I ran the Stirling Marathon!

On the evening of Saturday the 20th of May I headed through to Stirling ahead of the inaugural Stirling Scottish Marathon on the 21st.  To say I was nervous about this event would be an understatement!  Having driven part of the route on the way down to Stirling the enormity of what I was going to be doing definitely hit me hard.  26.2 miles is a very long way!  It was the first time I had ever taken part in a marathon distance event.  Having completed a couple of half marathons and knowing how tough they were I knew that the marathon was going to be really hard, mentally as well as physically.

I was up at around 0630 as you had to catch park and ride buses to the start line at Blair Drummond Safari Park.  Thankfully there was a park and right next to the hotel that I had stayed in the night before which was nice and handy.  I caught the bus at around 0715 and the nerves and excitement were palpable.  I think it would be fair to say that the animals at Blair Drummond got a fairly loud wakening with the music on to hype everyone up.  There was a lot of really serious runners in the field but a good number of charity fundraisers which was good to see.

I was in the white wave so set of at 0910 form Blair Drummond.  We headed north through Doune and over the A9 before continuing through Dunblane and south towards Bridge of Allan.  I was happy with my progress and pace through the entire first half of the course.  We then headed around the University of Stirling  at past the half way mark of 13 miles before heading past the Wallace Monument.  It was around mile 15 I could feel myself slowing a little and I was struggling to fight the slight drop in pace.  At mile 18 my legs were in agony and keeping them moving had become a job in itself.

The last 8 miles I was for sure in quite a dark place and keeping going was extremely difficult.  But mum was there for support and it definitely helped each time that I passed her on the course.  It reminded me of what she had been through and that the suffering I was experiencing was merely temporary.  It paled in significance to what those fighting cancer must go through.  But I made it and eventually crossed the finish line!  I have never been so happy to see a finish line in all of my life!  The marathon was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done in a single day and is something that I will remember for a whole host of reasons.  IMG_1381

In this attempt to try and raise £1 million of Cancer Research UK the events were supposed to be hard because for me, dealing with cancer is far from easy and the Stirling Marathon definitely lived up to that!

Next up for me will be the NC500 in July and it is again going to be a tough 5 days.  But it is one of the events that I was most looking forward to.  I first heard of the NC500 a couple of years ago and it was something that I wanted to do.  At the time it was my intention to drive the route.  A couple colleague of mine cycled the route last year and that was what sparked the idea in my mind to follow suit.  By their accounts it was the best thing they had ever done on their bikes which has me really looking forward to doing it.  They did stress it was tough though, with some of the hardest climbs in the UK.  We are aiming to complete the circuit in 5 days cycling approximately 100 miles a day with some days being slightly longer and others being slightly shorter.  So the next month and a bit are going to be crucial on the bike building up the stamina for long back to back days.

On this Friday past (26th) I attended the 1st Carnoustie Company of the Boys Brigade display night.  I myself was a member of the 1st Carnoustie Company for 10 years, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant and receiving both the Presidents and Queens Badges.  I left the company 6 years ago however I still pop in from time to time and give talks about the fire service and safety for them.  A few years back I did a young firefighters course over a number of weeks with the boys from the company which went down well!

IMG_1398A few weeks back I received a call from one of the officers to say that they were going to donate the collection which is held on the evening to my fundraising efforts.  A fantastic sum of £227.85 was raised which I know will help fund the lifesaving research that Cancer Research UK are conducting each and every day.  It was great to be back to see a company display evening from the other side I guess and the place really hasn’t changed.  But I quite like that, because it just feels like he second home that it always was.  Joining the 1st Carnoustie BB was one of the best decisions that I have ever made and it was great to see 5 young men receiving their Queens Badges.  5 young men who were the recruits in the company section when I left 6 years ago.  Time seems to be moving extremely quickly these days and I really don’t know where the last 6 years have gone!

What is nice to know, is that the family of the 1st Carnoustie BB is just as strong as it I remember it to be.  They are continuing to teach the four habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline and Self-respect that I feel have allowed me to achieve the things that I have.  As a member of the 1st Carnoustie BB I did a lot of charity fundraising and I guess it is maybe the place where my interest in charitable work and helping others was garnered.

“Home is people.  Not a place.  If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more” – Robin Hobb

Your help in support of my challenges has been incredible and I really cannot thank you all enough.  It will take time to reach my goal but as each day goes by we are edging that little but closer to my goal and that little bit closer to beating cancer one and for all.

J.

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Trips to Swindon and Portsmouth and the upcoming Stirling Marathon

I spent 5 days in Swindon visiting family.  I was staying with my Great Aunt and Great Uncle and travelled about to see other members of my family living in the the south of England.  My Granddad  was the eldest of five and had four sisters.  Unfortunately two of them have passed, however Mary and Marian both stay in the south.  We have a rather large family but we try and stay in touch as much as we can.  Whilst Mary and Marian often visit us up in Scotland I hadn’t been down this way to see family for a few years.  I kept saying I was going to pop down but had never followed through with it!  A couple of weeks ago mum was on the phone to Marian and I mentioned about possibly coming down to visit.  5 minutes later my flights were booked and I am really glad that I popped down for the visit.

