Honestly Honoured

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to write a blog about running, not because I’ve been sitting on the sofa, but more down to sparing anyone from reading my frustrated ramblings! Since the last one about surviving the bonkers 100km Race to the Stones, I’ve completed the Great North Run for the MS Trust in a course best time, walked the Athens Marathon and prepared to welcome in the New Year with a 10k in Barcelona. Doesn’t sound too bad, but after acquiring another random injury and missing out on Autumn’s events, positivity and humour have been in short supply!

So what’s changed? On Friday Joe and I attended the annual Ackworth Road Runners awards dinner; Joe’s been teasing me about not getting any trophies this year as I’ve spent half of it marshalling, but I can’t really blame him after ribbing him the first year we were members for not getting any awards when I did! Once again it was a lovely evening celebrating everyone’s achievements and I was very pleased to win a bottle of fizz in the raffle, joking I wasn’t going home empty-handed after all!

Towards the end of the presentations, presided over by comedy duo Chris and Stewart, our club Captains Ruth and Chris announced the introduction of two new awards. The first recipient of the Ladies Captain’s Award was someone who had suffered an injury this year, but persevered and completed their first marathon and ultra-marathon, as well as raising funds for their chosen charity by introducing the Summer Streak and selling the ARR bobble hats…. sound like anyone you know?

Yes, Ruth had decided that I was worthy of this great honour and I was over the moon, especially when the winner of the Men’s Captain’s trophy was announced as Superman Tom Camponi. Tom’s had a memorable year too, coming back from completing his first marathon and juggling a hectic home life and demanding job; it’s always great to see him at training and events. Another runner will forever be pleased that Tom was able to run the Pontefract Half Marathon this year, as Tom saved the man’s life when he suffered a cardiac arrest, along with Ackworth member, Kirsty Shepheard.

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@Graham Beardsley

I may not have saved any lives in 2018, but the award has made me think differently about a year I was all too happy to put behind me. Yes, I’ve had a lot of set-backs, but the things that stopped me running allowed me to support and volunteer at more events, and as I’m usually nearer the back, it was great to cheer everyone over finish lines for a change! Spending more time in the gym doing strength work has definitely paid off too, as Race to the Stones demanded more in every sense.

I’ve learned a lot too by trying new things to help me return to fitness and manage living well with MS whilst training for greater distances. A real revelation was using the Jeff Galloway run-walk technique, enabling me to finish half marathon distances strongly, with plenty left in the tank for pulling silly faces, and making me think that a marathon in under 6 hours was a real possibility (even if I didn’t get to test the theory at Loch Ness!).

Raising awareness of the work that the MS Trust does will always be closely intertwined with our running challenges and it’s brilliant that we’re able to raise money for them too by selling the ARR bobble hats. Having my Mum’s help to make something that members want to own is a wonderful way to contribute to a charity that supports so many people. Since we started fundraising in 2015, we’ve raised over £22,000, enough to train 12 MS specialist nurses, with over £2400 of that from bobble hats alone. Thank you.

All this leads me to say how important the introduction of the Captains’ awards are. It shows that the people who don’t break the finishing tape have just as much to give to the club and are recognised and valued for their efforts. These are awards that any member can win by showing determination, compassion, resilience, and by doing the right thing. I couldn’t have achieved what I did without the support of a wonderful group of lycra-clad friends and I can’t wait to hear the stories of next years’ winners!

Race to the Stones – Debbie Did Distance

The last time I went to Avebury was about 20 years ago, living down south and studying Geology, then Geo-Archaeology. I’ve always liked rocks and being outdoors, it seems Joe did too, as we met on the same course all those years ago. If you’d told me then that the next time I’d see the stones, it would be as a sweaty, grumpy ultra runner, I’d have thought you’d been affected by the strange atmosphere in this weird place!

It’s been a week since crossing the Race to the Stones finish line. 100k (and a smidge more) after setting off from a farm south of Oxford, we reached another farm near Avebury stone circle. Thinking about it, there were a lot of farms, and farm tracks, and fields and unusually large livestock. I suppose this is the story of our agri-archaeological adventure…

The Ridgeway is Britain’s oldest path; people have been walking it’s length for a very, very long time, although I suspect our ancestors did it at a more leisurely pace and with a bit more purpose than a personal challenge! I accepted the RTTS challenge last autumn, knowing that having my first marathon and the Six Dales in the diary for 2018, my fitness should be good enough to take it on.

