London Marathon 2013

Have you ever watched an event like a marathon on the television and thought that it was something that you wanted to do but never got round to it? Or maybe you believed that it was too hard to get a place or was only for serious runners. That’s where I was till I received the phone call last year informing me that I had been awarded a golden bond entry for the 2013 Marathon in support of the RSPCA. How did I go from watching the event last year on television and now only a few days away from participating myself?

Well, after 21 years in the RAF almost exclusively on the Tornado Force, first as a navigator and then as a pilot, my contract was due to end and I would soon be a civilian. It was either this (or a hopefully early mid-life crisis) that prompted me to attempt a marathon while I was still in my thirties. Although it is possible to participate in the Marathon as a ballot entry, I was determined to get a place officially supporting a charity. Both my wife and I are animal lovers but particularly cats and for us it had to be the RSPCA.

Once selected it became clear that two challenges lay before me, preparing myself physically for the race and raising the minimum £2,000 required to secure the Golden Bond place. In my typical military mind I agreed with a certain TV presenter asking “How hard can it be?” A bit of running, a bit of publicity, book a hotel in London and that was it. How wrong I was!

The furthest I had run before was ten miles so I assumed that it was just 2.5 times that and all that would be required was to beast myself in the gym increasing by a mile every few weeks until I could run 26 miles. Fitness was the key. Once again totally wrong. When you start to cover such distances, you can’t just get through on willpower, your body will stop. It requires many months of training and commitment to be ready, often alone in poor weather or darkness hours depending on your shift pattern. Finally after my last big run of just over 20 miles, the last few weeks have been about letting your body repair and be in peak order for the day. You must not do such damage training that you are unable to participate. Merely turning up on the day uninjured is 90% of the battle.

Now to fundraising. Once again this was an area that I was woefully unprepared for. It was only when I started researching did I realise how many requests there are for sponsorship at anytime. I also to my shame realised how many times I had read a request for sponsorship and either forgotten about it or never got round to it. Now I was asking for people to support me in a charity that I deeply believed in when they may have an equally deserving charity that means far more to them. What I learnt was that the charity side of the attempt became almost bigger than the fitness training. Do not underestimate the preparation and work required to raise the funds you need. But the overall lesson I will take away is the unbelievable kindness of people out there who have sponsored me. From now on, having been through this I have pledged to contribute whatever small amount I can when I receive a request. Even something as small as £1, because I know what it means to see these pledges come in, regardless of the amount. It really does motivate you to get up and go for that run when the weather is terrible.

So what have I learnt from this so far? I have learnt that although it has pushed me physically almost to breaking point, there is something healthy about having projects in your life. There is a pride that you are attempting something that’s says something about your character. Why not after reading this think again about that event you have always wanted to do? It really does feel good to know that by your efforts a charity will receive money that will make a difference. But it really isn’t that hard to make a big difference. We don’t all have to run the marathon! It can be something as simple as putting a few coppers in the charity pots. It’s not the quantity that counts, it’s the desire to help support a cause because you think it’s right and in any way you can. On Sunday the focus will be on all of us trying to complete the 26 miles but to all of you out there who have supported us, we know that it is you who have got us there.

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