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Castle Combe 

Whilst I was down south we visited Castle Combe which formed part of the set of ‘Warhorse’.  There isn’t a great deal in Castle Combe but it is worth a visit if you are in that sort of area in the Cotswolds.

I just need to try and make sure that I come down over a weekend next time so that I can see some of the others who were working through the week.  I was kind of tight for time though with the exercise booked into my diary for the following week.  We took a visit down to see Mary and caught Andrew her son quickly whilst we were there.  Megan one of my cousins was there when I arrived – I don’t think I have seen Megan for a lot of years although I cant quite work out when it last was!

We took a trip to visit Sade (my cousin) at her new flat and then she came round for dinner in the evening.  Whilst I was looking forward to seeing everyone, I was looking forward to seeing Sade, for two reasons.  I reckon it was about 16 years ago that I last saw her, but secondly because Sade has been battling with Breast Cancer for the last year.  It was a pretty aggressive and rare cancer too which has made things pretty hard for her.  She has dealt with it brilliantly as far as I am concerned and is on the mend.  If you were ever needing a new strong female role model, Sade would fit the bill.  I’m guessing positivity is in the genes because there is a lot of parallels in the way that both her and mum dealt with their cancers.  With a positive outlook and an unwillingness to give in.

It was a good flight back from Bristol and Scotland didn’t half surprise me!  The weather was fantastic!  A short drive up the road from Edinburgh and I was home after a great week down in the south.  Normal duties resumed rather quickly chauffeuring dad into Dundee for a meal with one of his colleagues who is leaving to a new job.   A busy Saturday double checking all of my bags before heading back down to Southampton for the Exercise with the UKISAR team.  I have three bags for the ISAR team which are always packed in case of a job.  But given I was away to head off for an exercise I thought it was a good opportunity to open them all up and double check all of my kit.  It will all be repacked properly again once it is cleaned following the exercise.  Generally, the ISAR kit is really good stuff, the only downside is that there is a lot of it!  So it takes up a fair amount of space in the house.  However, whilst my sister is still living abroad her room has become my overflow storage area and my kit lives in there.

I am not going to lie.  The Stirling Marathon has got me a bit nervous…  It’s going to be the hardest few hours of my life I reckon and that is seriously daunting.  I know I just need to keep my legs moving, but it is still a monumentally long way to run and I really admire those who take it up as their sport of choice.  I am hopping to be able to raise some more money as I do it and reach out to new people who don’t know about the fundraising that I am doing.  I know that I am going to have a hard day when the 21st comes.  I know that I will make it to the end and I know that I am not trying to do it in a record time, but 26.2 miles is scary I can assure you.  I will be a glad when I am at the end.  I’ve said before however about the fact that dealing with cancer is not easy and seeing my cousin Sade reaffirmed that in my mind.  So when I hit the wall and I am starting to find it tough running around Stirling I intend to have that at the forefront of my mind.

The exercise with the ISAR team was a fantastic experience.  In the end we ended up helping run the exercise as directing staff which is something I wouldn’t normally do.  But it gave me a really good opportunity to see the exercise from a completely different perspective, one that I wouldn’t have seen had I been taking part in it.  It confirmed to me that being a member of the ISAR team is definitely for me.  Whilst I have been in the team for over a year now I hadn’t been away to a large exercise like this one and I hadn’t had the opportunity to experience the full team at work.  Who knows when the next deployment will come or if it ever does, but I am quite happy to say that I am part of team who can respond to any major disaster around the world.

ISAR runs a 24 hour operation so team is split in two, working shifts.  It meant that the directing staff were also working shifts and it meant that little sleep was had throughout the exercise.  When the team exercises it is kept as real as possible and all checks are carried out in the same way that they normally would.  Despite not being part of the ‘deploying team’ it gave me a better idea of how their systems work.

“Stay uncomfortable.  Comfort breeds complacency” – unknown

The Stirling Marathon is just a week away and it has come round incredibly quickly!  But if you have a few pounds to spare and would like to help me raise money for Cancer Research UK then just follow the link below!  It really is quick and easy!

Many thanks as always.

J.

A fortnightly blog

For those who have a keen eye and like a routine, you might have noticed that I didn’t write a post to my blog last week and it was the first time in almost 6 months that I hadn’t.  But I made the decision that I would start to post once every fortnight, for two main reasons.  Firstly, I am getting incredibly busy.  I wanted to make myself busier.  To set new goals and challenges and to make a positive difference to those who suffer from cancer.  I think I am doing that.  But with it I have made myself incredibly busy and almost everyday I am off there is something scheduled.  I am definitely not complaining about that because in a way that is what I really wanted.  But finding the time to write a blog post the last few weeks has been hard.  Secondly I don’t want this blog to become boring or repetitive.  It is an opportunity for me to convey to you the things that I am doing, the experiences I am having and how I view the world.  I want to keep it positive and current and I want it to be something that people take something from.  So I made the decision last week to turn to a post once every fortnight and I hope that will help me out with the two things I have just mentioned.

As I said, I am unbelievably busy.  Climbing my munros has taken a total backseat at the minute as my focus on running is becoming absolute.  The Stirling Marathon is next month and I know it is going to be one of the hardest physical things I have ever done in my life.  Getting the final few weeks prep done right is becoming more and more evident to me.  So for the next few weeks I will be doing a lot of running with a few easy bike rides in between just to spin the legs.

