I ran the Stirling Marathon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J.

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Trips to Swindon and Portsmouth and the upcoming Stirling Marathon

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

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Castle Combe 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stay uncomfortable.  Comfort breeds complacency” – unknown

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

Many thanks as always.

J.

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.

Family is always most important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all as always.

J.

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

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.

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.

Getting Started

Christmas has passed and I hope that you all had a great day!  Thankfully work was quiet and I had my meal with my family when I got in from work.  As always I received so many fantastic gifts and despite having to work it was a really good Christmas.  Hogmanay is this Saturday but I don’t think I will be up to too much due to being back at work on the 1st.  To me, Sunday the 1st is the true start.  As much as we have talked about doing this and setting out a bit of a plan, the start of the new year to me marks the beginning properly.

Getting started is often one of the hardest things to do.  Talking about doing something is pretty easy, but committing to it and putting it in motion is the complete opposite.  I’ve spent a couple if months looking into things, picking out the events that I would like to take part in and speaking to people about what I would like to do.  Now we have to get going and for me the New Year signals the crossing of that start line.  While there is an enormous mountain laid before us to climb, it can be climbed and we will hit that target of £1 million.  I know we will.

The 4th of February every year is World Cancer Day and if you can help me promote what I am doing and the incredible work that Cancer Research UK do I would be extremely grateful.  Cancer Research UK run a campaign of wearing a ‘unity band’ on the 4th and I will be taking part this year.  They have also asked if myself and mum would be happy to be part of an article talking about what mum has been through and what it is I am trying to do.  Hopefully that will help earn my challenge a bit more support.  I feel that I am continually asking the same people to support me and I know that so many of you have already donated very generously to what I am doing.  I’d really like to try and grow the support in the early part of the year and encourage more people to donate a little to Cancer Research UK.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned in a previous blog post about the possibility of going to visit one of the experimental cancer research facilities in Edinburgh, in order to better understand what the money is actually used for and to gain an understanding of the kinds of research that are being done into cancer.  I am really keen to do this and meet the people who are doing this amazing research and saving so many lives.  I have no idea when that will be but it is something I would like to try and fit in.

I have been speaking with my dad about him supporting my cycling ventures, I know for sure that the last thing I will want to do after cycling 100 miles on my bike will be standing cleaning and servicing it.  My dad works as teacher and I will need to try and plan these trips during his holiday periods.  But that shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think, it might mean that I have to swap a couple shifts at work but we will get that organised.  The North Coast 500 will probably be the first cycling trip of the year and I reckon will likely be around late spring.  I have spent this week doing a bit more planning for this trip and realised that google lied to me a bit.  It told me that the second day of the trip (Applecross to Ullapool) would be around 85 miles or 136 KM in length, it is, but to follow the North Coast 500 route you must travel via Gairloch (a town my dad used to teach in actually!) which adds quite a bit of distance and climbing to the day.  Day 2 of this trip will actually be 117 miles or 187 KM in length.  I think this is probably going to be the hardest day of what I am hoping will be a 5 day trip.  This will come the day after a particularly hard climb on the road over to Applecross.  But it is what needs doing so we will get it done I am sure!  I have put the routes for days one and two below along with the elevation charts so you can see what the route looks like if you weren’t sure.  I think this trip will definetly serve as pretty good training for John O’Groats to Lands End and I think it will also do my legs good for climbing Kilimanjaro.

day-1-north-coast-500-pic

Day 2 North Coast 500 - pic.png

I’ve got a trip to Kilimanjaro picked out so booking that is going to be a priority in the coming weeks.  It is my intention to get back out on the hills soon, it has been a manic few weeks with lots on and I am conscious that I haven’t managed to get out on the hills as much as I would have liked.  The other thing which is now an added issue is that the Scottish winter has arrived and the weather on the hills is far more volatile than usual.  I’d therefore ideally only head into the mountains with a climbing partner, purely for safety and I hope you all appreciate that.  As much as I want to raise all this money and complete as many challenges as I physically can I’d rather not kill myself in the process!  The mountains in Scotland are often a far more dangerous place than people give them credit for and unfortunately deaths are reported every year which are caused by a number of different factors.  I love climbing in Scotland in the winter and I reckon we probably we have some of the most pristine mountains in the world, but I don’t love it enough to take massive risks.

“There’s a way to do it better – find it” – Thomas A. Edison

Its just about time to start off the new year and get going proper, I am really looking forward to it all now.  I hope all have an enjoyable Hogmanay and get a good start to the New Year.  Thank you all for your support, it is hugely appreciated as always!

J.