By now I should have Italy and Germany ticked off the list and be waiting for Croatia in October as my final race on the challenge. But obviously Coronavirus had other plans and has shut down the challenge for the foreseeable future. The most important thing at the moment is that none of my family, friends and every one of you reading this are suffering from this nasty disease.
Rome and Hamburg are pretty big street marathons and I'm really not sure either will be deemed safe to take place until we have a vaccine for Covid-19. That could be more than a year away, so I'm mentally adjusting things to expect a 2022 finish, maybe. It's going to be a real challenge to keep fitness and focus to get to the finish line but I've come too far to stop and whilst motivation isn't at it's highest, I will get this done. Unfortunately as you can expect, marathons are generally large gatherings of people in small spaces with people flying in from all over the world - probably the worst possible thing for suppressing a deadly pandemic.
I'm struggling a bit physically when running at the moment, everything is a bit achy and my movement feels a bit restricted. I think a fair bit of it is down to having a few knotted muscles as I've not had a massage since October (700 miles ago). Dying to get Martin round to get me straight again but social distancing and lockdown makes that impossible for now. He has diabetes too which must be making things very difficult for him as he'll most likely be in the 'shielded' most vulnerable category.
Mentally too it's been horrendous. Training for a marathon that you know won't happen is very challenging. My weekly mileage is very much reduced, I'm drinking and eating more and have lost a fair bit of focus in life generally. I know how lucky I am to have my health and I don't want to bleat on given the seriousness of the pandemic, it's just how things are at the moment. I'm working at home full-time which makes it difficult to make time to get out for a run when it feels like any spare moment I have should be spent trying to help save our business from going under. I'm also conscious that I need to pull my weight with parenting too and now we have a very mobile toddler with a very set routine, there's not much flexibility. Tough, but hopefully things will improve if and when our hapless government gets the virus under control!
Till Forever Runs Out
I was really chuffed to be invited on to my good running buddy Mark Openshaw's new podcast chatting about our experiences running marathons around the EU. We had a great chat about our favourite cities, funny stories and plans for running post-lockdown. Looking forward to going back on in the future and wish him all the best with it.
You can check it out here
F.U Corona Marathon
On April 4th I ran a solo marathon on the routes around my house to make use of the training and in dedication to people with ME in the two countries I was unable to visit; Italy and Germany. At the time of having the idea we weren't in lockdown and I was to be joined by a couple of other Bristol runners left frustrated by the cancellation of their races. But as the day approached it was clear that with 'social distancing' that wasn't going to be possible/sensible. I felt in good running form and ready to attack my race PB of 3.55.
Amazing to have a finish line so close to my house for once!
I wanted to make sure that I had proof of the run if I ended up doing a personal best and it would have been very difficult to pace myself without a watch. A really annoying situation and I felt bad for cancelling on Phil as I know he'd have gone through the same prep as I did but I also know it wouldn't feel right not to have a proper record of the run.
So I went the next day and did a fairly steady first half before Phil joined me on Coronation Road and we swung by my house for me to grab some more water and head off towards Nailsea on the cycle path. It was great to have Phil along, running a couple of metres ahead for the most part, dragging me along at a pace well inside my PB. I felt strong until around 22 miles when my hips had started to seize up and the pace dropped. We reached Bedminster again and trudged through the suburbs where I finished with a bit of a sprint(!) and collapsed on the pavement with a finishing time of 3 hrs 44 mins. So happy to achieve what I knew I could and what I hadn't managed to since September 2017. Getting better with age, maybe!
Really only one of a handful of positives from 2020 so far has to be the incredible donations I've had. So huge thanks to Helen and Manon Oliver for yet another big donation to the cause and Paul Kayes for facilitating a £700 matched-donation from a facebook group he admins.
Hamburg was cancelled in fairly good time and then pushed to Sept 13th and therefore becomes my next race. Whether it takes place or not is very uncertain, Berlin was scheduled to take place 2 weeks later but was cancelled early so it makes me feel this one will be too. It's a big race in Germany and I don't think they'd be able to cope with the crowds and international runners all arriving for it. We'll see. We've only been eligible for a flight voucher for that one and not a refund so we may well go that weekend anyway and spend some time with fellow EU marathon collector Tim Teege who has become a good friend. He has 4 daughters(!) and we know Lucy would have a great time with them.
