Sunday the 5th August - the day I finally completed running the entire London Underground. 9 months of effort, 12 tube lines, 272 stops, around 450 miles of running, 40 runs, 30 half marathons, fractured feet, strained backs, torn muscles. £21,780 raised for one amazing charity.
12 months ago I took lunch and sat on a bench outside my building when I launched Twitter. Harry Moseley's mum had tweeted a picture of Harry - that picture was to shape my life for the next 12 months. Harry, for those who don't know, was, is, an incredible young man. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at the age of 7, Harry decided he wanted to help others to ensure they didn't suffer like him. So despite being gravely ill Harry made bracelets to make money for his campaign 'Help Harry Help Others'. That day in August though was the day Harry had an operation, at just 11, to remove part of a tumour. Harry was to never wake from this operation.
As I sat there and clicked the picture, it opened up to show Harry, an unconscious Harry, hugging a teddy bear. It also showed a hugely swollen head, a cut head, his eyes were shut but he looked in such pain. This picture should not be allowed to exist. An 11 year old should be happy, care free, enjoying his life. Harry looked so battered, so bruised, he looked so very tired. People flanked me left and right on the bench but I could not help my uncontrollable sobbing. I got up and I ran. Whenever I get upset I run. No idea why but it’s always been the same – whenever I get really upset, no matter where I am, I just run. I have cried 4 times as an adult – when my granddad died, when my Nan died, when my friend died and that picture. I ran from Aldgate all the way to Baker Street because I was so upset. No idea why I chose that route. No idea why I stopped at Baker Street. It was 2PM, I was sitting on a step with cut feet (I’d been running in work shoes), I was out of breath, I was upset and it then dawned on me…I was meant to be at work. I quickly got up and jumped on the tube. I got on the Circle line train to Aldgate and the whole way I sat staring at the photo of Harry and knowing I needed to do something. I needed to raise money, raise awareness – I needed to help. I could not look at another photo, of a young person, like that ever again. But what could I do?
I knew it had to be fairly off the wall. I knew I wanted to raise money quickly and I wanted to do it – whatever ‘it’ was quickly so that I could get the money to his charity quickly. Great Portland Street arrived and went. Still thinking. Euston Square been and gone. Still thinking. Kings Cross done and dusted. Still thinking. Then I realised, I was travelling on the tube where I’d just run. I was doing the exact same route. I looked up at the Circle line map that was on the tube. I counted the stops and stood up. It all just clicked. Suddenly I knew. I would run the Circle line. Now that may seem to be a strange epiphany but it felt right. I felt it in my gut. But it had to be made tougher, more ridiculous, for people to donate. So I decided I would run the Circle line on Saturday, August 20. That gave me 6 days. I would set a fundraising target of £1500. It is at this point I should say that my run from Aldgate to Baker Street is the furthest I have ever run – I am not a runner. Still how far could the Circle line be?
I got back to my desk, red faced and bloodied feet, and immediately put the process documents on the floor. I had 4 missed calls on my desk phone and 13 emails. They would wait. I jumped straight on to Google and launched Google Maps. I put all the stations in. It turned out the Circle line was quite far! Scrap that, very far. The Circle line was 19 miles. It’s at moments like this that I ring my dad. I attempt to seek confirmation, reassurance, that I Steven James Henry Whyley can do what I am suggesting. My dad, the oracle, can give me that confirmation.
“You want to do what?”
“It’s how far?”
“You want to raise how much?”
My dad was in. I’d persuaded him we could do this. It was settled – I would run all 19 miles of the Circle line on Saturday and I would raise £1500 in the process – all money raised going to Harry’s charity.
Ten minutes later and I had set up a Justgiving site. A Justgiving site is a cool way to collect money – it’s like your own website and saves you from having to go round with a bucket to collect money. My site www.justgiving.com/steven-whyley had a target of £1500 and so far £0 had been raised. I put together an email (at work!) and sent it to my whole department. The email was pretty simple:
As you know I am quite a stupid person. It is because I am a stupid person that I have decided to run all 19 miles of the Circle line on Saturday. I have done no training. I am not a runner. Now I know you guys are not stupid people. Look at this photo – let’s help raise money for this boy’s amazing charity and if we do and others like us do then you’ll never have to see this type of photo again.
www.justgiving.com/steven-whyley is the link. I promise to do more work if you sponsor me.
52 minutes later and I had raised £160.
I put on Facebook a status requesting money and asking if anyone fancied running with me. Three people immediately messaged me – Shaun Purvis, Luke Butler and Martin Chapman. They all messaged me saying ‘Yes, yes they would run’. Two other girls - Chloe Garrard and Becky Eighteen also said they wanted to run.
That was it - 6 of us - would run the circle line. We did run the circle line, it was very, very difficult but we'd done it. I went off to do some travelling and that was the end of the tube running madness.
In October Harry died.
At this point I knew I wanted to do more, to help contribute to the brilliant charity Harry had set up. I said to the original runners that I would try and run every single tube line on the London Underground. All 450 miles of it. I would run every single run and then the guys would help me when they could.
In October I started, without training, and ran all 22 miles of the Bakerloo line, after work. This is the thing that a lot of people do not realise about this challenge - a lot of it happens after work. I, along with my dad and a mate or two, take a tube out to our destination - often an hour away, and then run back as far in as we could. My dad works out the route for me, I run with google maps on my phone in my hand and meet my dad every 3 stops for a water and a Mars. We often didn't get home til 10 or 11 that night and then I'd have to get up for work the next day. It was brutal - more brutal than I could of imagined.
I had set a target of £10,000 that I wanted to raise - hugely ambitious and almost certainly unachievable. But I find, if you set improbable goals then it makes you try that much harder to turn the improbable probable.
So we ran. We ran out to places like Harrow, Heathrow, Uxbridge, Epping, Chesham, Watford, Upminster and ran in all weathers, at all times. Over the 9 months Martin Chapman and Luke Butler must have run 25-30 runs - they've been incredible. Shaun Purvis, Chloe Garrard and Becky Eighteen have all run at least 5 runs but importantly they've all raised massive sums of money for the charity. It's incredible what these people have done.
August 5th 2012, I had just run 6 half marathons in 12 days. Most of those with Luke and Martin - but some with special appearances from friends. The support we've received has been incredible - from Twitter to Facebook, so many have got behind us. We've had over 330 donations. Incredible how generous people are - never give on people because they continue to amaze.
Our final run - Preston Road to Aldgate. One of the most amazing days of my life - I'd got to the end and my dad was here for it. My dad had had a stroke whilst all of this running was going on and for him to be back was all the inspiration I needed to finish. Amazingly we were joined by Mitch Wilson and the UK karate team. We were also joined by tens of friends. By the end of the run there were 30 people running and at the finishing line there were 20 people waiting for us. At least 50 people came up to support us.
I have run in quite a bit of pain but the support I have received has numbed all of that pain - it has been simply incredible.
All that's left for me to say is that we made the improbable probable - we raised £21,780. We ran the entire London Underground. Truth be told I started these runs for Harry, to help Harry and his charity. When I crossed that finishing line though, I realised Harry has helped me. I've made so many friends, fallen in love, forged such a close relationship with my dad that I will be forever grateful for, and realised that I can do anything I want if I want it enough. If I am inspired. And if I surround myself with great people.
Thank you all so much for helping me finish this. £21,780 to Harry's charity - that's a full time salary for a nurse to help families like Harry deal with brain cancer. I may have done some running, but you made the difference.
And as for the London Underground - 150 years old today, you changed my life.
Please Sponsor - www.justgiving.com/steven-whyley