Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Return Home - The Last Chapter

10 November 2011

"Dear All,

In the past week there has been the passage back and return to Guernsey, the first day back in the office, the Welcome Home party, dinner with the golfers, Channel TV’s great resume, the last ever marathon – No 40, a return to normality and my first gymn session … so a quiet week!!

We booked out of the hotel and headed for the ferry terminal, the Volvo with a headlight out and the camper van with injector problems and a puncture.  So it wasn’t just the team that was tired and ready for home.  The slow boat out of Portsmouth is a relaxed and easy way to travel and Condor has been terrific in looking after us.  Big breakfasts were eaten, newspapers bought and read and it was a journey at a pace and with a level of activity I want to get used to .

We were met by the BBC TV and Guernsey Press newspaper journalists, along with Mike Marshall and Julie-Anne Headington when we came off the boat. Staggered to find that we made the lead article on the front of the Press and there was more about us inside as well.  Julie-Anne presented me with a pair of slippers as she had promised, and once we got the interviews out of the way, we headed for home.

On arriving back in St Peters, there was a banner welcoming us back attached to the front of the house, with a chicken casserole and chocolate cake on the doorstep from our lovely friends and neighbours Nick and Helen.  Happily they were able to join us for supper so we cracked open another bottle of champagne and had an excellent evening in good company… even the cat seemed happy to see me after 7 weeks away.

On Tuesday I headed for the office at the usual time and opened up around 8 am.  The old habits were quickly resurrected and by 8.05 I was heading down the road to the corner shop for the paper and the Victor Hugo boulangerie for my morning coffee and croissant.  Not the quiet precursor to the day that it usually is … lots of queries about the adventure and many congratulations all of which was much appreciated.

It was quickly back to reality on returning to the office.  I received news of a friend’s serious illness and that reinforced how fortunate I feel to have been able to do this challenge with no obvious serious damage.  Currently I am about 12 stone and feeling as fit as a butcher’s dog.  I do realise however that I need to put on a few pounds.

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday was a busy time working with Alex and Natalie on the Welcome Home party on Wednesday evening.  Ian Robertson, the well-known BBC rugby commentator and Wooden Spoon supporter replaced John Inverdale who had pneumonia.  Also Ian Irving another Wooden Spoon stalwart came over to give us 40 minutes of stand-up comedy.  Rosie Swale-Pope came over too.  Ian Robertson was ‘in conversation’ with Rosie and me for 30 minutes.  Also attending was the Lieutenant Governor and his wife Lynda, the Bailiff and Lady Rowland, and Bill Hill, the CEO of Wooden Spoon. With the exception of Heather (my 2 marathon companion) all of the team from Guernsey were there and Sue Dale made it over from Jersey.  There were big screens showing photos and footage of the run and the general consensus was that it was an excellent evening making about £5k for the charity. 

Much to my surprise Chris Griffiths and the Guernsey Event Co team produced a fantastic little booklet of the daily “blog”.  These were available at every place setting and we collected up those left over at the end of the evening and  we have been selling them off for £5 apiece for the charity!

On Thursday Sally and I went to a dinner for about 20 organised by and made up loosely of my Saturday morning golf pals and partners.  They had been unable to attend the dinner the previous evening due to a golf club commitment.  It was boisterous, noisy and great fun and I look forward to rejoining them on the golf course a week on Saturday after nearly a year’s absence because of the training. 

On Friday the footage of the final marathon filmed by Channel TV was aired on the evening news.  It was edited down to 9 minutes and captured the feel of the challenge really well.  If we can find a link we will advise you of it.  I took it easy on Friday evening since my final marathon was the following morning and I had not done any exercise for a week.  Sally and I did go out to a wedding dance and that took minds off the prospect of the following day’s endeavours.

Saturday was just like old times!  Awake early with nervous anticipation.  Porridge, honey and coconut milk for breakfast around 7am and off the KGV playing fields to meet Doc who spent another half hour taping my feet … nothing changes!

The format for this fund raiser was that I was to run the whole marathon distance while one of the local rugby clubs organised for teams to join me.  Each team was required to run only one mile and they had to raise funds to participate.  Currently it looks as though they will have raised something between £10k and £15k which is a fantastic effort.  The money will be split between St Jacques Rugby Club and the Guernsey cancer charity Hope for Guernsey.

