They Think It’s All Over

I know that there are a lot of people eager for me to write this particular blog post.  It’s taken a couple of days for the activities of the last couple of days to sink in.  For once, I’m struggling to know where to start!  Sunday was the 365th and final day of my running challenge to raise money for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.  A challenge book-ended by my favourite local race, the Carterton 10k.

For the benefit of those of you who don’t know, I set myself a challenge to get running again (after years of intermittent, non-committal running efforts) by aiming to cover 800km in 12  months.  The 800km being significant in that it is the distance between the proposed Maggie’s Centre in Aberdeen, where the company I work for is headquartered, and the temporary Maggie’s Centre at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford that The Wife and I got to know all too well 3 years ago.

The serious runners amongst you will probably be scoffing at my choice of metric system over good old imperial miles.  There was a reason for this: other than it being what I was used to, my aim was to raise £1 for every unit of distance covered and £500 was not enough to justify my efforts!  Little did I know my efforts would be rewarded so well.

My running had gone so well that my target of 800 kilometres became a million metres, only to be stretched further to 1,100km.  I’d had to plan the last few weeks of my challenge carefully in order to ensure I reached the 1,100km.  The final total covered actually came to 1,101km after I carelessly ended up doing an extra kilometre on my easy run last Thursday in preparation for the race!

As well as targeting distance and of course fundraising, I had also set myself a target to beat my personal best 10k time – as a bit of a personal reward (yes, I did say reward!) for all the running efforts.  I went into Sunday feeling ready and, as usual for a race morning, nervously excited.  Despite this, I was looking forward to the race more than any other I’ve done before.  Partly due to what the race meant to my fundraising challenge but also down to the fact that I knew I had an army of supporters coming to cheer me on, some of whom had been kind enough (or stupid enough) to take part in the race to show their support.

I had a band of 8 merry men and women join me at the start line: Rich Sills; Tim & Hazel O’Shea; Steve, Mitch & Ryan Meredith; Sarah Hayton and Beth Hudson.  Between them, a spectrum of running pedigrees but with one thing in common: running to show their support to me, and for that I am truly grateful.  It made a real difference knowing you guys were willing to make the effort to run.

The weather was good, potentially too good for us runners but that at least meant the cheerleaders turning out to keep me and my fellow running mates going would be happy.  Please bear with me while I thank them all by name: Robyn & John; Ben & Lucy; Emily & Elliot; Penny & Eddy; Karen; Jackie; Ashley & Lucas; Mark, Kate, Sebastian & my god-daughter Niamh; Stuart; Andrew Hudson; Eric, Lyn, Suzy & Joe; Gemma and of course, The Wife.  I really can’t explain how much your cheering, and flag waving in the case of Sebastian and Niamh, helps to not only keep me going but spur me on in a race.  It’s a huge boost.

Anyway, after a near false start (remembering as I arrived at Carterton Leisure Centre that I had forgotten my race number, doh!) the race got under way and with my trusty iPhone as pacer I set off and quickly found a comfortable pace that was on target for a PB.  Ryan and Mitch shot off with their young legs and in my focus on pace I had lost the others so just focussed on maintaining my goal pace of around 5 minutes per kilometre.

At the halfway point I was still on target for a sub-50 minute time and the two-lap course meant I got a good bout of cheers to send me on my way onto the second lap.  It was only now that the heat was starting to build in the glorious sunshine.  I told myself to man up and focussed on staying with, or passing the runners in front of me, keeping one eye on the iPhone strapped to my left bicep – I didn’t want to go too fast and burn out!

Everything was going to plan and as I reached the 9km mark I started to slowly stride out to increase the pace.  On the walk to the start I’d paced out 200 metres from the finish (the distance I know I can sprint for) so I knew exactly when to kick for home.  The course took an unexpected detour at 100 metres to go (up and over a small mound that hasn’t featured in previous years) momentarily paused the progress of my pace in order to avoid an embarrassing tumble before I put my foot flat to the floor, passing a few other runners on the way to the finish line, being pushed by the cheers of my support crew.

As I approached the finish line I could see what I’d hoped – the clock had not yet reached 50 minutes.  In fact, it had not yet reached 49 minutes!  An improvement on my PB by 3 minutes!  The official results have been published today which confirms that my new personal best time for 10k is 48 minutes and 49 seconds.  And my sprint finish pulled me into the top 100 places, securing 99th out of 209!  Ryan and Mitch had already finished but it was great to be able to cheer on the other 6 runners on the home straight to thank them for running.

After a quick photo of the running team it was time to head for refreshment in the form of showers followed by food and drink at the Horseshoes.  My supporter number swelled with the addition of Campbell, Jen & Georgia; Jenny, Graham & Bear; the Hudson clan and my Mum & Dad.  It was awesome to catch up with everyone in the pub garden and enjoy some beers and banter.  Thank you so much to all of you who travelled from near and far to support the end of my challenge.  It made the day extra special.

Thank you too to all of you who have sponsored me during this last year.  I have far exceeded the £800 I set out to raise for Maggie’s this time last year.  My current total stands at an amazing £1,646.56 and with some pledges still to be received I have decided to leave my fundraising page (http://www.justgiving.com/800kmForMaggies) open until April 26th to see if we can boost that total even higher.  Remember, every penny I raise will be matched by my company so every penny really does count!

Thanks to all at Maggie’s who have supported, encouraged and thanked me during my challenge.  Knowing how much you appreciate my efforts made it easier to keep going.

And there it was, gone.  All done.  Finished.  The End.  Or is it?  Watch this space for what’s next!

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