Will the Weekend Warrior

Helping to bring awareness to the importance of Bone Marrow donation around the world, one country at a time.

Beauty and the Beast(ing)

Ten events down, and I am beginning to see, and feel, why entering this many events is not clever. Before I move on to explain how this post is in fact going to be nothing to do with Disney (sorry if you feel misled), I thought I would take the opportunity to share a frankly incredible statistic.

In the UK, approximately 2% of the population are registered as stem cell donors, available to donate their stem cells to others. 98% of our small island is invisible, unreachable, and have no idea the difference their own cells can make to another person. This is in comparison to other countries such as Germany, Israel and Cyprus, who have registered 9%, 12% and 13% respectively. So, if you are reading this – ask the people around you what they know about the register: do they know it exists, have they ever thought about joining… because it is shocking that such an important register remains so empty of willing volunteers, of regenerating, lifesaving treatments – empty of second chances.

If you have yet to see what all the fuss is about, click here to find out more about how you can be someone’s miracle cure.

My own bid to raise awareness continues, and at the beginning of April, it hit me like a brick wall. Actually, being hit with a brick wall may have been a comparatively pleasant alternative . After making the difficult decision to depart early from a friend’s wedding reception on the Saturday night, I sleepily changed from suit to baselayers and made my way down to the event just outside Winchester – the middle of nowhere is exactly where you want to be at 3am.

Yay, I found fire!

Reaching our destination and signing in, we stood apprehensively around the only source of heat and light in what was a bitter, dark night; a log fire. We were woken abruptly from our drowsy existence by an American Special Forces Commando shouting passionately about our commitment to survival: this already sounded absolutely dreadful. Dreadful enough for me to forget to ask where his legs were – camo jokes are never not funny. Dragged up a hill to a ring of hell – a square area of barbed wire and lit fires all around to illuminate the dystopian scenery – we were lined up and told that they, verbatim, “did not want to see most of us still standing here by sunrise, and they would do whatever it takes to make us give up”. I think that was the first time in this challenge I have actually wanted to cry. Nevertheless, perseverance paid off, and we made it through a gruelling 2 hour cycle of torturous physical endurance tests and ice water submersions, only to be faced with a short obstacle course to finish – we naively presumed. Upon finishing the circuit, we were taken through a second round of training, to which I was mentally numb to a good 90% of it. After the second circuit of the course was complete, we were finished; broken and ready to sleep. It was 09:40am, but it honestly felt like we had been there for days.

The subsequent week was a long, stressed one. Monday came, and my legs felt like someone had punched them repeatedly for a week. It is forever a tense situation gauging if my legs are going to be fit to go again the following weekend, and this was a true test of that. Kudos to the customers I saw that day, where all sympathised, and two even offered to carry all my things. Needless to say I am a strong, independent professional and so I refused. Could not imagine anything more humiliating. On the PR side, it was a better week. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by BBC Radio Oxford to speak on the Kat Orman Show, as well as a follow-up interview with That’s Oxfordshire on regional TV. It is great getting more people familiar with the cause, and my continuing experience with the people of media is that they are really happy to help.

Paris. What an absolute drain of my remaining finances delight. My first excursion to the land of our snail-eating cousins was no less than a very warm, very picturesque weekend. We arrived Friday evening, finding to our joy a very nice walk alongside the Louvre Museum taking us straight out to our hotel. Obviously this was a prime opportunity for me to capture a cliché ‘I’m in Paris‘ picture, minus the idiotic ‘I’m pinching the top of the glass pyramid‘ pose – truly surprising how many people genuinely do that. The night was warm so we found a lovely little Parisian café to dine in. I don’t know why we don’t do bread baskets with every meal in the UK, but we should; fresh bread is life. I wish I could blame it on Brexit.

The day before a race is always, and will always be, get my race bib and explore. Another wonderful day beckoned, so I walked EVERYWHERE. This is a really lovely idea if you haven’t got a marathon the next day, but I am forever guilty of despising transport links around foreign cities. That said, my day of exploration took me to yet another cafe for brunch, a delicious chocolate shop, the Champs Élysées and the Eiffel Tower; what more could you want from a day in Paris?

Le Chocolat shop

Le Eiffel Tower

Marathon day arrived, and as per, I was awake at 6am. I don’t think there will ever be a marathon this year that doesn’t make me feel nervous, and I get this same feeling of butterflies regardless what or where I am doing an event. So I wandered around, had some food and had the dreaded anticipation of knowing that in a few short hours, I would be running. As Murphy’s Law works though, the time flew by as I willed for it not to, and I was soon wandering up the Champs Élysées to my starting place.

I have to say, despite my nerves, these big city marathon organisers are really good at getting you hyped up for running a ridiculous distance, for the time between exiting the start area and point where it is too late to run away. After ceding that I had no choice but just to do it, I made my way back along the streets I had just come from; passing the Louvre, Notre Dame and all the other beautiful landmarks on the way round. The heat was difficult to bear, being somewhere between 16-22°C for the large majority of the run. For this, they had fire crew spraying their hoses in to the air over the course, to which I took great delight in running through the thick of each and every single one. Small pleasures. The supportive shouts of “Allez Will” kept me going, and 4:36:12 later, I finally crossed the line – the proud stature of the Arc De Triomphe to welcome me in. 

Next weekend I will be taking on the London Marathon, a race that I’m genuinely excited about (honestly, it’s a matter of perspective). As my second race running with an actual team for Anthony Nolan, I am just looking forward to running through the streets I know so well, and crossing the finish line in my favourite city in the world.
To keep up with my latest charity efforts or to donate to my cause, you can go to my JustGiving here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/William-Ash2502

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