The Last Post

Posted on: 08 May 2014

You've Come A Long Way ...

... I told myself. I looked out of the window as the train pulled out of Weymouth station. Radipole Park Drive – you ran along there; Radipole Lake – you ran along the side of that; Alexander footbridge – you ran over that; Spa Road bridge – you ran over there; Sainsburys and Morrison's – you raised nearly £1000 there; Dorchester Road – you ran up there; Littlemoor Road – you ran along there; The Ridgeway – you cycled over there; and then into the tunnel, into the unknown, and onwards to London. Yes - you've come a long way.

This was, to start with, TOTALLY ABOUT ME. I just wanted to exploit my new found pastime and new found fitness and tick off a bucket list item by running the London Marathon just once. But logic and the experience of others told me that the ballot was a bit of a long shot. And logically, aged fifty-five, time was not particularly on my side. Having entered the ballot, I was already overwhelmed with emails from the charities whose check-boxes I had ticked. I did some sums. What of the various communities I am part of? family; friends; neighbours; work; band; skittles; pub quiz; skiing; walking? Surely that would all add up? Band concert? A good sum if I could arrange that. Quiz Night? Been involved with that sort of thing before. Maybe I could even wipe the dust off the guitar and busk? But how much do the charities want? Varying minimum sums quoted, but £2000 is certainly a good ballpark figure. Surely you can make that? If the worst comes to the worst maybe you stick some in yourself. And hell, what happens if you fail completely? – lets google that one.


I had no particularly strong connection to any of the six (I think) charities that I had selected, but they were all compelling causes. But I did have a bit of a link with one. My (now estranged) wife Marion and younger daughter Anneliese had both volunteered in the local CLIC Sargent shop, and going back I did once parade around town wearing one of Marion's nighties, carrying a bucket and collecting from people as we ran and walked about five or so miles from one end of the beach to the other. On that particular occasion, I think our efforts lead to us being acclaimed as the day's star collectors, and I was awarded a very pink CLIC Sargent shirt in recognition. And to be able to provide support to children and young people with cancer and leukaemia. Not a bad aim. The plan started to evolve.


A phone call to CLIC Sargent suggested that maybe, if this was the way I wanted to proceed, it should be sooner rather than later. Come October they would be the last chance saloon and would be swamped with unsuccessful ballotees. And in any case, the earlier you start, the easier it should be. Sure I could take my chance with the other punters, but why not sort it out early? What had I to lose? (apart from the non-refundable £100 registration fee!). But this was a two way street – I knew what they had to offer me, but what had I to offer them? Would I be a risk? Would I just take the marathon place and run? Would I turn out to be one of those bad people I had googled about? I had to write a proposal! Crikey – this is harder than tendering for government jobs. "I believe that children are the future" my submission began. Corny or what? And a couple of days later my facebook status read "Hell, this is starting to get serious. CLIC Sargent appear to have accepted my kind offer to run the London marathon on their behalf". And so began the most intense ten months of my life to date.


My initial response was one of panic. I had £2000 to reach my target. I didn't want to be liable for that. Please may I be lucky enough to get a ballot place. Stuff the £100 registration fee. But the two pronged project commenced. The charity's advice suggested what a good idea a training blog would be, so I registered with realbuzz. But if it wasn't enough to have to raise the money, I also had the serious business to contend with of training to properly run twenty-six and a bit miles. This project soon started to occupy just about all my spare time. Then a eureka moment. I chanced across another charity fund-raiser who had his own web-site. What a good idea (I thought)? A sort of central place to concentrate all my efforts. A quick google; a suitable hosting company identified; the domain name duly purchased; and I set off on the straightforward task of (without any previous experience) creating a web-site from scratch. Great idea! As if you haven't already given yourself two mountains to climb, let's simultaneously take on a third!


A friend and former colleague always says "I love it when a plan comes together". To cut a long story long, let's not dwell on the intervening ten months too much. It was a roller-coaster ride, but come together it did, the running, the fund-raising, and ("powered by wordpress") So many people supported me, so generously, for which I am immensely grateful (and a particular mention to my two biggest supporters, my daughters Madeleine and Anneliese). And then my employer, Ultra Electronics, matched the first £1000 that I had raised. So, just for good measure, when it became clear that my original £2000 would easily be met, what could be more obvious than to heap more pressure on yourself by upping the target to £5000?


This is no "Steve Redgrave" moment. I state categorically that I would NEVER EVER dream of taking on a charity Golden Bond place again. BUT – I am SO GLAD that I did, and SO GLAD that I proved to be such a poor ballotee. And if anyone else asked me whether they should do the same thing my answer would an unqualified YES - GO FOR IT (and BTW let me know the address of your giving page).


What of the marathon then? It was, after all, just a (b£%%^y long) run. How can you compare the importance of this to, for instance, raising your children to be decent members of society? To put it into context, I thought of quoting Boris Becker, after an early loss at Wimbledon, "nobody died", but then, sadly, someone did. This was, for ten months, the most intense thing I've ever done, and surely therefore a highly significant life event. It was a most wonderful thing, which I was fortunate and privileged to have been able to do.


So by the end, I told myself, you were an emotional wreck, bursting into tears at the slightest opportunity – tears of sadness / tears of joy? – sometimes not sure which. You met inspirational people. You found out about other inspirational people (like Kris Hallenga and Stephen Sutton to name just two). You did all sorts of things. You sang at your concert (thanks to Anneliese for her beautiful harmonies there). You busked in town. You were in all the (local) papers. You were interviewed for Wessex FM. You were studio guest on Air 107.2 FM. You sang and played the guitar live on radio. On two separate occasions you removed your clothes to the tune of "the Stripper" in local churches! You bucket collected. You blogged. You facebooked. You texted. You tweeted. You emailed. You whatsapped. You youtubed. You maildropped. You put in the hours. You did the hard miles. You finished the marathon (fielding calls from the press virtually as you crossed the finishing line!). You RAN THE LONDON MARATHON.


And now the curtain comes down on Keith's Marathon Dream. I don't believe that fundamentally people change. At best, maybe they evolve. Maybe they move on. Sure you're proud of your achievement. Sure you feel better about yourself for having done it. Sure you feel a hell of a lot fitter. But are you a different person? Indeed are you a better person? - Unconditionally no! But are you someone that has discovered a hell of a lot about yourself this last ten months? And are you someone that has (at long last) started to understand just what can be achieved if you put your mind to it? Keith's Marathon Dream – the legacy. Thanks for reading. Thank You For The Days.


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