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.

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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

Back to work

This week I went back to work after 12 days off.  I must admit that the first day back after being on annual leave is always difficult to get up for.  It generally means getting up at 0630 ish and I am not by any means a morning person.  I don’t think I really ever have been and I reckon it usually takes me a good hour to wake up properly.  It’s especially hard when the sun doesn’t rise until later which only compounds my problem of getting out of bed!

Winter is a season that I do generally enjoy however and in the past year I tried to make an effort to try and learn how to ski.  Whilst I am still very much a beginner I can actually turn and stop which for me is quite an achievement.  Skiing is something that I would like to get better at and I would like to get back out on the slopes sometime soon this winter.  I took lessons at the Snowfactor at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow which seemed reasonably priced and it gives you the chance to learn indoors on real snow.  I took the 4 hour fast track lesson which covers most of the basics and by the end of the 4 hours we were introduced to the main slope.  I definitely need a lot more practice if I am going to improve at all so a trip to one of the Scottish ski resorts or back to Snowfactor has to be worked into the coming weeks and months!  I am keen to go ice climbing again too.  I went ice climbing in Kinlochleven (a town near Glen Coe) a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it.  I suppose its a somewhat strange sport to get into but the centre in Kinlochleven  is fantastic and there is also an ice wall at Snowfactor.  They are fairly accessible and I didn’t think that it was overly expensive!  Anyway, I have gotten sidetracked!

Having spent some more time looking at the North Coast 500 route I think I may make a trip up north at some point before the actual trip to get some scouting in on the roads.  I am really keen to get up there and cycle the pass over to Applecross which will be without a doubt one of the hardest climbs I have ever tackled on my bike.  Given that during the North Coast 500 I will be taking on that climb after around 100KM on the bike I reckon it is probably sensible to head up do some training on the roads on that area and take on the climb itself.  I think that will allow me to judge where my fitness is at and allow me to make any adjustments in my training plan that I need to.  My preparation for all of my different challenges is going to be really important especially the ability to recover quickly and tackle multiple long days of exertion.  The date for the North Coast 500 isn’t definite but I am aiming to ride it around the 8th of July.  My holidays for April and beyond should be released by the end of this month or early February at the latest and as soon as I have them I will be confirming everything in my diary.  I am really looking forward to being able to firm everything up and share it all with you.  It feels like a while since I decided to start this challenge and I told you all that I was just waiting on my holidays!  Unfortunately I am still waiting but it shouldn’t be too much longer now!  As the saying goes – ‘Good things come to those who wait’.  I really hope that this is true!

I am sure that you can all sympathise with the back to work blues and I do definitely experience them if I am honest.  But on the flip side, I am lucky to have a job that on the whole I enjoy and which has given me a number of fantastic opportunities.  They have been incredibly supportive from the minute that I told them about my plans and I am always extremely thankful for that!  This coming Saturday I am going to be doing a bit of work with Cancer Research UK as part of a press release for World Cancer Day on the 4th of February.  The day is billed as a ‘photoshoot’ but I just keep telling myself it’s for a few photos!  If you have ever met me you will know that I am by no means a model!  But I am keen to be involved and if it helps promote World Cancer Day and gets some more people on board and willing to support my challenge then I am all for it.

With World Cancer Day now fast approaching I would ask that you help support Cancer Research UK in one incredible ‘Act of Unity’ by purchasing and wearing a ‘Unity Band’ in support of those who have suffered and those are currently suffering from cancer.  The recommended donation is £2 albeit you can donate more if you would like (The pictures below shows what they look like!).    The more people get on board and help discuss cancer and it the need for continuing research and funding will hopefully bring forward that the day that we make all cancers curable.

Taking on the 3 peaks challenge is also going to form part of my summer.  Planning is in its very earliest stages but it is something that I definitely want to complete.  I think I might be able to convince some others to come along with me so we will maybe have a small team to attempt this challenge.  I reckon summer is the best time to go for it though using the longer days and nicer weather to our advantage.  Saying that, there is every chance that it could rain through an entire attempt during the summer, we’ll just have to take it as it comes.

Have a look out for the press release in the coming week with Cancer Research UK, hopefully it will help boost the reach of my challenge and help raise more vital money for this charity.

“Where there is unity there is always victory” – Publius Syrus

J.

