So, where to begin?
Well probably the beginning is as good a place as any…..
To be told you have a terminal disease is hard. It tests your mental toughness to the very core. It hangs over you every minute of every day and I can understand that many will collapse under the enormity of it all. Others will get very angry and shout at the moon (god knows I’ve wanted to many times). Some will hide themselves away fearful of confrontation, fearful of the pity in the voices and eyes of others, not knowing what to say to friends, families and acquaintances, in many ways shielding those same people from awkward and painful interactions.
I’m in the group that meets it head on. Accept the inevitable (hey – shit happens) and move on, I can’t change the situation so no point in dwelling on it – time’s now a precious commodity, so I can’t be frittering mine away on chasing an impossible dream.
Make it count and make a difference would be my mantra. I don’t mean make a difference in a earth shattering way by discovering the new penicillin but to make my mark in my little world in my own little way. Do some stuff that really matters in my world, that I and those around me can be proud of and so it began……..
As I sit here now unable to walk I wonder if it might have been better to shout at the moon – hell no. I wouldn’t have traded the last few days for anything. I have witnessed and been part of the very best that the human race can offer both physically and emotionally. You had to be there to appreciate it, my words will never be enough to convey the effort that was expended on behalf of others by Team SSIJ.
One example; how many people do you know that could run 74 miles in two and half days and then because time was slipping away run a half marathon in 2 and a quarter hours (oh yeah – cross country over the biggest hills the South of England hold, did I mention that bit?) to get us back on track? Without a doubt the most inspiring feat of physical effort I have ever had the privilege to witness and trust me, it was a privilege.
Let me try and put all of this into some sort of context. We have just run 100 miles in three days across the harshest terrain the South of the UK has to offer. It happened during two days of blistering heat and a third of driving rain (who will ever forget leaving Bo Peep car park?). Every five miles or so there was a support crew ready to feed, water and mend us. It probably couldn’t have been much better (OK the Scottish bloke aside) so it’s a good job we used professionals all round.
That’s right we weren’t professionals at all in fact, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, we were rank amateurs. At best only a couple of the runners had run a marathon before but the majority had no running experience at all, other than school cross country and the support crew were made up of friends and families who had no specialist qualifications over and above the ability to drive, cook and carry. That is other than Luke, who despite the pressures of time and suffering monumental hay fever kept us taped, bandaged and massaged to the finish line – of course in keeping with the whole challenge, he too had never done anything approaching this before (thanks for telling us now I hear you all shout!!).
I ask you then what the word professional actually means, ‘cos if you tell me you can find me a better set of qualified individuals I just won’t believe it. As one we believed in the greater good and that is an unshakable characteristic in a team and worth more than any piece of paper pertaining to be a certificate of competence. Upon reflection I’ll change my mind (it’s my prerogative OK?), we weren’t rank amateurs at all, we were the epitome of consummate professionalism – nobody could have done a better job.
Want another story of ridiculous unselfishness – well you’re going to get one whether you like it or not.
Mid way through the second stage of the second day my knee gave out. I don’t mean it became painful, it actually stopped working. My wonderful little Amy stuck with me as we walked about three miles at snail’s pace to the check point where everyone else had waited. It became obvious very quickly that I wouldn’t be able to carry on without a lot of work, so Geoff who had come along as general fetcher and carrier volunteered to run my miles so the team could continue. Brilliant.
But there’s more.
With no training he set off and ran 50 odd miles……in his boating shoes. Yes you read that right his boating shoes and even when I got back on he continued to the end (he was in speed kings by then but that’s a completely different story). He’ll tell you it was nothing compared to the other runners because he’s like that, but how many people do you know that would, or could for that matter, run 50 miles cross country in 1 ½ days wearing boating shoes? We tried to talk him out of it but he just wasn’t prepared to let anyone down. Phenomenal effort Geoffrey and Labi Siffre right back at you.
I’m sure everyone has their own personal low. Mine? Old Winchester Hill on day one. As we came out of a set of woods you could see this mound on top of a very big hill.
“Let’s just hope we’re not going up that big boy” I muttered to Amy, fully knowing inside that we were bound to be.
However the path, though ridiculously steep, snaked away from Old Winny. Inwardly I cheered loudly. Then slowly it weaved back towards this giant of a hill, but wait, we’re going away again. And so it continued for a while until we duly arrived at the foot of the mound on top of the hill and even then it flirted with me, teased my very being by sending us right along it’s base but then as we rounded the corner to follow the base eastwards Amy spied it…………….the South Downs Way Signpost from hell pointing directly to the top.
Man it was steep, so f**!ing steep. Mental torture at it’s best. Still as Amy said cheerfully when we got to the top “That’s that one out of the way and we don’t have to do it again”. Thanks Ames.
But the lows weren’t many and even if they were nobody complained, nobody argued they just got on and did their bit. Amazing really when you consider that all 19 of us were living in each others pockets for 3 days under the most extreme pressure that most of us had ever experienced. When someone was having a ‘moment’ others rallied around and pulled them through knowing that they’d be having a ‘moment’ of their own around the corner and somebody would rescue them. True comradeship.
I could go on and on but won’t so here’s a few I’ll just throw out there.
Who knew that petite Jade would have such an inner core of steel, actually I’ll correct that, titanium?
Who’d have thought having seen Sarah’s leg at the end of day two that she’d walk again let alone get up the next day and power through to Eastbourne?
Nobody would have thought that a pair of speed kings from Asda could keep 11 people so amused for such a long time. Praise be to George.
I would never have guessed after stage one that we’d get to love Jon’s horn.
Snaggletooth? We all know what they are now, especially Joe.
So much banter I couldn’t begin to list it out. Anyone out there got a quote of the trip?
So that’s it then. Done and dusted. Job done.100 miles in 3 days across the South Downs.
I can’t possibly write down how thankful I am to the other 18 that helped me do this. Everyone was phenomenal and underlined my belief that basically human beings are good. Never believe otherwise, the idiots are a headline grabbing minority. For the support team to give up their time and place the needs of the runners way ahead of their own and for those runners to put themselves through the physical and mental demand this challenge called for, on behalf of others, is the most unselfish of acts. Feel proud of what we achieved. Each and every one of you that was there deserves the tag, Legend.
I called and you all came and I couldn’t feel more pride than I do now. Tomorrow it will be gone from most people’s minds but not ours. We were there and shared an experience that will stay with us for the reminder of our lives and I, for one, couldn’t think of a finer group of people to have that memory of and with.
So, back to my mantra; Make it count and make a difference. Did I manage that? In my world I think so, or least hope so.
If you weren’t there but donated thank you as well and if you want to donate you still can do, just hit that button and you too can do your bit to help me help others like me.
Keep on keeping on people.
The end…………..or is it?