I am at the same time very conscious that the North Coast 500 will be upon me extremely quickly and that is probably going to top the marathon as the hardest physical thing I have ever done!  Most of the planning and booking for that is done now with a few more overnight stays needing to be finalised but that should be done this week.  We are looking into the possibility of getting a cycling kit made up with logos in order to bring attention to the challenge as we are doing it.  It will mean that I can help promote it as I am out on my bike prior to and following the event.  hopefully that helps raise awareness and get some more people on board with what I am trying to achieve.

This past week I have been looking along with a colleague of mine Steve, at getting some cycling kit made up for wearing whilst training and whilst taking on the NC500.  Hopefully it will help draw some attention to the challenge and spread the word a little further.  The email has been sent to the company and we have got a quote back for getting the kit made.  So once their graphic designer have transferred the designs and its all confirmed we should have some nice shiny kit coming our way!

A challenge in its self that in a way I never really quantified was all of the different challenges I have taken on and the different disciplines that are involved.   I can’t just prepare for the marathons and not do any cycling because my legs wouldn’t be able to pedal right on the bike.  Balancing the training I am doing whilst still preparing properly for each event is super difficult.  It would be much easier if I was just running or just cycling.  But I like a challenge and I guess I gave myself another one without realising.

Another injection was needed this week to make sure my vaccinations are all up to date for work.  That meant another dreaded trip to Aberdeen to get jabbed in the arm with a needle.  Aberdeen is a great city, but getting jabbed with a needle is pretty much my least favourite thing to do in the world!  But hey, I now need it for work and it means that I am good vaccine wise to travel anywhere in the world which is a good thing to know.  Work have a contract with ‘Charles Michies’ so we go to their travel clinic to be kept up to date.  It was a day out to Aberdeen so I guess there is a positive in there somewhere.  I’m getting better at the whole needle business though that’s for sure. A top tip: If you don’t like something, do it a lot!

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May is shaping up to be possibly the busiest month of the year for me so far.  I am flying on the 1st to Bristol to visit family who live in Swindon which is something I have been wanting to do for a while now and I am really looking forward to it.  I will be down there from the Monday to Friday flying back to Edinburgh on the 5th.  I will be home for the weekend and then on the 8th I will be travelling down to Hampshire for an exercise with the UKISAR team.  The exercise will last 3 days before we travel back up the road on the 12th.  I’ll then get a couple days break before I will be back in to work.

I have meetings with a couple different schools about the possibility of going to speak with their senior pupils about my challenge and all of the things that I am getting up to.  I really like sharing my experiences with people and allowing people to understand why I end up doing the things that I do.  I think it’s important to share knowledge and experience and essential that is passed onto the next generation of you adults who will so leave school in to the big bad world where they will have to find their feet.  I like to think that I take opportunities when they are given to me and that I work hard to make sure that I achieve them.  Too many people don’t take opportunities when they are given them and their lives could be incredibly different if they took a little more risk and really went for things.  At least that is my opinion and I think I might have said it before.

The next few weeks are certainly going to be busy.  But I am looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not cramming as much into my life as I should’ve done” – Stephen Sutton

 I hope you all have a great easter!

J.

My mum

This past weekend was Mothers Day.  I am sure that many of you celebrated Mothers Day in some shape or form and I think that it is important that you do.  But not just to celebrate the day but thank your mum for all that they do for you.  For me, it highlights the very fact that I could have been without my mum had it not been for our fantastic NHS and the amazing research that charities such as Cancer Research UK are carrying out.

I am the first to admit that I used to far too often take for granted the life that I had and the people that are around me.  In lots of ways I think it often takes a significant event, like cancer to wake you up and put your life back in perspective.  When mum first got cancer I was about one year into my job and in virtually every way, life was going rather smoothly.  I was achieving everything that I wanted to, I was travelling to different places and had the opportunity to spend some money on things that I really wanted.  As all of this was happening I think I began to neglect the fact that there were so many members of my family who were helping me achieve all of those things.  Who were supporting everything that I did and encouraging me to do more.  Ultimately, without their help and support I may never have achieved the things that I have.

IMG_0841When mum got ill it gave me a serious reality check, in a good way.  As much as her being ill really did suck, it made me appreciate what she does for me.  When I have an idea and pitch it to mum, I can often tell that she thinks I am a bit mad.  She fires a few questions at me and sounds my idea out.  But in the end, she will always support my ideas and the directions that I choose to take in life and that is a truly wonderful.

So many people don’t chase their dreams or follow through with their ideas purely because they don’t get the support and encouragement they need to give things a go.  People are far too scared about what others will think of them that they don’t press ahead with the things that they want to achieve most.  When I was 18 years old applying to the Fire Service my chances of being accepted were small, but mum supported my application all the way.  When I said that I was going to apply to the International Search and Rescue team she supported my application all the way and when I decided that I was going to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK, she supported me all the way.  Side note – I am pretty confident that she told me I was crazy on this one!  But despite thinking I was a little mad and slightly overambitious she backed my decision to take on this challenge.  I know that as time goes on I will come up with more ambitious and crazy ideas because I think that is just the way I am.  But I know for sure now that when I do, mum will back them all the way.