As for the run itself, I tried to maintain a pace of approximately 12 minutes per mile.  The route took us down to the west coast at Cobo and we ran south to Perelle, turned around and headed north along the main coast road as far as Vale Castle where we turned around and ran back to Cobo and then up the long hill to Sausmarez Park and along back to the KGV.  The organisers tell me that it was 26.2 miles however, my Garmin was telling me that it was closer to 27.5!  I crossed the try line (check the link and you will understand) in 5hr 24min … marathon time of approx 5hr 10min … and I was pleased with that.

Along the way we had teams of rugby players in kit, rugby players dressed as grannies, we had a couple of nuns and a couple of penguins too.  Guthrie Steer joined us for a mile as did Heather Reid and her team from the Medical Specialist Group.  In fact Heather joined me twice.  She did a few miles at the start, then went for a cycle ride (she heads off to Cambodia on a charity cycle tour next week) then she re-joined me for the last 5 miles… plucky or what? 

This was the only marathon in the 40 in which I ran the whole thing and I did find it hard.  Thank goodness therefore that the organisers had arranged to have squads from the youth section of the rugby club joining me with about 8 miles to go because that injected a bit of life into the old legs.  Over the last mile I was joined by the minis and their bubbling enthusiasm spurred me on to the end.  As we entered KGV I felt a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn with the kids, the penguins and the grannies all running behind. There is a Channel TV report of this at: 

There were further interviews, kind words and great support.  I was given a chance to say publicly how much I appreciated the great team effort that got me over the finishing line that day and every day previously on the run through the UK.

After that we retired to the bar for a well deserved noggin and Sally and I headed for home and an early supper, with the intention of coming back to their Bonfire Party but aching muscles later prevented this!  Maybe there is some credence to the benefits of the cold bath!

With all physical commitments now out of the way, it was great to get back to a level of domestic normality on Sunday … long lie in, breakfast in bed, Church.

As for the cards, letters and calls of congratulation they’ve been pouring in since we got back which is very kind of folk and much appreciated.  The fund raising continues with much still to do.  Will we reach the targeted £1m? No, but there is nothing wrong at aiming for the stars.  Will we raise significant sums for a number of good causes?  Absolutely we will and when we have a better idea of how much that will be I’ll let you know.  

Future exercise?  Well tonight it was a light session in the gym and that’s all I am proposing for this week.

Next week?  Well next week we’ll see how I feel.  One thing is for sure … it won’t be a marathon or anything like it!!  If I talk of doing anything like this again, shoot me!  Didn’t Steve Redgrave say something like that? 

But I do have plans for 2012.  I will be heading off to learn more in order that in the future I might teach running technique.  I like to think that I’ve learnt a bit about running but I want to take that a bit further.  Also it is 10 years since we first held The Channel Highland Games.  They were a riotous success in 2002 and I have set the wheels in motion to have the games resurrected.  That will keep me busy.  

And that is you bang up to date.  Thanks for taking an interest in my exploits over these past 7 weeks and thanks for sharing it with so many.

Best Wishes

Finally, here is a piece from Channel TV about Dad.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Keep on Running...Days 39 & 40...

Day 39 – Friday 28 October 2011

"A glorious autumn day in the Kingdom of Cornwall where, and we should have mentioned this yesterday, the signposting of places and roads is far better than in Devon, making the job of the navigator so much easier.  Although we work out the route the evening before, it is always a theoretical thing and much revised during the day’s travels.    As a consequence, we are finding the navigation much more straightforward in Cornwall.

It is still not easy and requires considerable concentration.  Dependence on satnav never a good idea, and it resulted in having the caravan up a country lane that it should not have gone up.  Extrication was complicated in the extreme.

Peter Macgill ran with me from the start, though most of the morning seemed to be a walking tour of Cornwall because everything appeared to be running uphill … which obviously it was not but it just felt that way.  We headed from London Apprentice, southwest of St Austell, and headed across the Roseland Peninsula towards the River Fal and the King Harry ferry crossing.  We had a 10 minute wait for and crossing on the ferry, and in that time we distributed leaflets to the waiting cars and I had a few rice cakes and pate for my second lunch, having had one of Doc’s special rolls earlier in the day.

