Cool debut for Newport marathon

After weeks of watching enviously as medal selfies swamped social media from Paris, Brighton, Manchester, London and many more, it was finally time to get to my own start-line on Sunday.

The Newport marathon was organised by the team who deliver the excellent Cardiff half every year and I could not resist something so close to home.

My preparations were patchy, with well-intentioned training plans competing for time with work, family life and the wintry weather.

I did manage a couple of halves – the Hampton Court half (where I got to meet Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) and the Taff Trail half – and there was a 20-miler too, but that was done at short notice at the end of a busy week and I was struggling by the end.

Overall, training was not ideal and I just wanted a steady start and to get round safely at Newport.

Deciding to get the train over from Cardiff worked well – while we were on our way, we started hearing talk of queues from friends at the park and ride, and as soon as we arrived, the tannoys were announcing the delayed start.

A little frustrating but understandable for a new event, and fair play to the organisers for being decisive and keeping everyone informed as much as possible.

It wasn’t warm, so there was a bit of huddling to be done as runners sought shelter in any buildings that had opened their doors, and supporters handed back the layers they had just been given to hold.

Then we were getting ready to go and it was great to be under way.

The cool weather was perfect for running and there was a good atmosphere among the crowds as we made our way over the bridge and away into the countryside.

I have heard some talk of the route being boring but it was through lots of country lanes and was exactly what I expected.

That said, the calm was definitely smashed at Magor with a fantastic reception in the town – top marks to all for the brilliant cheering on the loop there.

Back into the lanes, it was a matter of keeping steady as the halfway point passed and we started heading back towards the city.

I had set off a little quicker than I had meant and steadied myself a bit in the middle sections.

I was determined to be sensible and just keep going and had a few nice chats with some fellow runners as everyone motivated each other.

There were pockets of support and music (great to see Alice at 7 and 14 miles) and the New Balance DJ at mile 15 also deserves a mention too.

I was wearing my SU2C shirt that I had intended to wear in Birmingham so it was good to be giving that a run-out and the name on the chest definitely helped – everyone should have that to help the supporters cheer you on.

As well as great mile markers, the 25k mark was written on the road, and that was a good moment – it was just over 3 parkruns to go and those three manageable chunks helped me to break down those final miles.

As we came back into Newport, the crowds grew again and there was a bit where we went off to see the Transporter Bridge.

It was a doubleback section which are not universally popular but I always secretly enjoy – yes you can see runners who are ahead of you, but it’s a good distraction and you might spot a friendly face!

By this point it was all about just hanging on. I had been passed by the 4-hour pacer at 23 miles and I let him go without a fight.

I was not aiming for a time and did not have the energy to speed up to keep up so it was an exercise in just keeping moving for that final “parkrun” home.

Over the bridge again at 25 and into the excellent cheering funnel filled with whooping supporters which make you find that extra burst which you did not know was still in the legs.

Through the line, I picked up the excellent medal and got a hug from my dad.

We met up with Sarah who had been volunteering all morning and all headed to the train back to Cardiff where I ploughed though the superb array of snacks that Dad had sourced. A good morning all round.

My time of 4.02 was much better than I had envisaged which was really heartening, and I look forward to planning some more adventures for the coming months with that under the belt.

Well done to all runners, especially Heidi, Mark, James, Hutch, Sophie, Carys, Lisa and many more!

Thanks to all organisers and volunteers, and to the supporters and cheerers too (especially from the local clubs like Rachel B). Diolch yn fawr i pawb!

Inspiration – The Keville family

If you are about to tackle 10 marathons in 10 days, you need motivation – and that’s definitely not a problem for Mark and Harry Keville.

This father-and-son pair are taking on their multi-marathon challenge in August to raise awareness and funds for robbiesrally.

This charity was set up by Harry’s younger brother Robbie who was diagnosed with a brain tumour and passed away last February. He was just 10.

It was just over four years after the family had lost his mum Kate to cancer. I met the family last year, when they supported Stand Up To Cancer with this incredibly powerful film about their family’s experience

.

Along with daughter Lara, Mark and Harry have continued the work that Robbie started and, in June, Robbie’s Rehab was launched – a new NHS service to help families at Southampton Children’s Hospital where Robbie was treated.

Mark said: “During the last year of Robbie’s life, he decided to set up a charity and named it robbiesrally. As a family we have continued to develop the charity to help children adapt to normal life after completing their treatment.

“Last year, our challenges included Harry and I doing a 15-day kayak trip called robbiesrow, and Lara playing tennis for 24 hours in robbiesrackets, while other supporters have been running marathons, obstacle races and organising all sorts of events – it has been wonderful to see so many people get involved.”

Tough training

This year, Mark and Harry have plotted their 10-marathon route for robbiesregionrunaround all the hospitals that are linked with Southampton. I asked Mark what he thought was in store…

“It’s going to be hard – we are under no illusions about that! We start on August 19th with two half marathons  on the same day– one on Jersey and one on Guernsey – then we continue with nine full marathons in a row.