We shouldn’t only tell them once a year that they are special and that they are so integral to who we are.  But  we should celebrate our mums all the time.  Unfortunately for so many; I will confess to being guilty of it myself, we fail to realise what we have until it is taken or nearly taken from us.  We should never need that wake up call and I think that now that I have had mine I shouldn’t ever need another one again.

“It is not the situation, it is how I react to the situation that is important” – Stephen Sutton

Through all of the times that mum has been ill she has always been a voice of reason.  Calm and matter of fact.  I like that.  Because I always know where I stand and how she is thinking.  There is always a moment of realisation and contemplation about what lays ahead, but mum has taken both of her cancer diagnosis in an extremely admirable way.  She has set an incredible example of how to tackle one of lives least desirable illnesses.  That sort of news would have broken so many, but she stood steadfast and in a lot of ways, laughed in cancers face.  I have never seen anyone so amused at the sight of losing their hair.  She really is quite incredible.

It is now, after a number of years of ups and downs in mums health that I really understand what it means to have a mum who is supportive and caring.  I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am had it not been for mum over the years.  Thank you mum.  For everything.

I know that everyone thinks that their mum is the best…  But honestly, they’d have to be pretty special to be better than my mum.

My mum is the entire reason that I started this, the reason I made a pledge to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK so that others can have their mums just like I still have mine.

J.

I have never been so busy

Just when I think I am feeling better, my cold/chest infection returned.  This time it was definitely worse too.  I felt horrific while at the rugby this past Saturday.  I have taken every type of medicine I can think of and it doesn’t seem to want to shift.  Hopefully it will be gone soon, because it’s really starting to bug me!

Edinburgh on Saturday was great for the final 6 nations match of 2017 and in a way I’m a bit gutted that it is all over.  Scotland had a pretty good campaign in my eyes and the season pass that the Scottish Rugby Union offer is a brilliant idea.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys rugby and to those who aren’t sure.  It is well worth the money and a great way of securing some great entertainment at one of the best stadiums in the world.  Well it is in my opinion!

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A contact lens check was also needed this week to make sure I am not damaging my eyes with them and luckily I am not.  So I’ve got the all clear to wear them for another year which is good news because I don’t particularly like wearing glasses.  In fact when I first got glasses I never wore them for the first 6 months despite them massively improving my sight.  I have always been conscious of how things look and I guess I didn’t like how glasses looked for whatever reason.  The big problem for me is that I wear my contacts for extended periods of time and I have been using them for about 6 and half years now.  It’s important to give your eyes a break from them and a chance to breathe I guess, which means I have to wear my glasses from time to time if I want to prolong the time I can keep wearing contacts.  In all honesty laser eye surgery is a more appealing idea now although the downside is that it wears off in time. I’ll see, it’s a bit pricey for me just now but I’m thinking about having it done more than ever.   How did I just ramble on for so long about getting my eyes checked?

The weather seems to be on the up and that definitely helps get me out running and cycling.  As much as we have just entered spring I am already looking forward to summer and all of the things that I have happening then.  I can safely say this is going to be one of the busiest summers I have ever had!

I like being busy though and always having things to do.  It keeps me on my toes and keeps me thinking, something that I didn’t really do for a long time.  I am not in any way a morning person but I find getting up much easier if I have something planned for the day.  My diary just keeps getting fuller and fuller and it is exciting knowing there is so much coming up in the near future.  The one downside is that it makes planning things a lot harder because I have less time to fit things in.  But I am doing my best to make it work and fit in everything that I would like to do.

I really do hope that you feel these blogs are worthwhile and that you gain something each week from them.  This is my 22nd instalment in it and in a months time I will have been doing it for half a year which boggles my mind a bit!  Everything has happened so fast and I am super happy with how things are going.  I am in the process of getting details for all of the local county secondary schools so that I can make contact with them about doing a talk similar to the one that I did at Brechin High School a few weeks back.  Fingers crossed they are all happy to get on board and all give me some time to speak to their pupils about what I am doing.  I find speaking to people really enjoyable and I like being able to convey my thoughts on cancer, on fundraising and moving from education into work.  I know that I am still young but I feel that I had to mature very quickly once I left school and I have gained a lot of experience that others maybe don’t.  I think it is important to share those experiences and help the next generations and hopefully in a way inspire them to do good in this world.  Some of them will not be interested in what I have to say and I am fine with that.  But if just a couple take on board my positive message and are willing to back my fundraising and Cancer Research UK then I think it is definitely a worthwhile project.

Next week is busy again, I am back in Portlethen for training with the UKISAR team as well as a few days of planning for events during this summer.  I can see a few days of sitting behind my laptop trying to put the detail down for events like the North Coast 500.  My local Boys Brigade company (the company I used be a member of) have intimated that they would like to help me with my fundraising, probably in the form of a bike ride so I am looking forward to organising something with them.  I popped in to visit them last Friday and I can genuinely say in the 6 years since I left it really hasn’t changed a lot.  The staff are as keen as ever to help put on the best evenings and events for their members which is extremely good to see.  They helped me out immensely as I grew up and in a lot of ways taught me things that I now apply in my everyday life and at work.

I am certain now that growing up isn’t just about getting excellent grades.  They help of course but developing yourself into a well rounded individual is just as important in my eyes.  Life skills are just as important as A’s – trust me.

