Monday, 27 February 2012

We cant give up

Sunday 26th February. A special date for a couple of reasons - it was my Nan's birthday, who died from Cancer and it was the day I did my first ever marathon in aid of Cancer Research UK - the Help Harry Help Others campaign.

Before yesterday my friends and I had ran 210 miles. We had run in all weathers, we'd suffered various injuries along the way but we were just so determined to finish the challenge - the challenge of running all 430 miles of the London Underground. The challenge of raising £10,000 for a charity that we believe in. Big time.

Harry Moseley lost his life at the age of 11. He had an inoperable brain tumour but his family, his incredible family, are so determined to make his dream come true. Harry's dream was simply that no one had to suffer like him - to rid the world of brain tumours. And his family work tirelessly to take that dream and make it a reality. They say hope is grief's best music and I think the hope of one day Harry's dream becoming reality is helping them live day to day.

We had raised around £6000 and the donations were slowing down so I thought we had to make the challenge bigger, more ridiculous. The bigger the challenge the more likely people are to donate. So I said we would commit to not only run a half marathon each week but also one marathon a month. Yesterday was the first marathon. We would be running from Barking at the end of zone four to Hammersmith, the end of Zone 2. We were running the whole of the Hammersmith and City line - the line itself is not 26 miles, it is a shade under 20 but when running and running the route we took it ended up being 26.5 miles. There were 4 of us who were going to do it. Myself, Martin and the two girls - Chloe and Becki. Martin and I had been run around a half marathon every week since the new year together but never any longer than that since January because of my knee's and my physio who ordered me to not run above 12-13. The girls had not run for a while so to tackle a marathon was a huge, huge ask.

I went out the night before and got to bed at 1am - preparation is so important! I also had a whole packet of Maryland Cookies and a glass of milk for breakfast - it is important to have a proper runners diet! I put my knee supports on, I put my PJ bottoms on and I headed out - nervous and not at all up for it. The girls were starting around an hour and a half before us and were already at West Ham by the time I got anywhere near Barking. I got a text off of one of my best mates - Nick Jellett who said if I completed it then he'd donate £100! As I say around a month ago we were sitting at £6000 raised. After the marathon we are above £7600 - a sum we are really proud of. The gamble of the marathons paid off - we'd generated an extra £1500. Now we just had to run them!

I met Martin and met the support crew - the old man. Martin and I were a little nervous. We are not runners. I am not sure what we are but we certainly aren't runners. I was wearing two knee supports and began stretching. My groin had been playing up since the last run. Add a problem with my right foot and I was looking at a marathon with 4 injuries. Excellent. We shook hands with the old man and he went off to meet the girls and give them some waters and Gel's. They'd made great progress and met him at Mile End. Chloe was struggling badly with her hip and Becki was high on gel's. Martin and I meanwhile were running pretty quickly and ran the first 8.8 miles in just under an hour and met the support crew for a much needed gel, mars bar and swig of water. We then met the girls at Whitechapel station, got a quick picture - we wished each other luck and powered on.

Martin and I got to Farringdon pretty quickly and felt pretty good. And then we ran up Farringdon road - a road with a big hill. We got to the top of that and we were wiped. It completely killed us. My groin was in bits, my knees hurt and I could feel my foot going. Martin had aches all over his body and we still had around 11-12 miles left to run. We also knew the girls were in a lot of pain and suddenly I think we all thought we'd bitten off more than we could chew.

Martin and I got to Baker Street and I know that we both considered throwing in the towel. I was out on my feet. So was Martin. I can't really explain how much pain I was in. But at that moment I got a text from my girlfriend and from my mum and I remembered why I was doing it. I also remembered the £100 that was promised by my mate Nick if I finished. Yes it hurt. Yes I was in pain. So was Martin. So were the girls. But I had the chance to achieve something, to make a difference. I am a huge believer if you want something enough you can achieve it. Especially when so many great people are willing you on. So we carried on...

Martin told me, with a few miles to go, that he had never been in that much pain before. I ran up Shepherds Bush Road and could see Hammersmith in the distance and the pride and relief I felt is a moment I will never forget. I'd done it. I had run a marathon in 3 hours and 52 minutes. The girls managed to break their 7 hour target and they too completed it. 4 people who could have given up but didn't. Harry could have given up but didn't. Lance Armstrong once said "If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell". And that is the reason we are doing this. Cancer is a sentence and not a word. We need to change that. We need to make Harry's dream a reality. For now all that we can do is our bit. Harry was the inspiration I needed to get off my arse and do something. I'd just wished to hell I'd done it earlier...I just wish that cancer was just a word to my Nan and to Harry and not a sentence. I think my Nan and Harry would be proud of me and the guys, for the first time in my life I was proud of me. I'd done a marathon. And I'd done it when every sinew of my being was screaming at me to give up. Let's not give up. Let's kill cancer.


Monday, 20 February 2012

The Tube Runners and two special guests!