Creating memories

phone-photos-762There are so many opportunities to create memories as we go about our everyday lives.  I have a huge number of fantastic memories from when I was growing up and I had the chance to travel to some amazing places and meet some incredible people.  What I have discovered recently is that I am terrible at documenting these adventures that I have embarked on.  As much as I can remember the experiences I have had, I don’t have photos or videos of these times.  I think I mentioned it in a previous blog post but as I start to get my challenges underway it is something that I really want to make an effort to do.  This is an amazing journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK and I really want to be able to look back at it and remember it all.

With the Inverness Half Marathon not too far off now I am looking to start making a vlog.  If you have never heard of a vlog it is short for ‘videoblog’.  I know that I write this blog once a week and there are a number of people who read it, but I know that not everyone enjoys reading and also that a picture can paint a thousand words.  So in making a vlog I will be able to physically take you along on this journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  It’s something that I have been putting some thought into for a while now and something that I am really keen to try and suss out.  I have absolutely no background in film or media and to produce a vlog will be a completely new challenge for me.  However, I think I have taken a lot on now so I probably need to stop giving myself new challenges for a little while and work towards the ones that I currently have set!  A vlog will give you far more insight into who I am, the things I get up to and allow you to follow my challenge in much more depth.

I am quite happy with how my blog is progressing though.  For someone who failed his higher english at the first attempt and scraped a C the second time round I am pretty pleased with the amount of content that I have been able to make.  I hope that you are enjoying reading it and understand how I am thinking about this whole thing.  English was never a great subject for me; I was always far better at physics and music – a strange combination I know!

I have received an invitation to attend an interactive day at Cancer Research UKs Beatson institute in Bearsden, Glasgow in April and I am already looking forward to it.  The day will give me the opportunity to see the impact of fundraising on research and meet others who are supporting Cancer Research UK with fundraising.

I am generally a quiet person and I just keep myself to myself.  This challenge is forcing me to get out and about, to speak to lots of different people and engage with people in a way that I don’t think I have ever done before.  I enjoy giving talks to large groups of people and trying to pass on advice and share my experiences with others.  I am lucky that I get to do this through my work.  This is something I would like to start doing more with my challenges in mind as a way of speaking about the things that me and my family have been through, how we dealt with them and why I am trying to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  If there is a group that you think would like to hear about my challenges and how I approach my day to day life then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, while I am generally a quiet person I really enjoy speaking to people about my challenge and the things that I am getting up to.

With the weather here in Scotland now heading into deep winter I have set up one of my road bikes on my turbo trainer (a device that allows you to cycle on your bike while staying stationary) so that I can maintain my training on the bike whilst the weather is at its worst.  I always prefer to take the bike out on the open road, but from experience, cycling when the weather is really bad just isn’t worth it.  You end up spending the entire ride worrying about the bike going from underneath you on ice and when you are clipped into the pedals that never ends well!  With so much planned for this year the last thing I want is to get injured while training.

You may have noticed that I slightly rebranded my blog and have began using a logo that I designed in order to give my challenge a bit of identity.  It’s fairly simple but took me forever to make!  I am not particularly savvy at design – I’d love to be able to draw but I guess you can either be good at music or art, and I was good at music… At least that is what I am going to put it down to!  I hope you like it and as always if you have any suggestions of things to do or ways to improve it don’t hesitate to get in touch – positive criticism is always welcome.

This blog is helping me create memories though.  I have never kept any sort of diary before and while this doesn’t document every day of my life I think it captures the things that I am thinking from week to week and will be good to look back upon further down the line.  Whilst I think there are lots of opportunities for me to get better at documenting my memories, I think this is a pretty good start and I really hope that you all enjoy it and take a little something from the words that I write each and every week.  The support I have had has been nothing short of amazing and everyone who I meet has so many kind words to say.  I truly can’t thank you all enough for all that you have done to help me so far!

I think this entire experience is going to be one amazing memory!

“Ambition is the path to success.  Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in” – Bill Bradley

J.

My ambitions. My ideas.

In order to raise £1 million I am going to have to diversify my activities.  Running one half marathon won’t get me there I don’t think.  Nor will running a couple.  I need to take on every possible opportunity that I get and learn how to promote them successfully.  That means giving myself more work, but I kind of accepted that when I started this whole thing anyway.

