My longest break of the entire charity year is over. Even the thought of that makes me want to shed a single tear.
However, I am another year older now—most definitely no wiser. Despite being inundated with emails about the ‘perfect marathon diet’ and ‘optimum marathon training plan’, the three week lead-up to my recent challenge was a pinnacle of human weakness: alcohol, Netflix and approximately a metric tonne of cake. If there is a benefit to be had from having a twin, it would be getting two cakes on your birthday. Plus, I have since heard that if you simply say “it’s carb loading”, you can pretty much write off anything.
My challenges are now very much underway again, and I am welcomed by the familiar feeling of begrudging my weekends—the unthinkable paradox where work is now my holiday. That said, my rollercoaster of a first weekend back in the game ended in just the way anyone would wish for: eating a large Domino’s pizza with a side of zero guilt, whilst watching The Bee Movie. I have learned never to question the frustratingly blatant disregard for physics in that film, if you have seen it you’ll know where I’m coming from. It is difficult to complain when your legs have seized up, so I decided to appreciate that at least I wasn’t running.
The days leading up to my 6th event were ones of shockingly avoidable calamities. Even for a guy who’s heard the words “that could only have happened to you” a little too often, this was an admirable attempt at testing expectations.
Mere days before my trainers met the cobbled streets of Bath, a footsie contest with a solid wooden floor left me unable to walk on my right foot—I run marathons and ultramarathons, and my first injury came from a dance class. I know. Luckily, my dance partner is also a nurse, so we were back on track… sort of. Reduced to a mild limp, I prepared myself for the long weekend ahead. A friend’s stag do was planned for this weekend, and a nuance of my new mantle is that real life still happens—a weekend warrior still turns up for work Monday morning, unfortunately. So I agreed to go; I can do it all, no problem, right? Well… it is apparent that turning up to the airport to realise your passport is at home, I have found, is a little stressful. Perseverance paid off however, and an incredibly supportive father turned up at departures 4 minutes before security closed. The following tirade of entirely deserved abuse was nicely countered by the relief of getting on the plane. Note for future trips: the amount of ‘mights’ and ‘maybe’s’ I received from security when seeing if they would let me through should it be late, told me that they get no greater pleasure than turning you away because you are a minute late.
As this is kind of a thing now, here are a couple of things the unassuming traveller may like to know about Amsterdam:
- They don’t accept real cards. If you’re like me and you have a VISA and/or Mastercard, take cash. You can use them in very select places, but they generally only use Maestro and ‘V-Pay’. A quick survey told me that I don’t know anyone who has either of those.
- You cannot relieve yourself on a night out for free. You don’t get an option, and you certainly do not get any excellent if often derogatory rhymes or aftershave applications. If you are like me and take issue with being charged for basic human rights while intoxicated, they get very precious about it.
- There are two types of ‘coffee’ shop: one is spelled correctly, one starts with a k. The latter are for those who would like to… erm… eat chocolate, in public.
There is so much that could be said about my night; for the sake of being succinct, we rode on a beer bike and I sprinted in to a moving bicycle head first. Yes, I thought it was a good idea at the time. No, I was not sober. Yes, it really hurt. I am still waiting for the large bruise on the forearm that I used to stop the bicycle and myself dead.
I arrived in Bath on Saturday evening sore in both body and mind; just in time for a bowl of carbohydrates and deliciousness, followed by bed. Obviously, if one has learned nothing from all this by now, it is that I am not considered sensible. Hence, naturally I stayed up until 1:00am.
A 7:00am start was predictably disgusting. Thankfully, I was not alone and the house was soon full of tired, unwilling runners-to-be. We eventually made it down to the city centre to meet the rest of the team, for a classic team photo feat. the distinguished Alice Byron head tilt (see title photo).
For a guy who has not only had to run 4 marathons alone, but in one case be in a different country doing so, having 30 friends and a parade of supporters at the sidelines is like Christmas. Furthermore, for those of you who are familiar with Bath, you will know what a beautiful city it is to be and run in. For those who are not… it is. In the weeks previous, I deliberated my plan—to leave behind the team who were mostly running this distance for the first time and run my own time, or to enjoy the one chance I have to run with a team. I have absolutely no regrets about my final decision. If there’s one thing I learned, it is that there is only one thing sweeter than helping yourself succeed; helping others do so.
Despite a vast spectrum of different training plans from team members, ranging from regimented to just non-existent (I mean you, Jen Mason), every single person crossed the line. It is one thing to come at this from a fitness background and good health, but to see people who were injured, struggling or just really hate running, put it aside to finish the race really encapsulated what charity is all about—I cannot comprehend the bravery it mustered, but at the very least, I deeply admire it.
Usually I use this blog as a medium to discuss my own efforts, highlight the great work Anthony Nolan do and encourage any donations that could be spared. For this, I will simply say that on 12th March 2017, a team of 27 people turned up in Bath to run a race that most of them would otherwise actively avoid, all in the name of one incredible person and a vow to run a half marathon with her when she was better. The commitment to that vow a year on is a testament to the respect and passion that Alice inspired, and to all run together for the charity who gave her hope of a second chance is an honour. I remain inspired by her influence, and the sheer impact her story has on so many to this day.
To find out more about Alice’s story, you can find her blog here: alicebyron.com.
Finally, I ask that you visit the team page, and help us continue to build a legacy for Alice that may one day help thousands of people looking for a second chance at life. That is the least anyone deserves.