That was a mistake. Having had Multiple Sclerosis for the last 13 years, I know not to take my health for granted, but I hadn’t anticipated on picking up an injury on New Years Day, resulting in initially being unable to walk and meaning I couldn’t run for the next 4 months. With hindsight, I think the physio and strength work I did to get back on track probably helped me last weekend, but it would have been nice not to have put it to the test!

Looking back at it, although Joe, Vicky and I signed up to the same race (100km with an overnight stop at the halfway basecamp) the race we did was very different. Joe was going for a time (and a very good time too) and Vicky and I simply wanted to finish. We all achieved our goals, but I think we all underestimated it too – you can read more about Joe’s race here.

When Vicky and I set off in the wave after Joe and our clubmate “One Day” Tammy, we tackled the first 10km according to our plan; running the downhill and flat bits at marathon pace and walking the hills. We were in good spirits at the first Pitstop, where we tried not to be greedy when faced with all those “free” goodies, had a light snack and topped up our water bottles (whilst laughing at our tiny collapsible cups).

After a brief chat with one of the volunteers, a fellow MS-er who’d clocked my MS Trust t-shirt, she wished us luck and we trotted off to take on the next 10k feeling good and nattering to the other competitors we passed or who passed us. It got hilly, and it got woody, and it got narrow, and we got stuck behind “techno beard” who thought we all wanted to listen to his music. We were having a good time, but agreed the terrain was a bit more technical than the “field of dreams” photos had lead us to expect.

At the next Pitstop we really could have done with some shade; the sun had been beating down, but the leafy cover along Grim’s Ditch had protected us a fair bit. Now it was hot, very very hot. We thought we’d pick up some time along the next section as it looked nice and flat, running along the stretch of the river Thames that inspired “The Wind in the Willows”… we were wrong!

The heat was pretty unbearable, we were trotting along initially, but soon realised we were dehydrating faster than our pace warranted, so there was an unconscious decision to walk a bit and look at the amazing properties and families messing about on the river. Could we swim this bit?

By Pitstop 3 I knew I was struggling when the village name of Mongewell barely raised a titter. I think my naivete with regards to fuelling had come home to roost and I needed to eat. A lot! Joe had finished (informed by the obligatory sobbing selfie I expect after every marathon, and now understand firsthand) so I knew I didn’t need to expend any energy worrying about him. After our longest stop so far, I was feeling a bit more human thanks to Vicky’s insistence that I shovel everything freak-friendly into my mouth (I follow the Overcoming MS lifestyle, which is akin to a vegan diet with fish) and we set off again.

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It was a long hard slog to Pitstop 4, but we got there feeling relatively good, and took shade by the side of a car with our Pitstop picnic – this one was all about the nuts! Knowing we only had 6k to go to reach Basecamp, we toddled off expecting the last few kms to fly by. They didn’t. We knew it wasn’t just us struggling when we saw two burly blokes sobbing at the base of the monument about 1km out. Trail Tourettes kicked in with a vengeance when we saw the 1km to base camp sign – we thought we were much closer.

Thankfully we got to basecamp without a full on tantrum and were greeted by a smiling Joe and the lovely lady from Pitstop 1 who’d been keeping an eye out for us. Joe mentions in his blog about being ready to be our personal assistant, after having longer to recover… We’d already decided that he’d be our slave on arrival, and he did us proud, sorting out the tents, bringing water and snacks to the chillout tent and booking us in for a massage.

We all wondered how we were going to take on Day 2, but didn’t dare share our doubts…

The showers and massages revived us, and carbloading commenced in the food marquee. We made very good use of the excellent catering facilities! Anticipating an early start to beat the heat, we had an early night, I retaped my toes, and realised that I probably shouldn’t have taken rehydration quite so seriously after my third trip to the porta-loos… at least I didn’t get chance to seize up overnight!

Sun rise over the camp was really magical, completed by a Red Kite circling, looking for his breakfast. We had no trouble locating breakfast, and after the day before, shoveled in as much as we could. We set off together, but Joe was soon a dot in the distance as Vicky and I had decided that our completion depended upon us walking Day Two. The steadier pace gave us more time to appreciate the scenery and natter about what we’d learned on Day One. The first Pitstop came around surprisingly quickly and we were greeted by my new MS friend and had a bit more of a natter; she’d seen Joe earlier (who’d opted for his MS Trust t-shirt) and said he was looking strong. Git.

The terrain was a lot easier, there was more shade and we seemed to be gobbling up the km markers, possibly lullled into a false sense of security by the closer proximity between the basecamp and the first two pitstops. Pitstop 8 rolled around after what seemed like a never-ending uphill section, with the obligatory photographer at the top. We were feeling good, got the message that Joe had finished and even threw in a few stretches before setting off.

