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.

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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.

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

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.

Finding inspiration in others

img_0740“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

I am in need of your help.  Approximately four months ago I made the decision that I was going to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK and it is a decision that I am extremely glad I made.  I have taken time to evaluate my objections and set goals to help me on my way towards the £1 million mark.  But we are now truly underway and have approximately 9 weeks until I run in the Inverness Half Marathon, the first significant event on my list of goals and objectives along the way.

https://www.facebook.com/jedscancermission/

I want to do my utmost and very best to help Cancer Research UK work towards improving the chances of survival for cancer patients and help maintain the rapid advancements in treatment and care for those who suffer from this disease.  I just need two minutes of your time to like and share my page and help spread the word.  The more people that we get on board and spread the word the better chance we have of helping to raise all of this money.  As a result we have the opportunity to make a really significant difference in helping Cancer Research UK.  If you can spare £1 then I’d be more than grateful and I know that Cancer Research UK are extremely thankful for every pound that is donated to them to help advance their research.

Cancer Research UK is a very big charity and they do receive a lot of donations; however we have to remember that the research into cancer is unbelievably expensive and they really do need every penny they can get to help fight this battle.  I can say first hand that their research has saved the lives of a number of my family members and the lives of a great number of friends as well.  I don’t think there is anything more cruel than becoming ill and having the ability to go about your everyday life taken away from you.  We all know that our time here is limited and cancer can take that away from people who are only just getting started with their lives.

I take a huge amount of inspiration from Stephen Sutton, a teenager who you might remember from ‘Stephens’ Story’ which followed him as he battled with terminal cancer.  Unfortunately Stephen lost his battle with cancer in 2014, but before he did he made a massive impact upon improving the way that people perceive cancer and how they go about their everyday lives.  There are a number of speeches that Stephen gave during his battle with cancer which I watch regularly and I would urge you to watch them on Youtube if you can.  Stephen often spoke of the true value of the number 86400.  If someone gifted you £86400 at midnight every night and told you that you had 24 hours to spend it before you were given another £86400, you would more than likely find a way to spend it.  What so many of us don’t realise is that we are gifted 86400 seconds every day to meet new people, appreciate those around us, to enjoy new experiences and appreciate the lives that we are given.  So many of us fail to spend the vast majority of those seconds that we are given and waste them away.

Stephen had a huge impact on me, at the time my mum was fighting with breast cancer and Stephen always had the ability to make you positive about the situations that life deals you.  I truly wish that I had had the opportunity to meet him and thank him for giving me an improved outlook on my life and a better appreciation for everyone around me.  I nominated Stephen along with many others for a ‘Pride of Britain’ award in recognition of everything that he did during his short but full life and was extremely happy when I heard that he was to receive one.  I just wish that he had been able to receive the award which was presented to his mum in his memory.

I doubt that I will ever be able to achieve in the way that Stephen did, but almost three years on from his death he is always in my thoughts as I set out to try and help finance new research into the disease that claimed his life.

“From someone who wants more time in this world, please don’t waste yours, you’d be amazed what you can achieve when you try” – Stephen Sutton

As well as trying to fit in my runs as I build up to the Inverness Half Marathon in March, I am going to be getting on the bike just about everyday in order to start putting the miles into my legs ahead of riding the North Coast 500 and then from John O’Groats to Lands End.  Ideally I’d prefer to get out on the road but for days when I am working and it will be dark before I am home I have a turbo trainer that I can use to keep logging time on the bike.  I think I may have a companion for the North Coast 500 in the form of a colleague whom I have worked with for almost the last 5 years and who works on the International Search and Rescue team with me.  I think it’s going to help a lot having Steve riding with me; I always find it easier to dig a little deeper when I am riding with someone else!  The offer to join me on any of my trips or outings is always there and if you fancy giving something a try and raising some money for Cancer Research UK I’d be more than happy to have you join me!

As I said at the start of this weeks piece, if you could spare me two minutes of your time to help promote what I am doing I would massively appreciate it!

Many thanks as always.

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