so that is what I am going to do now.  Here I am doing it…

By next week I will have…

  • Chosen the venue for my final race, which is going to be a full marathon
  • Booked that race
  • Chosen a charity to support for that final race
  • Ordered my final vest from the Personalise My Vest website
  • Upped my longest distance run to 18 miles 

Written down these tasks already seem much smaller than they were in my head just a few seconds ago and the more driven, more motivated me (that’s in there somewhere – honest) can’t believe I haven’t done them already.  See, it’s working as a tactic already! In terms of stepping up from 11 official (15 unofficial) half marathons to a full marathon for my last race, I think I have mentally accepted the challenge, and already I am relishing all the extra ‘digging deep‘ required even at this early stage.  Without wanting to sound blasé about half marathons, because I obviously have the upmost respect for them (after 15 in 11 months) and all the people who do them, but I feel that I was ready for a new challenge and a new training regime.  I’m not saying that running a #HalfMarathon isn’t a huge challenge, especially when you are (still) trying to crack 1 hour and 40 minutes….but, the relentless pursuit of trying to get a little bit quicker, trim 5/10 seconds off your per mile pace, take 1 minute off my race time or any of those ‘smaller’ goals is a long, long, slow path.  The degree of consistent extra effort, day to day slog, commitment and general grind required to achieve these minimal gains just doesn’t seem to be a fair exchange of reward for effort to me at this stage.  I’d much rather shift the focus of the remaining 5 weeks or so to completing a full marathon, try to freshen up the training plan and my attitude and really enjoy what’s left of my challenge than keep grafting away to maybe trim 2 minutes off my half marathon time.  I know the sense of achievement I will get from completing a full marathon will hugely outweigh beating my PB by 1, 2 or even 3 minutes so that’s what I will aim for.  As I mentioned earlier, I ran 15 miles in Bath last week after heading down there to meet my Dad for breakfast (he was there on a Canal boat holiday) and the sense of winning that I got from doing my longest distance ever was instantly rewarding and motivating.   

 I guess it’s only logical for an amateur runner such as I to freshen up the challenge a little after 47 weeks in order to keep it interesting, because all exercise should be fun and rewarding as well as a physical test. I don’t think it’s ‘cheating’ to change the challenge at this stage but what do you think?  It’d be great if you let me know!

5 weeks left!