Next came the toughest bit of the challenge for us. Despite the walking and dilligent attention to hydration, the heat had still taken its toll. The lack of shade on the exposed gallops had sent body temperatures rocketing and my attention turned to how we could quickly cool down at the next pitstop; completing the challenge was starting to look in doubt.

Pitstop 9 was a Godsend. We took on water and electrolytes, took advantage of the shade (and barely noticed the midges), drenched t-shirts, buffs and hair and stuffed our faces as we started to come around a bit. This was our longest, but most important pitstop. There was only 12 km to go before we’d see Joe and my parents (who’d been warned what kind of state we’d be in!).

The last section dragged, the rutted paths were hard work and even the sight of a crop circle in the valley below barely roused our interest. We just wanted to get to the end. We tried to trick our tired minds over the last 10k by visualising our favourite parkruns. The switch back to see the stones was a killer, not made any easier by meeting a chirpy Joe. I don’t think the photographer quite knew what to say when we propped ourselves up against the biggest stone and said we weren’t moving until he’s zoomed in (sorry for messing up your settings if you’re reading this!).

Finally, after being given our complimentary stone momento by more smiling marshals (a bit of gravel that’s still in my day sack), we set off for the last km. The change of terrain to a long uphill slope of grass wasn’t welcomed, but turning onto the finishing straight certainly was. Emotions were running high, as Vicky and I turned to each other we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – so we did both. At once.

Joe finished 17th, an incredible achievement for his first attempt at anything over marathon distance, and Vicky and I were in the top two thirds, finishing without any ill effects. Maybe this is our niche? It’s been an incredible feeling to have the runners I look up to congratulating us on our achievement; as a plodder that’s never really happened before. So week on, after saying never again, we’re thinking about the next challenge.

Race To The Stones is without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I know that I couldn’t have done it without Vicky’s support; we made a great team, and thankfully my fear that we wouldn’t be talking by the finish was unfounded. Not letting down the people who were kind enough to sponsor us played a big part too.

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Since we started fundraising for the MS Trust in 2015, we’ve raised over £20,500 which  goes a long way for a small charity. They do an amazing job supporting families affected by MS in the UK through the provision of information on diagnosis and the training of the MS nurses that give us the care we need, when we need it. If you’d like to donate, you can follow this link.

Debbie Does Distance

Inspired by the London Marathon, Joe’s 300th day of the “Summer Streak” and MS Awareness week, I thought it was high time for a blog! This year’s running challenges are all about tackling greater distances, so how’s it been going so far?….

To be honest, 2018 didn’t get off the best start for me; on the 1st of January I was really looking forward to running the New Year’s Day Double parkrun, starting at Pontefract and followed up by a one-off special course at Nostell. Foolishly this meant I ignored a niggle I’d picked up over Christmas and ended up in Casualty with a nasty case of high hamstring tendinopathy, an injury that occurs in runners when the hamstring becomes damaged where it joins the hip bone.

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Cue a month of enforced rest and hobbling about, followed by intensive physiotherapy, electroaccupuncture and ultrasound treatments, and a strengthening programme in an attempt to get back running as soon as I could. It’s taken 4 months to get back to running (almost) pain free and numerous missed and incomplete races, but it’s also been a great excuse to volunteer and support at parkruns and Ackworth Road Runners events and jaunts.

One experience I refused to miss out on was the Dark Skies Half Marathon at Kielder Water last month; thankfully I was able to run-walk the very undulating course, lit only by our head torches and had some very understanding team mates willing to go at my pace. I was really proud to make it to each checkpoint before the cut-off, but decided to stop at 10 miles for fear of aggravating my injury. This did give me the opportunity to cheer on the gang as they reached the finish, so I got the best of both worlds!

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I finally completed my first race of 2018 a fortnight ago, the Old Colliery Canter 10k in the village where Joe and I bought our first house. It was great to be wearing my MS Trust t-shirt again, I’m sure it kept me going when I was beginning to question how far 10k actually was! Next week I have another 10k race, this time in Rotherham where I grew up. I’m really looking forward to seeing family supporting along the way and running on roads I’ve previously only driven on!

This year was always going to be the one where I planned to rabbit ingstackle the unthinkable… a marathon. Joe and I bought each other places in the Loch Ness Marathon for Christmas and we’d also booked Race to the Stones, a two day ultra trail marathon covering 100km along Britain’s oldest path to Avebury stone circle – perfect for an archaeology graduate.