“Even day one is a challenge and training has been tough – we have both suffered injuries and blisters, and it’s been a matter of fitting in runs when we can.

“Harry has been in Exeter doing his finals at university so training has had to take second place to everything else, and I have been busy with the launch of the new Robbie’s Rehab service.

“We both ran the D-Day 44-miler in June along the Normandy beaches as preparation, but it has been massively different to what we did to train for the row. For that, we were able to build up as the challenge went on, but this is going to be hard from the start.

“I think the biggest risk is injury, and staying well fed and hydrated each day.

“With the plan to visit all the hospitals, it has made the logistics complicated to arrange, but we are really looking forward to having those targets each day.

“On each visit, we hope to visit the paediatric ward and meeting some staff and patients to say a few words about the charity and what we are doing, so that is going to remind us exactly why we are putting ourselves through it all.

“We will need to get there on time to stick to a schedule, but we certainly aren’t planning to break any sprinting records – we want to go sloooooowly to avoid undue injury and just make sure we get round.”

“The plan is to finish in Southampton on August 28th, which is Bank Holiday Monday, and if people want to join us for the run into Southampton, we are hoping it will be a free-for-all so that anyone at all can join in.”

To find out more and follow the challenge, visit robbiesrally on Facebook here and you can support their work by donating here.

 

Inspiration – running with Alice

In the course of my work, I am fortunate to speak to many incredible people who have faced cancer either personally or in their close family, and who wish to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.

Alice ran the Virgin London Marathon in 2015

Their willingness to help others and improve research in the future often sees them taking part in events such as Race For Life, 10k runs, obstacle courses, half-marathons, triathlons and either running or walking marathons (if you haven’t done one, please don’t underestimate how hard a walking marathon is, especially an overnight one).

Some of these amazing volunteers have also become very good friends, and I have trained and completed events with many of these special people.

They constantly inspire me and, in this Inspiration series, I wanted to pass on some running tips and experiences that they (and other people who may have faced adversity in other ways) have had, and how running has played its part.

To kick the series off…I would like to introduce my friend Alice.

ALICE

Alice was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2003 while she was pregnant with her daughter Macie, and then again in 2013 with Ewing’s sarcoma (which is very rare in adults). I asked her to explain why she runs.

Alice completed a Sport Relief mile just weeks after finishing months of chemotherapy

“Running is my time to de-stress and get outdoors. It’s also a chance to meet up with friends and it’s good for your state of mind too.

Whatever is going on at work or home, it is all forgotten when you get out of the door.

My main motivation is that there have been long periods where I just couldn’t run and I would moan about it.

So now, when it is difficult and I am struggling, I just think about the fact that I can. Even if it feels torturous, that thought alone makes me smile and think ‘I might be out in the pouring rain but I am here’.

It goes through my mind surprisingly often and not just on long runs either. And I also think about the fact that there are other people who haven’t survived who can’t be there and that stops me grumbling.

HIGHLIGHTS

One of my proudest moments was my first event after my treatment ended – a Sport Relief mile about a month after a year of chemotherapy had finished. It was a huge milestone and very emotional.

I ran with Macie and it felt amazing to be on a start line again, pinning on a race number after so long. It was my comeback and it was so important.

Alice is helping raise awareness for Stand Up To Cancer’s Celeb Chase Virtual Race this year

At that point, I had this idea about doing the London Marathon. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time but thought it was out of my league – then I decided to sign up and I just knew I would finish it somehow.

The big day was only a year after treatment too – I just went for it!

The atmosphere was incredible and I was doing it for CRUK so that meant a lot. The best bit was doing Tower Bridge – that is my memory of seeing it on TV and the sound of it in real life was incredible – I will never forget that noise.

All of it was hard going, but when I got to Big Ben, I knew I was nearly there.

I was still so relieved to get to the end – there were not too many crowds left in the finishing straight by that point, but there was a stand of CRUK cheerers who were still going, and then I was so delighted to see Macie and my partner John.

NO PRESSURE

My illness has definitely made me more resolute, and I think that shows in my running. I describe myself as slow but one tip I have learned not to try to compare myself to others or try to achieve what they do.

And if anyone is just starting to run, I would say to keep it small and don’t put pressure on. Sometimes just getting outside is the achievement and that is enough.

The first time I went out, I just got to my local park and back, and though I would never do that again. But I did.

Other people are great to motivate you too, and so is doing other activities that you enjoy too. They build up strength and can give you another reason to get fit too – you can do more stuff when you are a bit fitter.

I train as best I can but I never seem to have enough time to follow a plan properly and I usually have to fit in runs when I can and a few exercise classes too.

Overall, I do like a focus or an aim to get me going – even if it’s not an upcoming race, it might be trying to get my parkrun time down.

Obviously I would love to be a bit faster but, for me, it’s all about entering events and finishing them– it gives me such pride and I love my medals.

That said, I did check my Strava after a run recently and I had got an amazing number of PBs, which was great. Then I realised I had left it on when I drove home, so that was slightly disappointing – I thought those PBs were too good to be true!”

