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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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.

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.

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