If Hamburg is cancelled then it's probable that I'll be back there in mid-April 2021 to run it as part of the German leg of the challenge. The aim will still be to finish the challenge with London in late April but there's a lot of things that could go wrong with that plan! Not least the fact that if London is cancelled again in it's revised plan for October this year, most people will keep their entries for the April date which will make it tough to get in! We'll see!
It was totally the right thing for Rome to cancel back in early March. Italy was hit incredibly hard at the start of the virus' entry to Europe and I wouldn't have felt safe going or taking the family. Rather than re-schedule for 2020 they decided to announce a date in March for 2021 and keep entries valid. I'm already looking forward to making it and meeting new friends although cautious as a 'second wave' of the virus over the Winter this year will threaten it once again from going ahead.
ME in Italy
Ahead of my intended trip to run Rome Marathon I was very privileged to hear from Giada, Chiara, Fabio and Rosa about their battles with M.E in Italy. Some of the stories are really affecting and it's heartbreaking to read how much of their lives have been lost by this neglected illness.
Interviews can be found here.
It feels forever ago but back on March 1st I ran my fastest ever Half Marathon in Newport, South Wales. I'd trained really hard for it so I guess it wasn't a complete surprise but it was one of those rare days when everything just seemed to click. I got through the first 3 miles and felt good so just decided to really attack the course and see at what point I'd run out of puff. But with lots of downhill and a cold day, it didn't really happen.
The course moved through the centre, residential suburbs, parks and wetlands on the outskirts and it wasn't too crowded. I ended up coming in 290th out of a field of 1923 in a time of 1hr 37 mins, taking 3 minutes off Gloucester Half the year before. It seems like perhaps the Half Marathon is more my game! I managed to get finished just before a hailstorm too and jumped into the leisure centre for a cheeky free shower before grabbing a pint and a roast dinner nearby.
I hadn't managed to find any M.E patients to interview ahead of the race which was disappointing and decided not to publicise the run in the local paper as the primary charity was St David's Hospice Care which was a very noble cause I didn't want to dilute. I was lurking around the start line an hour beforehand and got Cat to take a photo of me with my big flag and a local reporter asked me about it. After a few minutes I was suddenly on their website and in the local paper!
Big thanks to South Wales Argus for supporting people with M.E by doing the feature.
Back in February it was threatening to snow and the forecast was pretty icy one weekend so I had to find a way of getting my 17 mile run done to keep to plan. My friend Joe offered me a guest pass at David Lloyd gym in Westbury-on-Trym and I jumped onto the treadmill for the run. It would be just my 2nd treadmill run on the challenge in 5 years and a big relief to survive it.
A few things to consider when long distance running indoors:
- It's much warmer! Maybe as much as 15c even with air-con on.
- Definitely need a towel nearby to wipe the sweat off the screen of the treadmill and stop it from soaking the runners next to you!
- You end up needing more water than you would outdoors, mainly down to the ambient temperature.
- The machine cuts out after an hour (not sure why, probably as it's tired or maybe a safety thing). This is extremely annoying as you have no choice but to wait 30 seconds to power it back up to the pace you were at. And it can catch you by surprise as it's a pretty abrupt stop!
- I saw the back of 28 runners, you look like a complete nutter running on a treadmill for 2 hours.
- 6 tv screens in front of you is very distracting, sadly for me they were all showing total rubbish. 2 of them were showing cartoons which I find very strange for a premium gym.
- You do feel a bit guilty for hogging the machine when it's busy.
- It's not great for your knees and it's important to have a slight incline/gradient to protect them.
- It's insanely boring, never have I missed the cycle path and all it's scenery more.
I was very lucky to have the option though and I'm grateful for being able to stick to the training plan and learn from the experience. A timely reminder that gyms and treadmills aren't for me!
Millions Missing Italia support
I couldn't really not mention the amazing support I had from this group. Not only did they do lots of features on my challenge ahead of the cancelled Rome race, they also made plans for my arrival which sadly didn't come to fruition.
I had so many nice messages from them and their supporters that any talk of doing another Italian race this/next year were soon dismissed.
Revised plan of attack
This comes with some pretty huge caveats but:
25. Hamburg - Sept 13th 2020
26. Zagreb - Oct 11th 2020
27. Rome - March 21st 2021
Finish - London - Mid April 2021
Thanks for all your support, if you're feeling generous please leave a donation to M.E research for a cure to my fundraising page below....
Total Sponsorship Raised: £25742
Social Media Followers: 2580
Miles Covered: 328
Average Temp: 14C
Lessons Learned: I need to train all year round, virus or no virus.