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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Off to visit family and visiting the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute

It feels like ages since I was last on annual leave back in February when I travelled to Madrid to visit my sister.  This period of time off is a little bit longer than the last but is going to be fairly full on.  In fact I am spending a good portion of my leave doing things for work through the ISAR team with a training day and a large exercise accounting for just under a week of my leave.  I will get the time back in some way though so I’m not really bothered that it has landed during my leave.

From Monday to Friday next week I am travelling down to Swindon, flying from Edinburgh to Bristol to see family.  I have a fairly large family and we are all pretty close –  even those who I guess would normally come under the ‘extended family’ banner.  But I have a great time with them and asked if I could go down and visit for the week.  I have no idea if there is anything planned or who will be about but I have got a blank week and in my experience they tend to be the best.  Planning and organisation have there place, but visiting people and seeing new places is always best when you find them without planning.  At least it is in my opinion.

I will be staying with my Aunt Marion and Uncle Glyn – Marion is my Grandads sister so I guess she’s technically my Great Aunt.  Glyn is a retired firefighter who used to work for the London Fire Brigade, and if you ever wondered where my curiosity and desire to join the fire service came from it was from Glyn.  He took me when I was 5 to visit his old station and meet the watch.  It is one of my most vivid memories from when I was a kid.  Glyn wasn’t a fan of health and safety and in a lot of ways let me do all the things you probably wouldn’t normally be allowed to do.  I think that’s what hooked me.  I still have the pictures from that day and it seems bizarre in a way that I have ended up where I am doing the same job that he did and loved.  Glyn has been retired for a good few years now but still keeps in touch with his old watch and I can understand why.  It is a job unlike any other.  Yes everyone has colleagues, but a lot of them become great mates as well and there isn’t many places where you will experience that.

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Sade my mums cousins daughter – my cousin as far as I am concerned, has been battling with breast cancer for the last year and hopefully she will be around for me to visit.  She has been through a lot this past year but has tackled it in the best possible way.  With a good sense of humour and a steadfast positivity and I can assure you that she has had it pretty rough.  She’s still fighting away though and I know she will never give in.  I don’t think I have seen Sade in about 16 years and we are both pretty different from back then!  It will be good to see them though and I am really looking forward to it.

It turns out my ISAR exercise is going to be a rather large one with about 2500 people involved.  It will be the biggest exercise I have ever taken part in, but an invaluable experience I am sure.  It will be about as close to the real thing as we can get and I am sure I will learn a lot from the time we are there.

What is going to be slightly tricky is that I am going to have to try and get a good few long runs in as the days count down to the Stirling Marathon.  It is going to be a super tough event and a marathon is something which is unquestionably intimidating.  It’s a heck of a long way and is going to test me to my limits I am sure.

I have been out on the bike a few times in the last couple of weeks and my legs are feeling stronger.   I am noticing the difference as time goes by and I am gaining more power and stamina with it.  I’m happy with where I am at on the bike just now and I am on target to be were I would like to ahead of the NC 500 in July.  A cycling kit has been approved and I am just waiting on it getting manufactured and sent out now so hopefully it will generate questions and more awareness for both Cancer Research UK and my challenges.  That’s the idea at least.  Making a short video of our journey round the NC 500 is something that I am mega keen to plan out and pursue.  It will be an incredible adventure and I would be really happy if we are able to document it and show people just what we put ourselves through in aid of Cancer Research UK.

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This past weekend I attended the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow for a ‘supporters day’.  The day was an opportunity for supporters to get an insight into the research that is on going and what the money that is raised goes towards.  The Beatson is incredible!  One of the most advanced cancer research facilities in the world and pioneering some of the best research and drugs in the world.  It is not a building that is open to the public and if you ever have the opportunity to go and see what they do I would highly recommend it.  The visit also reiterated to me just how expensive the research is and how important it is to keep raising the pounds that help fund its existence.  The research currently happening at the Beatson will help improve the lives of thousands of people and it was a humbling day to be a part of.

“Research is creating new knowledge” – Neil Armstrong

Another busy couple of weeks ahead and another challenge on its way, but I am enjoying this more than ever and I am looking forward to taking on the next steps as they come.

Thank you as always for the continued support, it certainly makes everything that little bit easier.

J.