This week saw another horrific act of terrorism on the streets of London leading to the deaths of a number of people and the injury of many more.  On that day a police officer by the name of Keith Palmer was killed whilst he served the public.  In the emergency service community it hits a particular nerve in that everyday we go to work there is no guarantee that we will make it home.  There is no situation worse than losing a colleague in the line of duty.  My thoughts are with all those involved, but especially the family and colleagues of PC Keith Palmer.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” – Albert Einstein

Thank you as always for your continued support.

J.

I ran the Inverness Half Marathon!

img_0984.jpgWe are finally underway.  On Saturday I travelled to Inverness with two of my colleagues ahead of the half marathon on Sunday.  I am very happy to say that I made it to the end and managed to receive a medal to prove it! The journey up was nice and easy with no problems.  There is still definitely a number of people who take crazy risks on the A9 though despite the average speed cameras being in operation.  There was some unbelievable overtaking manoeuvres which I really couldn’t believe I was seeing.  But apart from some numpties on the road it was an uneventful journey up.  Massive thanks must go to Davie and Richard – two of my colleagues who ran the event with me and were a great support! Cheers guys!

Before the event began we had to register at the Inverness sports centre.  Registration couldn’t have been any easier and all credit must go to the organisers because everything really did run extremely smoothly. We had a while to wait between registering and the event beginning at 12.30 but that was certainly no ones fault.  I know for a fact that I set off far too quick and I really paid for that towards the end.  But it’s easy done at the start I think.  Everyone is desperate to get going and in all honesty, the vast amount of people taking part were club runners who were out to set the absolute best times possible.  For me, my time wasn’t the biggest deal in the world.  I don’t think it will be for many, if not all of the events that I take part in.  I am doing them to try and raise money for a fantastic charity and I want to enjoy myself as I do them.  Given how many events I have on the calendar currently and the likelihood that I will add more to them I think it is important that I do my best to enjoy them.  One thing I know for sure however, the Stirling Marathon is going to be a big test – as much mentally as it will be physically.

There was a great atmosphere around Inverness during the event and I think in some ways it helped me round the course.  There is always times where you have to dig deep and the fact there were so many out cheering the runners on was great to see.  My training runs are going to have to now get into some serious distances in the build up to the Stirling marathon.  Hopefully there is an event before then which I would be able to take part in.  If there is, I really want to get involved with it.

Following on from Inverness I was back in to work on Tuesday.  My body was without a doubt sore and a little stiff but it recovered fairly quickly.  Work was fairly standard this week with no real dramas.  We are now into the last month at work of our current shift system and it means that in around 4 weeks time a good portion of my shift will be moving on to a variety of different watches.  It will be a strange time for so many people to be moving about but I guess we have to embrace the change.  If you don’t you just get left behind.

On Saturday I am back through in Edinburgh for the final Scotland match of the RBS 6 nations and hopefully Scotland can make it 3 home wins from 3!  If I am being honest I would be pretty disappointed if they lost to Italy.  Italy are in the grand scheme of things a good international team, but Scotland really are the better side just now and should win the game in my opinion.

Everything seems to be happening at a million miles per hour just now and the days and weeks seem to be absolutely flying by.  Things are catching up with me super quick and I am having to really manage the time that I have to get everything done.  Its not impossible however and if I am smart about the way I manage things I am able to get everything done.

I had a meeting with Sarah, the local fundraising manager for Cancer Research UK and we spoke about the things I have been up to, the events I have committed to and how we are going to keep moving forward.  The meeting was really positive and Sarah is mega helpful with ideas and advice.    It helps having someone who is permanently involved in raising money who has he experience and understanding to make the most of events and opportunities to raise some cash.  Every charity needs a Sarah!  One thing that Sarah told me which I was unaware of previously is that Cancer Research UK only fund the very best research to ensure that every penny is being spent on research that will make a difference to the lives of people who suffer from cancer.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties” – Erich Seligmann Fromm

On reflection one of the most positive events that I have taken part in in the past few weeks was speaking to the senior pupils at Brechin High School.  The reaction from the talk has been very positive and reaching out to other schools is something I would like to focus on in the coming weeks.  I feel that Angus is a good place to begin and should the reaction be positive there then I will look further afield to Dundee and Perth and Kinross.  The more we speak and engage with people then the better chance we have of raising more money for this fantastic charity.  Plus I generally really like speaking to groups of people and I always maintain that you should do the things that you enjoy.

I will be sure to keep you up to date as we head towards the Stirling Marathon.  I think I am getting better with social media but I know that there is still room for improvement so I am going to keep trying to get better at it.

Thank you as always for all of the support especially in response to the Inverness Half Marathon.  We are finally truly underway and I am immensely happy about that.

J.

Time for the Inverness Half Marathon

Good news – I think I have managed to shake the worst of the cold/infection that I had.  I am back at the running and I am hopeful for a good day on Sunday at the Inverness Half Marathon.  I really just want to get going and run it now.  The build up to this event has lasted so long that the excitement to get going is now very real.