I’ve had so many ideas of different events to take part in and to run.  One of them which is quite high up on my list of which will require a lot of organising is a charity ceilidh/auction night.  Ultimately it has to make sense financially, I don’t see any point pouring vast amounts of time into organising an event like this unless it is going to raise a significant amount of money for charity.  It will only raise a fraction of the total amount however every little helps!  I think it would be good way of bringing people together who have been affected by cancer, to celebrate what they have achieved and have a good old laugh.  For anyone who isn’t Scottish, a ‘Ceilidh’ is a traditional gathering where people join together in song and dance in order to have fun and make a fool out of themselves, at least that is how it was described to me!  If it happens you should come, they are always great fun and everyone usually has a great time!  I’ll keep you posted!

Another idea of mine that I am working towards is starting to make videos that document this journey.  I know that I have started this blog, but I understand that not everyone enjoys reading.  I also believe that a picture paints a thousand words and using video will allow me to physically show you all what I have been up to.  Over the past year I have begun watching YouTube more and more, to the point where I often watch YouTube over regular TV.  There are some amazing creators on YouTube who produce work that is as good, if not better than TV.  I am by no means saying that my videos will be able to compare to some of these creators, but I hope to bring you all along and help share this whole experience more.

I am finding that this whole blog and charity work pretty fun so far!  It has been a lot of work, trying to get things started, to speak to people about what I’m trying to do and why.  I’ve come to realise that when you tell someone that you are trying to raise £1 million for charity they will be slightly surprised.  I suppose it’s not the average target to set.  Although if everyone was the same the world would be a pretty boring place I think!  People often take a bit of convincing, but I think I am being fairly successful at encouraging people we will get there.  We are still quite small at the minute and there is a huge amount of work still to do, but I have faith and there is plenty positivity in me still!

Christmas will soon be upon us and the New Year hotly on its heels.  I think that once the 1st of January arrives that I will feel that we are on our way.  I’ve been working on this for a couple of months now and I think it looks like we haven’t made much progress.  What I am trying to remind people however is that I could never expect to raise this money overnight, it’s a long-term goal and one that will take time to achieve.  Stick with me and we’ll smash the target, I’m sure of it!

My sister is home in a couple of weeks for the first time since August which I am quite looking forward to.  She is studying for a Masters in Interpreting and Translation in French and Spanish and has spent this semester in Lyon, France.  I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and visit Lyon unfortunately which is something that I did want to do.  Maybe in the future, it’s another place to add to my long list of places that I would like to visit.  She’ll be home a few days before Christmas and will be home until mid January I think before she moves to Madrid, Spain for her second semester.  The life of a university student!  I definitely want to visit Madrid though and I have a block of annual leave in February so hopefully I will get some free digs for a week.

Unfortunately, my annual leave for April onwards won’t be released until January at the earliest and at the minute I haven’t booked my Kilimanjaro trip or put my John O’Groats to Lands End cycle firmly in the diary (these being the two biggest undertakings).  There is a trip to Kilimanjaro that I have my eyes on and I am tempted to book it and take a gamble.  Worst case scenario is that I have to try and move my annual leave or swap my shifts with colleagues which can be done, it’s just an extra thing to think about!  I think I am going to have to make a decision soon however, places are limited and I want to ensure that I definitely get to go and climb this mountain.  In terms of travel vaccines I am lucky that through my work with the International Search and Rescue team I am vaccinated to travel pretty much anywhere in the world.  Although I am due a couple of boosters which I will have to get sorted out soon!  Needles are my arch nemesis, but sometimes you’ve got to do things you hate in order to have the experiences that you want most.

I will let you know as soon as the dates are firm and the trips are organised!

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour” – Elon Musk

If you haven’t already, please donate today.  Just follow the link:

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

J.

What drives me?

I have spoken regularly in my previous blogs about having dreams, about not taking life for granted and about why I am doing this whole thing in the first place.

So in this piece I have decided to discuss what drives me.  What makes me tick?

A huge part of the motivation that I have had to do things and achieve stems purely from being successful and wanting to give something back.  Being told that you have done something well or winning a competition is an addictive feeling, at least it definitely is for me.  I have said before that I am an extremely competitive person, that is something which I will openly admit.  But I think being competitive is an important attribute to develop.  It gives you a determination to learn and hone skills and it encourages a will to succeed.  For me competition brings excitement as well as making me slightly nervous.  Why nervous?  I simply hate losing.  I think I am a good loser, but I still hate it.