Click here for more information about SU2C’s Celeb Chase Virtual Race or here for more about #CRUKChallengers in the CRUK Sports team

Alice is also a CRUK media volunteer (more information here) and is a member of CRUK’s Involvement Network to help shape the charity’s work.

She is on Twitter at @aliceroythorne and Instagram at @royth

Running and fundraising – 10 things I have learnt

If you are doing an event to raise money for charity, you might be facing a fundraising target that feels as daunting as the race itself.

This might be for a Golden Bond place (around £2,000 for a coveted London marathon spot) or because you just want to raise as much money as possible for your cause.

A supermarket bucket collection is so easy that a child can do it.

Either way, it can be a lot to consider when you are also trying to put in the training miles too.

I have found it really motivating to see the training and the fundraising as two halves of the same challenge, with each giving momentum to the other.

When I am running, I try to use the time to think about plans for the next event, or people to contact/ideas to follow up as it is always good to keep thinking of new things.

If it’s your first event, you might get a great wave of support and donations from friends and family, but after that, charity/donation fatigue becomes a very real concern.

GET STARTED

It’s so awkward to just keep asking the same people for money and if you do more events regularly, people quickly realise that this is something you obviously like doing.

So if you can offer something in return for a donation, then it’s easier for everyone.

I am sure there are loads of great fundraising ideas out there (and please add yours in the comments below), but here are 10 thoughts which might help:

  1. Get an online page set up as soon as possible. If someone asks if you are fundraising, it can be really frustrating if you don’t have something to send it straightaway. On the page, you should explain why the cause is important to you too – the more people understand why you are doing it, the more they are likely to support you.
  2. Think about lots of ways you can fundraise. I find that little and often is good. Taking cakes to the office may only raise £20/25 a time, but if you do it a few times over a few months, it adds up and people will occasionally stick a tenner in the box. Also, cakes can be expensive to make, but you can approach local supermarkets to explain what you are doing and speak to the manager, they might be able to give you £20/£30 of ingredients – really handy to get a stock of flour/butter/sugar in.
  3. Sticking with the supermarkets, another great idea is to approach your local stores if you can come along with a fundraising bucket on a Saturday – for a few hours’ work, you can raise loads even if you are on your own (you may need a letter from the charity to do this). Last time I did this, I got one slot in the coming weeks, and another a few months later just before the event and it really helped.
  4. Start early – if you are thinking about doing an event next year, why not start with some smaller events now. Even if you are planning one big event like a gala dinner, it is great to have the ball rolling and the totaliser started to make you feel more positive. And the more friends you involve, the more people who might be able to help in other ways too (such as helping with your big/other events)
  5. For big events, there are ways of making things easier. My current event of choice is a curry/quiz night where you charge £20/25 for a night out at a local restaurant (charging £11 per head) then also doing a quiz at the end of the night. It’s a chance to see friends for a nice evening, you don’t get stressed about food and everyone enjoys competing to win a box of chocolates.
    All you have to do is write some questions, and you can add a raffle or a heads/tails game (everyone gives a £1 coin and keeps guessing heads/tails to try to match your coin until only one is left) to add a bit more too.
  6. Look at things you enjoy and keep it simple. If you bake cakes, organise a bake off competition or a coffee morning. If you play netball or five-a-side football, organise a tournament. I have done a few football tournaments – most centres have a charity event package already costed and you can opt to have referees etc. One quick word about tournaments – it can be hard to get teams to commit so if you can get them to pay a deposit, you can help prevent teams dropping out on the day.
  7. Keep asking for raffle prizes and don’t take it personally if people aren’t able to help. If you are out for a meal, why not ask the manager if they ever do vouchers as prizes – there is no harm in asking and you might get some nice surprises of really generous gifts. And what about unwanted/unused Christmas gifts too? If you are fundraising for a spring marathon, you might already have a good range of prizes suitable for your raffle/quiz night already sitting on your shelves.
  8. If there is a big sporting event at some point during your fundraising, a sweepstake is a quick and easy option too. Get in there early, make clear it’s for charity and charge £5 or £10 to enter. The prize doesn’t have to be much, and I have recently done a couple where I sent regular emails round to participants each time people got knocked out, mentioning each person by name in a poem so that they got a bit more out of it (when I say poem, it was along the lines of “Sweden got sent packing by Spain, so that saw Dave crash out of the game”)
  9. Spread the word. Your local paper might well be interested in your efforts- either in the run itself or your fundraising events. It can help get support, but it’s worth saying that an article, or even a frenzied social media campaign to get lots of retweets from celebrities to a sponsorship page is not always going to bring in money on its own – people will give if they feel a connection. And if you can give people other ways to help like attending an event, that might be more effective than a direct ask for money.
  10. Make a film. A few years ago, I decided I needed something to send out with fundraising links. Turns out it is a really good way to engage with people and led to some great donations and interactions. Here’s the one for Paris/London:

And here’s the one for Barcelona:

What fundraising tips do you have? Please get in touch below.

PS In case you are wondering, my current page is here. You may notice it is not prolific which is because I was worried about my first ultra and was nervous to talk about it beforehand.