I will be travelling up on Saturday with my two colleagues who are going to be running the event with me.  We are staying in a guesthouse not too far from the start of the race and I am hoping that I can just dump the car there whilst we go and run the half marathon.  It has been a good number of years since I participated in an organised running event like this and I am slightly apprehensive about it in a way.  But ultimately I am looking forward to taking part and hopefully helping to raise some more money for Cancer Research UK.  Fundraising is slow at times however I know if we keep plugging away then we will hit the target and help fund more vital life-saving research.

I have heard some people talk about how much money is spent on cancer research and is it good value for money?  For me it most definitely is!  I have seen the benefits of research – it has saved a number of members of my family ultimately.  There are massive quantities of money invested into the research of cancer.  But what we must always remember is that research is expensive.  Developing and trialling new drugs is both expensive and takes significant amount of time to complete.  The research into cancer over the last 40 years has been quite incredible and survival rates have been doubled in that time.  I really want to help Cancer Research UK improve these survival rates even further.  It may be some time off – but one day we really will beat cancer.  The only thing that stands in our way is the funds to conduct the research and that is why I will continue to try and raise as much money as I physically can.

On Wednesday the 8th I was at Brechin High School giving a talk to the senior pupils about my fundraising.  I talked to them for about 15 minutes covering all of the the different parts to my ambitions and the various challenges that I have planned for this year.  They seemed to be fairly interested and listened to things I had to say which was really encouraging from my perspective.  There was certainly a eureka moment when they realised that Mr Smith their teacher was in fact my dad.  I also spoke about how cancer had effected my family and the very real understanding my family have of this disease.  To me, my ambitions to raise £1 million are also about positivity as I am sure I have said before.  This was really the key thing about my talk and that with a positive mind you can achieve any goal that you set for yourself.  Hopefully I will be able to start visiting more schools and groups to continue to spread my message and speak about my fundraising in order to take it to a wider audience.  That is the plan at least.

“Spread as much positivity as possible – that’s my goal” – Stephen Sutton

So a bag needs packed and the car could do with a little clean but otherwise I am all set to begin with my challenge for Cancer Research UK.  It does feel like it has been a long time coming in many ways.  But on the flip side the time has genuinely passed extremely quickly and I am sure the other events will be upon us before we know about it.  In a way I underestimated just how much time I would spend planning each of the events that I am taking part in.  It is easy to forget about the travel to and from the event, where you are going to stay and and all of the things that you need to take part.  I think my planning skills are improving a little though and it is making that job slightly easier than it once was.

It is my intention to try and take plenty photos of the trip up to Inverness and hopefully some following the event.  Thank you all for hanging with me over the last few months whilst I have looked into events and been organising for them.  But now the start is upon us and I hope to get back into my munros and out cycling again in the coming weeks.  The last few weeks I have focused solely on running with this event in mind and it will be good to get back into the other things that I enjoy.  I suppose it’s an extra part of the challenge that I hadn’t really considered – how you have to train for the different disciplines.  I know now that if I have been running constantly and jump back on my bike then it takes me a little while to adjust.  It sounds strange and I certainly don’t forget how to ride my bike during those periods.  But the muscles in my legs really know about it and they are pretty good at letting me know in turn!

The weather hasn’t been overly bad this past week but it certainly is not as good as it was in Madrid – if only I could go back!  I doubt Madrid will be on the cards again before this summer but wouldn’t it be great to be able to get away to some sun every few weeks.  Maybe I am asking for too much!

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Check back to find out how I get on in Inverness and I will be sure to post some pictures of the event.

Many thanks as always,

J.

 

Not what I need…

IMG_1272.pngThis week I was back to work after 12 days of annual leave.  The leave was welcome and my trip to Madrid really was great.  At the minute my next trip abroad will be to Kilimanjaro in September and that really does feel like a long way away.  But I am sure that it will come about a lot quicker in reality.  I swear that the days, weeks, months and years just seem to pass you by quicker and quicker as you get older and I don’t feel particularly old.  I am still on call with the ISAR team for a further 3 months and a trip away could come up anytime.  Albeit that sort of trip will not be for relaxation or leisure and would have very real and most likely quite drastic implications for the people of an effected country.

It is a strange position to be.  We train regularly for the worst case scenarios.  But to put our training into practice, someone, somewhere will be suffering.  As much as I like helping people you would not wish those kind of events on anyone.  There may be a lot of us humans here on this earth, but ultimately mother nature has the ability to be destructive beyond comprehension.  But I guess that is why there are international teams such as UKISAR to help pick up the pieces when it all goes south.

I am lucky that I have been in the profession that I aimed for since the age of 18.  I am thankful that things worked out the way they did and that I have the job and life that I do.  There are definitely a  lot of people out there who haven’t been anywhere near as lucky as I have been and we must all remember that when we are moaning about the most trivial things.  Life could be very different for every single one of us.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries” – James Michener

At this minute in time I do not feel particularly great.  What started out as a tickly cough seems to have gotten a bit worse over the past few days.  My back is now extremely sore and moving about is hurting a bit.  It feels a bit like a chest infection but I haven’t been to a doctor so I don’t know that for sure.  Not what I need with just over one week to the Inverness Half Marathon.  I am really hoping that I shift this before then.  I will be completing the half marathon one way or another.  I just really hope I don’t have what ever this is then.  That would be less than ideal.