Fortunately it looks like these plans will still come to fruition – I’m back running at parkrun and have recently returned to Ackworth for the Tuesday night social runs. I’ve also started to increase the frequency and distances I’m running to prepare for the Liverpool Half Marathon next month… My aim is just to make it around in one piece!

So 2018 is still all about the distance; taking on my first ultra marathon, before I’ve even run a marathon, and then following through with the impulsive decision to book the Athens Authentic marathon in November, following the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. Finishing in the Panathenaic Stadium is going to be one hell of an experience!

Asrothwell hats you’d probably expect, we’ll continue raising awareness and funds for the MS Trust as the year goes on to champion the brilliant work they do to support people in the UK who are diagnosed with MS and their families and friends. We’ll be joining the MS Trust team once again at the Great North Run and bobble hat sales continue to bring in the donations and keep my mums hands busy!

All in all, its not been ideal, but I was pleased to hear that some people hadn’t realised I’d been unable to run for so long because I’d still been an active part of our running community. I hope I’ll be coming back stronger thanks to the hard work in the gym and improved running stance, but I guess only time will tell!

Photo credit: Graham Beardsley Images😀

 

Success for the Summer Streakers!

Back in the Spring I was getting a bit fed up with running. I needed to take the focus off times that didn’t seem to be improving and get back to enjoying running for the sake of it… So I decided to run at least a mile every day through July and August to see what would happen and if I could actually keep it up! Calling it the Summer Streak and adding the fundraising element for the MS trust meant that I had to give it my best shot.

What started out as a solitary quest, turned into a bit of a campaign as I was joined by a handful of brilliant people in July; by August there were 30 of us streaking around Yorkshire, getting our daily run in, sharing our achievements and supporting each other on the tough days.

We saw streaking on holiday in New York, streaking at altitude in the Alps, well hydrated streaking in Lanzarote, determined streaking in Norfolk, midnight streaking in Stockholm and seaside streaking in Skegness. We had streakers who walked, ran, cycled and some streakers who swam, all on the same day!

There were some great events included in the streak too, from parkruns and 5k races, to 10km and half marathon distances and even an ultra marathon! We tackled 24 hour and nighttime endurance races, Hadrian’s Wall and raced a stream train (it won!).

Everyone who took part said that they’d enjoyed the experience and felt stronger for it, and considering the original aim was to take my focus off times, many of us have seen vast improvements, with Personal Bests recorded across most distances. A hardy few have vowed to continue streaking as a part of our training, and I know I’ll keep it up for as long as I can!

Here’s a few words from our streakers…

“It’s definitely made a difference this month in getting me my fastest 5k in 4 years and within 17 seconds of my 5 year old 1 mile pb”.

“I can’t believe streaking is over, it’s been awesome and even though I couldn’t run every day, I have seen improvements in my running/pace”.

“I added up our streaks and there are only 2 days, out of the 2 months, when we failed to run walk or swim”.

“Throughout the last month I have run every single day to raise awareness for the MS Trust, and to personally raise a bit of money for it too by putting a nominal fee aside each time I ran (there would have been a higher forfeit for any day I didn’t manage to run!). I ran a total of 97 miles (if I’d worked it out sooner and realised how close I was to 100 I might have managed an extra 3)”.

It hasn’t just been about the running though, once again raising awareness for the MS Trust and Multiple Sclerosis has been a huge part of the challenge. The Streakers have been using social media channels to share information and I was honoured (and a bit scared!) to be invited onto the radio to talk about the Streak and our fundraising. You can listen to the interview here.5towns

So far the Summer Streak has raised £862 for the MS Trust and the Streakers have declared 1,558.5 miles! That takes our fundraising total to £18,079 since 2015; an incredible sum that makes a huge difference to people living with Multiple Sclerosis in the UK.

If you would like to contribute to the Summer Streak, all donations are welcomed on the VirginGiving site and will support the brilliant work the MS Trust does by training MS Specialist Nurses and providing information to everyone affected by MS when they need it.

As for whether anyone actually took their clothes off… you’ll be relieved to know that this is as close as it got!

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Streaking through July

Welcome to the latest update on our MS Trust Challenge; we’ve entered the fourth week of the Summer Streak and seem to be going from strength to strength! Joe and I have managed to run at least a mile every day since the first of July, somehow fitting a trot in around Joe starting a new job, busy diaries and forgoing rest days after more challenging races.