I used to play the tuba in a number of successful different bands.  One of the most successful bands I played in was the Carnoustie and District Youth Brass Band or CDYBB.  CDYBB was made up of brass and percussion players from Carnoustie and the surrounding area.  From its formation the band was highly successful and won 1st place in the Scottish Youth Championships in its first outing.  The band went from strength to strength and quickly became regarded as one of the finest youth brass bands in Scotland.  We regularly gained first place in competitions and winning almost became the norm.  We were extremely well drilled and the attention to detail was very high.  I remember we travelled to Manchester to compete for the first time in the British Youth Brass Band Championships which were held at the Royal Northern College of Music.  The band went to Manchester undefeated from its inception and optimism was high for a good result.  In the end we placed fourth in our first British Championships.  Immediately after the result I was gutted.  We had only placed fourth!  It wasn’t until someone put it in perspective that I realised it really was a fantastic result.  It was our first ever time competing against the best bands in the UK and placing fourth out of a large field was actually far better than we should have ever expected.  We returned to Manchester year on year and in 2010 won the most prestigious section the ‘premier section’ and became the best youth brass band in the UK.  For me there is no greater feeling at the end of months of long, tedious and stressful practices than to pull of a near perfect performance and come away with a win.

I reckon I tasted success with the band more than in any other area of my life, but then again, it probably occupied the largest amount of my time!  Honestly, it proved that practice makes perfect!

But what drives me now?  Well for one I have a job that I enjoy, that gives me satisfaction and earns me some money.  Some people find it hard to comprehend but I genuinely enjoy going into work and seeing what the day will bring.  We all know each other pretty well and probably better than the average colleagues do.  But that’s part of why I like it and why I enjoy going into work.  It gives me the opportunity to travel and to enjoy so many amazing experiences.  It does not make me rich however and if that is what you want from life, firefighting is probably not for you.  You’ve got to love what you do and for me it makes being motivated easy.

I set goals.  Goal setting allows me to focus more and ensure that I keep working towards something.  If it’s just a thought I am far more likely to put it off or not do it at all.  The beauty of goal setting is that it takes no time at all and a pen and a piece of paper is pretty much all the equipment that you need.  Think of what you want to achieve, write it down, estimate how long it will take you, write that down and you are done.  But for me the most important part of goal setting is reviewing it.  Realising that you have achieved something is powerful and if you never look back at your goals you may never appreciate your own success.  Always review.  In fact make your list of goals so obvious to you every day that you can’t miss them.  Please don’t ever think it will be a quick process however, you have to have a determination to persevere until you succeed, I have found that out a number of times!  So many people with dreams and the potential to achieve them don’t, simply because they never stick with them.  So as ‘Dory’ always said “just keep swimming”.

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.  Try not to bash into the walls too much.  Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.  That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” – Steve Jobs

Your ideas matter, your contribution matters.  You could change the world, just do it.

J.

Who am I?

Who am I?

I think I forgot that people may read this blog or follow my challenges who don’t know me and have never met me.

So, I guess it might be worth spending some time to let you all you know just that.

For those who don’t know, my name is Jed Smith.  I am a 23 year old from the east coast of Scotland.  I work full-time as a Firefighter with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in Dundee and I also work as an Urban Search and Rescue Technician on the UK International Search and Rescue Team.

I had what I would class as a fairly normal childhood growing up in a small seaside town attending the local primary and secondary schools.  When I was 7 years old, I convinced my parents to take me along to a fun day which was being organised by my local Boys Brigade company (I heard they had been quad biking which I thought was awesome!).  Having decided that the prospect of getting to go quad biking was high I asked my parents if I could go.  They agreed and I joined the Boys Brigade.  Needless to say, in the 10 years I spent in the Boys Brigade I never did go quad biking with them.  In hindsight I joined for completely the wrong reasons, it was purely to do one thing that I thought would be fun.  Whilst I never went quad biking I did get the opportunity to do far more than my 7 year old self had ever thought possible.  I made some exceptional friends and learned a huge amount about myself, about teamwork and about discipline.  I firmly believe that the Boys Brigade has had a huge impact on turning me into the person I am today and I think joining the Boys Brigade was the best decision 7 year old me could ever have made.  I left the Boys Brigade at the age of 17 having risen to the highest rank of Staff Sergeant and obtaining the highest award available, the ‘Queens Badge’.