It is really frustrating me.  I have been building up to this first event and the beginning of my challenges for what feels like ages now and this really wasn’t in the plan.  I am going to take a couple days of good rest and hopefully that sorts me out.  But what I am trying to remember, is that those who are fighting cancer have unexpected hurdles to cross all along the way.  Their journey towards being cancer free is never easy and I guess this is helping put that back in perspective for me.  In a month or two (I can’t remember the exact day) it will be a year since mum was diagnosed for the second time.  I can’t really believe that a year has passed already and so much has happened since then.

As always I still really need your help.  If I am to hit this target we really need to spread this message of positivity, of overcoming adversity and the ability to tackle massive challenges together.  I know for a fact that if we are able to get enough people on board then raising £1 million is quite simple really.  But getting the people on board is difficult and I would ask that you keep sharing the things I get up to.  I know that it may seem a bit repetitive and you may tire of hearing from me a bit.  But I can assure you that every time you help out on social media or mention what I am trying to do to people you are helping beat cancer.  The more awareness and discussion there is about this disease will only help towards putting an end to it once and for all.  £1 is all it takes to make a difference and I am extremely thankful to every single one of you who have made a donation towards the things that I am doing.

It is my intention over the coming weeks to look at other possible running events for this year.  When I first made the decision to try and raise this money, a lot of the running events for this year had not opened for registration and I signed up for those that I could.  It is my intention to try and get ones that work around my shifts and hopefully that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.  Google is mighty handy when it comes to trying to find different things to take part in.  The ‘Scottish running guide’ is a particularly handy website.  It lists all of the various events and the associated details which makes finding suitable events much easier.   I definitely want to get some other events in my diary though so this is going to become a priority.

This coming week I am going to be at Brechin High School giving a talk to the senior pupils about my fundraising and my motivation for doing it.  Hopefully it will give some of them the encouragement to help charities like Cancer Research UK out by fundraising for them.  I am sure I said right back at the start that this journey was as much about raising lots of money as well as spreading a positive message and this is hopefully the start of being able to take that to a wider audience.  If it goes well hopefully it’ll be the start of a series of sorts where I will be able to talk to larger groups about the things that I am getting up to.

“Everyone goes through adversity in life, but what matters is how you learn from it” – Lou Holtz

Thank you as always.

J.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

Me gusta Madrid

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What a week in Madrid.  If you haven’t been to this incredible city I couldn’t recommend it any more!  There is so much to do and so much to see.  I landed lucky with the weather which undoubtedly helped.  But Madrid is a very friendly place, the metro network is fantastic and getting about is super easy.  The food is fantastic and the sites are amazing.  In need of a city break at all?  Well Madrid should definitely be on your list.

I think it also helps that I was here with my sister who knew a lot of good places to visit and the good cafes and restaurants.  Although stepping away from the major tourist areas it isn’t too difficult to find them.  One of the best things and something you should try is a ‘bocadillo de calamares’; basically a squid baguette…  But it is far nicer than it sounds!

I have really taken to photography this week.  I have always taken photos but I really got into it this week.  Working in manual and setting up the camera properly is somewhat new to me but it definitely helps produce better photos; at least I think it does!  I am pretty picky with my images though and there are few which I genuinely really like.  I have captured hundreds of memories however and photography is incredible in that why.  I think I am going to pursue it further and maybe look into a course.  I would really like to get better at it and be able to take even better images and capture more of the moments that I am experiencing.

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In all honesty for a long time I never really used social media.  I had it but I never really used them and I have not long gotten back into the way of it.  In fact I am still really working it all out.  I tend not to always be thinking about posting or mentioning what I am doing.  But I like that.  I am not always fixated on posting to the internet and in a way there are so many people who run their lives by the internet and I don’t know how that can be healthy at all.  This blog is probably the most consistent thing that I upload online and I do enjoy it.

I do want to start a ‘vlog’ of sorts but I am still trying to work it all out.  It really is strange speaking to a camera when you have never done it before but as with everything, practice makes perfect.  I will keep working at it and hopefully in time I will be able to put out some videos about my challenge.  Just keep watching this space!  I really think it will be a good way of showcasing the challenge and the things that I am getting up to.  At the end of the day, the more people we can get the message to – the more money we can raise.

I have been looking through all of the documentation for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and in some ways, the documentation is as daunting as the mountain.  I  can understand why there is so much paperwork involved.  It does carry some risk in the form of ‘Acute Mountain Sickness’ and health and safety is clearly important.  It has given me more confidence that Jagged Globe are the people to do this trip with.  They seem to be incredibly well organised and that bodes well for the expedition.

Travelling is now one of the things which I most enjoy to do and I want to continue to do more of it.  I just have one gripe and and it is in reference to airports.  Well more specifically, people in airports.  There is one thing and one thing only which makes travel through an airport difficult.  If only people were organised!  Such a simple thing can make travel through an airport absolutely painless.  Yet, I would suggest in excess of 50% of people completely fail at this.  I guess it becomes easier the more you travel.  But it is possible to get your things ready whilst you are standing in a queue.  My one pet hate is people who stand in a  long queue and fail to prepare themselves for whatever lies at the end of said queue.  It just slows the whole process down and really does frustrate me.