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But we’re not alone, some other crazy folk have decided that it’s a good idea and have joined our Summer Streak Challenge, pledging to run every day throughout July and August too. Fellow Ackworth Road Runner, the ever smiling Lesley, has even devised a fundraising element where she and husband Jim will donate a set amount for every day they run, and will double it on days they don’t!

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Other Summer Streakers going strong include Georgie, Sue, Julie, Gary and Colin; we’re also supporting another runner with their training for the London Marathon – good luck Jem as you #runeveryday for Children with Cancer UK!

July’s highlights include kicking off the challenge in style at Endure 24 by completing a 24 hour relay with our team “the Cat-astrophes”, we even threw in a warm-up at Wetherby parkrun! Races have included the Jane Tomlinson Canal Race, Doncaster 5k, Leeds 10k, Nostell Priory 10k, and Trunce Trail Time Trial.

In between the events, we’ve been out training with Ackworth Road Runners and have devised our preferred mile-long routes around our village for those days when we’re pressed for time or just plain shattered! All the Streakers seem to agree, the early morning runs before work are the hardest and we’re trying to avoid them at all costs!

Joe and I weren’t sure what to expect from this challenge, other than achy legs, but it’s been a real surprise to see how our Streaking has affected our running… in a good way! We’ve both bagged 5k and course personal best times this month, after being nowhere near them for years, and we’re feeling much stronger even though some days are easier (and drier) than others….

On the parkrun front, we did a spot of tourism at Dalby Forest, Joe ran his 100th parkrun and on the same day I celebrated my 25th occasion volunteering. Looking forward to the rest of the challenge, we have another endurance race coming up too, the Dusk Til Dawn event, where we’ll be seeing how many miles we can clock up between 6pm and 6am… if the lure of the bar isn’t too great!

As well as our favourite Run For All 10k event in York, we have some quirky races coming up too, with the Flat Cap 5 miler to celebrate Yorkshire Day and Race the Train in Wales – will Joe manage to tame the choo choo this year?

Special thank you goes out to Mark Leadbeater for securing a donation of wool to make the Ackworth Road Runner bobble hats – there’s so much we’re thinking up other woolly creations!  Thanks also go to Mel at RPM Massage Therapy for your healing hands as the Streakers team masseuse! Thanks to everyone that’s sponsored the Summer Streak so far as well, if you’d like to add a bit to the pot, you can do that here.

As always, thank you for reading about how we’re challenging ourselves to raise awareness and funds for the MS Trust. By supporting us, you’re supporting the MS Trust as they strive to ensure that every person with MS in the UK has access to a specialist nurse and the information they need to live well with MS.

Why not join us for the August leg of the Summer Streak?….

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Streaking for the MS Trust

It’s been while since Joe and I completed the year-long Worthington 500k Challenge, crossing the line at the Barcelona 10k on New Year’s Eve 2015.  Although we’d set out to run 500k in races to raise £10,000, we’d clocked actually up 721km, raised £14,500 for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust and really surprised ourselves!

Our highlights included racing trains in Wales and Nessie in Scotland, Joe running two marathons in two weeks, completing the Great North Run and being joined by amazing friends along the way. Not bad for an idea dreamt up in the pub to mark 10 years since my diagnosis with MS.

It’s not been quite so hectic since, although we’ve kept up our running and fundraising, taking our total over £17,000 with pub quizzes, Ackworth Road Runners bobble hats, swear boxes, sweets and biscuits. Our most surprising donation came at my sister’s wedding, when the happy couple gave their guests MS Trust pin badges with their favours. On the running front, Joe ran the London marathon for the MS Trust last year and we both took part in the Great North Run on the Trust team.

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I’ve missed the challenge element of my running though, so now I’ve recovered from a badly broken elbow, it seems like high time for another challenge! Looking at the diary, we have loads of races coming up over the summer, so I’ve decided to incorporate them into a Summer Running Streak.

Using famous running “streaker” Ron Hill’s rules, I aim to run at least 1 mile every single day through July and August, fitting that around work and all the other daft things I get up to. Kicking off with Endure 24 on the first of July, the challenge will incorporate loads of other races, including the Leeds and York 10ks, Canal and Doncaster 5ks, Dusk Til Dawn, Flat Cap 5 mile, a return to Wales for Race the Train and of course, the weekly parkrun fix.

Once again, I’ll be inviting friends to join me in raising funds for the MS Trust as part of the Run With Us Team, either at one of the summer races or maybe having a go at their own running streak. Our fundraising page remains the same at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Worthington500k and every penny makes a huge difference by providing support to people with MS and their families.

I hope you like the latest challenge idea and will show us the same support that the Worthington 500k inspired… wish me luck!

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