Saturday was probably the most fun we've had doing a run. We ran with 'Sheps' as I am now calling him! To everyone else he is better known as Ben Shephard.

Around 3 months ago I felt we needed a celebrity to help us spread awareness of our challenge and therefore help spread awareness of Harry, his story and his charity. I didn't want just anyone. I wanted someone who cared about Harry and felt as inspired by him as what we did.

One year ago I noticed a tweet from Ben Shephard - he tweeted that he had spent some time with the 'incredible' Harry Moseley. He encouraged us to 'follow' Harry Moseley. That tweet I saw from Ben made me aware of Harry's story and that tweet is therefore the reason I am running today. So, the celebrity I wanted to contact was Ben. The tweet read "@Benshepard my mates and I are running the tube for @harry_moseley, fancy it?". I remember tweeting him as I was coming home from work. I got to the other end of my tube journey and I got a tweet back off him! "Hi Steve, sounds good! Got any more info'. I was buzzing! We went back and forth and settled on Dec 9th for him to do a run with us - the Waterloo & City line.
Unfortunately that week he found out it was his sons nativity so he couldn't make it. But, he sent me a direct message (twitter talk!) to apologise and then he tweeted us good luck - all 350,000 of his followers could see the tweet. I stayed in touch with him and sent him a video we'd done - he loved it and tweeted it to all of his followers and said he'd like to rearrange the run with us. We'd settled on Feb 18th. Stratford to Marble Arch. 13 miles. I'd yet to mention anything about PJ bottoms!

Saturday morning arrived and me, my mum, dad, Luke, Martin and Shaun arrived at Stratford station. In our PJ bottoms. I've never seen my mum take so long to get ready! Luke had his knee supports on. I had my knee supports on. Shaun had his ankle support on. My dad his back support on. Martin, the machine, was support free. I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognise and then we saw them - Sheps and his mate Chester. They were wearing proper running gear, gadgeted up to the max. They looked like actual runners. We looked a shambles. We were a shambles. Except my mum, she looked lovely!

I walked over, in my pj's and introduced myself, introduced the others and immediately we felt at ease. There was nothing celebrity about the guy (sorry Ben!) - he was just a normal guy. His mate Chester, also a top man, said had he known we were wearing PJ's he would have worn some too - well Chester was in luck! I bought two spare pairs with me! They immediately put them on - Ben also got a pic with some other guys from the station and they donated £20 to our total. We then started running...we quickly got lost - not at all embarrassing!

Ben spent the first 20 minutes with me and he asked me why did I do this challenge, how was I finding it, what future plans did we have. He was so interested. It was brilliant. We chatted about Harry and Harry's mum. He was blown away by Harry and he'd met Georgie (Harry's mum) only last week. When he was talking about her it was obvious why Harry was the way he was - he was blessed with an incredibly loving family and they were blessed with a son who had courage, who was selfless and who was just thoroughly decent. A lovely family who's lives were to be changed forever by the growth of a cancerous tumour. As I ran with Ben, Chester and 4 of my best mates I realised just how important Harry's legacy is and how we must ensure we all do whatever we can to help others and to make Harry's dream happen.

Ben tweeted various pics on route to his Twitter followers - we got best wishes from everywhere. Cars were beeping, people were shouting good luck at us. We'd done many a grim run and we'll do many more a grim run but this run I enjoyed. I forgot the pain. I was running with mates and for those two hours Harry Moseley was being talked about in all corners of the country, in the streets that we were running. We stopped at various points to meet my mum and dad - they were handing out the Mars bars (we weren't upgrading for Ben!). We got to Bethnal Green and Sheps uploaded a pic of all of us in our PJ's to his followers. He also rang Chris Kamara to tell him that I'd heard Neil Warnock had been given the Leeds job - a truly epic moment! Ben slowly worked his way round all my mates and spent 20 minutes with all of us. He was a class act.

We powered our way through the Central line. Ben told me that he'd run from the West to the East of the country for a friends daughter - it was really inspiring stuff. I was told how nice Roberto Martinez is and how Scott Parker is Sheps' hero! At each stop we got a pic. We finished in 1 hour and 40 minutes and he signed some Harry tshirts that we could give out as prizes for our quiz night. And, brilliantly, he has said he is going to do our final run with us. Hopefully Chester will too. My mum got a kiss on the cheek and Ben said his goodbyes. The whole morning was surreal but it epitomised Harry - random people being bought together to do good.

Another 13 miles. Another reminder that there are some really great people about. We are running our first ever marathon Sunday, in fact it is further than a marathon, we are running the whole of the Hammersmith and City line. We're also meeting Harry's mum before the run. If I was nervous about meeting Ben then you'd have to come up with a whole new word for how I will feel when I meet Georgie. We are thrilled she wants to meet us. I just hope we can help, in a little way, achieve her son's ambition. With more people like Ben Shephard, Chester, my mates and my parents then brain cancer doesn't have a chance. Roll on Sunday and thanks again for all the kind words and donations. We're up to £7350 and over 200 miles run. As Harry would say - we're making it happen :)