Unfortunately, my annual leave is already pretty much over and I will be back to work in a couple of days.  The 6 Nations match between Scotland and Wales at BT Murrayfield is on Saturday and I am hopeful for another good game.  It will be a tough game for Scotland however, now that we are missing our captain Greig Laidlaw.  But it is a team sport and I would hope that they will still give Wales a good game.  Scotland have certainly improved and I hope that they are able to continue with the good performances that they have shown they are capable of in recent games.  Time will tell though and we will see what the squad is really made of.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

It would be incredibly easy for me to give up.  Giving up is always easy.  But there is one thing that scares me, which means I can’t ever give up; failure.  I hate failing.  I always have done and I am pretty sure that I always will.  Being scared of failure influences everything I do really.  Nothing is worse for me than when I don’t succeed at something I try.  It applies to everything and I see it in the same way that people with OCD must obtain perfection.  Except I just like being good at things.  I am sure that everyone likes to be good at things, but it really does frustrate me when I am not.

I have no idea where it all came from.  But it is something which now has a real and genuine influence on the way in which I approach everyday tasks.  It makes me fearful at times and sometimes stops me from trying new things.  I am trying to rein it in a little however, especially now as I try and raise this money.  I need to do more and try more, it is something which excited me about the prospect of this challenge.  Having said that, ultimately only time will tell.

I just need to try; just one more time.

J.

Family is always most important

IMG_0342.pngIt has been another productive week!  I must admit I am enjoying the challenge of constantly having things to do and people to go and see.  To put it in context, this time a year ago, when I wasn’t working I wasn’t doing anything really.  It wasn’t good for me in any way and by setting this goal of trying to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK I have found a renewed purpose in a lot of ways.  It sounds strange but I had gotten to the point of work being the highlight of the week because it gave me something to do.  Whilst I still enjoy work on the whole, I now have other things to do out with it and it has meant I have a far better work/life balance in my mind.

As this post goes live I will have just arrived in Madrid to visit my sister for the week who is studying there as part of her degree.  It’ll hopefully be a fairly cheap trip away with the only real expense being the travel there and if I want to do things.  But at the end of the day family is always the most important thing to me.  It is something that I have come to realise in these last few years as mum and others have fought through less than perfect situations.  When you have watched them struggle through these times and come out the other side fighting and remaining positive it  really does give you a whole new perspective on life.  Far too often, we fail appreciate what we have and how easy it can be lost.  Your family are precious and I’d ask you to never forget that.

With the job that I have, I am privy to the fact that the lives of ordinary people can be thrown into turmoil at anytime of any day of the week.  I hold a position where I see people in their darkest hours fighting some of the most difficult sets of circumstances that anyone can face.  But ultimately it is family and a belief that things will get better which sees them through.  I like to find a positive in every situation, regardless of how small it may be.  At the end of the day, a positive is a positive and that allows me to have hope.  Positivity and hope will help you through any bad situation; I can guarantee that.

So, as much as I am getting a cheap holiday to Madrid, ultimately it is really to visit my sister who I haven’t seen for around a month.  I am not entirely sure when I will see her next after I come home to be honest.  She has become a bid of a nomad in recent years and is always on the move.  If I could speak different languages and spend lots of my time abroad in the sun then I probably would as well!  It will be a good week in Madrid I am sure, despite the fact that it looks likely that the weather won’t be all that great whilst I am there.  Although that will mean that I can go running without a guarantee of being tortured by the sun.  We can’t have everything in life though I suppose.

The ‘Evening Telegraph’ ran the story that we did with Cancer Research UK this week and it seems to have had a pretty positive response which me and mum are both extremely thankful for.  If you are new to my page, this blog and what I am trying to achieve – welcome!  It is good to know that  the publicity has helped to bring people on board and we can share our story a little bit further.  My thinking is that if a million people can donate £1 then raising £1 million is actually quite easy!  At least that is how I like to think about it!

I’m feeling good about how my running is progressing.  I am by no mean the fastest runner out there, but I am building up the distance and for me that is a really positive step.  For me, exercise is 20% about what your body feels like it is capable of and 80% about how mentally tough you are.  If your mind stays strong you can achieve far more than you maybe feel like you can.  Over the last year in a lot of ways I let my fitness slip and its something that has genuinely frustrated me.  My fitness certainly wasn’t where it once was.  But, taking on all of these challenges is helping me get back to where I was and hopefully go well beyond that.  That is certainly a goal of mine.  I want to finish this year significantly fitter than how I started it.  But I think that is more than achievable if I stick to all of the various challenges I have organised for this year.  They are forcing me to get out and do exercise where in recent times I would have maybe avoided a training session and become somewhat lazy.  But I have identified a problem and I am working to fix it.  Improving your fitness takes time however and I have to be patient.  If I keep plugging away then I am sure I will get back to where I was!

I had a really positive meeting this week about the possibility of getting to speak to some school assemblies about what I am doing and the mindset that I have for achieving my goals.  I think it is a really good opportunity to spread the word and help get more people on board with this fundraising.  The more people we speak to and spread this message of positivity, the greater our chances of hitting the target are.  I still don’t doubt for one minute however that we will not hit the mark.  I know we will.  Lots of little actions can combine to effect real change in this world.  Donating £1, clicking that like and share button. It’s all it takes to make a difference.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” – C.S Lewis

Thank you all as always.

J.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1