Some people have told me its ‘just a badge’, but to me it has far more meaning.  To obtain the Queens Badge takes 2 long years of hard work and determination.  My company captain and his officers were all fantastic and wanted the best for everyone.  But they did not sign off on a Queens Badge lightly.  If you did not meet the criteria then they simply would not sign your application.  This is not to say that it was impossible to achieve but more to show if you put in the required work and met the standard you would be successful.  I have found this to be an incredibly important lesson in life.  It meant receiving the Queens Badge had far more meaning than exam results ever did.

Towards the end of primary school I began learning to play the Tuba.  Little did I know at the time that I would get to travel across the globe playing it or be a member of a number of very successful bands.  I suppose I was fairly good at it, but the people I played with were amazing and a lot of them are now music teachers and play in some of the best bands and orchestras in the world.   I was never that good! Playing the Tuba ended up occupying a huge amount of my time and once you added the Boys Brigade into the equation, the only free night I had through my teens was a Tuesday.  The Tuesday was often busy as well however going to competitions with the BB or another band practice.  I was certainly kept occupied so getting into trouble was well out of the equation, not that I was that kind of person anyway.  I became a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland and went on a tour of Japan with them in 2008.  Who ever thought at 14 years of age I would be touring Japan.  I certainly didn’t.  If you have never been to Japan, go!  Its the most incredible country with amazing people.  I’d love to go back!

I was involved in number of different groups at school;  the F1 in schools challenge where you CAD (computer aided design) a wood car which was then manufactured using CNC (computer numerical controlled) router and raced at competitions.  On the back of a competition I had the opportunity to spend a week doing work experience with Jaguar at their manufacturing facility in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.  This was an amazing opportunity for someone who has a massive interest in cars!  I also took part in the Duke of Edinburghs Award and obtained every level. Bronze, Silver and Gold.  The Duke of Edinburghs Award is the most fantastic scheme which introduced me to the mountains of Scotland and taught me more skills again, than I ever thought it would.

What I most definitely noticed throughout my youth, was that when you take opportunities that are presented to you and you work hard at them, success will find your way.

My fourth year standard grade results were good, but nothing incredible and my following higher results were average I would say.  Looking back, I could have done far better in my highers had I put in the effort.  I suppose they are my one regret from school.  I could have and probably should have achieved better grades than I did.

I left school having been elected as a School Captain and achieving a lot to begin my studies for a BA (Hons) in Management at the University of Abertay, Dundee.  Having studied for one year at Abertay I received an email to say my application to join Tayside Fire and Rescue had been successful and subject to a medical I would be offered a Firefighters post.  This has to be one of the best emails I have ever received.  Five weeks after receiving the email I had completed my first year exams and left Abertay, joining Tayside Fire and Rescue as a Trainee Firefighter on the 7th of May 2012 at the ripe old age of 18.

I attended the Scottish Fire Services College in Gullane, East Lothian and following a 13 week course I graduated as a Firefighter in development on the 24th of August 2012.  For anyone who notices that there are more than 13 weeks between those 2 dates we had a two weeks off in the middle as the college closed for its summer break!  Following another period of training upon returning from the college I joined my watch on the 16th of September 2012 (I have a strange ability to remember dates and number plates, I know its useless and bit strange, but it’s just something I do!).  I transferred on the 1st of April 2013 to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and on the 7th of May 2015 following three years of extensive training and folio work I qualified as a fully ‘Competent’ Firefighter.  In my time with the Fire Service I have also qualified as an ‘Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Technician’.  What does this involve? In its most simple sense it is the rescue of people from collapsed structures.  I am also a USAR Technician with the UK International Search and Rescue team who respond on behalf of the UK to disasters all over the world.  As yet I have not been deployed but there is every chance that I will in time.  The team is one of around 30 ‘Heavy USAR’ teams in the world who are officially classified by the United Nations.  At present their are 14 Firefighters from Scotland who contribute to the UK team.

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And now, well I am trying to raise £1 Million for Cancer Research UK because I am fed up seeing family and friends suffering from the disease.  It’s my new challenge, my largest goal, but one that I am confident I will achieve!

Should you want to know anymore just leave me a message!

If you would like to donate even a couple of pounds just follow the link below, its quick and easy!

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can” – Nikos Kazantzakis

J.

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