We were met on the other side of the ferry crossing by Channel TV and Andy Will and Tamara Timothy followed us for the rest of the day until they lost us!

We made really good time on the second half of the run and Peter did exceptionally well keeping with the pace.  Even with the break at the ferry we finished in something around 6 hours 30 minutes.  Peter completed his first marathon.

Back at the hotel, we met up again with the Channel TV team and they interviewed members of the team and recorded Doc removing the dressings from my feet, and Nicky working on the soft tissue massage.  They also filmed me in the cold bath!

Sally, Alan and Doc went on a recce of the route for tomorrow’s run.  I really do not want to be doing much more than 26 miles so they needed to work out precisely from where we should start. 

I had a phone call from Peter Scott, one of the founders of Wooden Spoon, this evening, wishing me the best for tomorrow and I have had many other cards, emails and texts which is great and much appreciated.

The whole team, including Andy and Tamara, broke free of the Premier Inn at Alan’s insistence, and we had a fabulous meal at Blue Haze in Porthleven.

Best wishes


Day 40 - Saturday 29 October 2011

"Land's End finish at 3.34pm today.
Be in touch soon.  Busy this evening!
Thank you so much for all your messages of support today and for the past 40 days.

Update 30 October

I am writing this 24 hours after completion.  We have had a glass of red wine in the Beefeater adjacent to another Premier Inn inPortsmouth and are due out shortly for a Chinese meal. 

Yesterday we had the usual start with Nicky working on soft tissue for 20 minutes and the Doc taping the feet for half an hour. During all of this Sally prepares a bowl of porridge with additional honey and chopped apple and I write up my daily diary… the last run on the mainland!  This morning the Channel TV cameraman, Andy and reporter Tamara were filming the day’s events including the morning preparations.

We gathered and packed the vehicles and headed for the start at Godolphin House, an important local National Trust property.  I confess not to having appreciated just how emotional the start of the run would be however, I have a few verses of Isaiah to read (chapter 40, v28-31 – do look it up) and I find that humbling, inspiring, wonderful. 

After doing the warm up stretches and exercises, I headed off down the Cornish lanes wearing an additional showerproof jacket and waterproof trousers ... these are more to be worn whilst warming up than because of the rain, and after a few miles, they are discarded and collected by the team in the Volvo.  Taking them off and storing them is a performance and with an efficiency as good as any Formula 1 pit-stop. 

The run took us down to the coast - Marazion, St Michael’s Mount, Penzance and up the hill through Newlyn where Tamara joined me.  It was very windy along the coast and from here to the end, there being no high hedges for protection. 

As you will gather the weather was grey and overcast rather than wet, and windy.  There were kitesurfers in Mounts Bay and at thePenzance heliport the windsock was horizontal.  Peter reckoned force 6, gusting force 7.     Certainly up near the finish it was pretty wild.

Andy, the cameraman, worked hard for his money in and out of their hire car, filming from the tripod as we came up hill and past him, filming out of the back of the car and filming as he ran beside and around me.  By the end of the day he was pretty tired. Because of the wind, all the recording that Tamara attempted was lost. 

The previous evening the team had tried to establish a marathon-length of run to conclude at Land’s End.  It will not surprise you to know from our past record that we made a wrong turning close to the end.  As a consequence we doubled back on the route we had been running to ensure that we finished running the required mileage.  This was an executive decision I made on the hoof and am told that I went all silent and determined.  The error in the route took me past a sign that said ‘Lands End 1 ¾’ but I knew I had 2 miles more than that to do.  Sally and Nicky tried to direct me back down the original route, but I told them just to take me back along the route for 1 mile and turn around, as I was going back to the sign and along the main road to the finish no matter what.  And having returned there, I was met by a professional photographer we had engaged to snap the conclusion.

Having got back to the Land’s End road sign I upped the pace.  With about ¾ of a mile to go, we passed a lovely little church and once again the emotion and the enormity of it all struck home.  In the distance were the Land’s End buildings and although it was a steady uphill climb with the end in sight I fairly ‘sprinted’ to the line, where there were lots of photographs, hugs and kisses.  Of course the current members of the team were all there with broad smiles and high fives.  Kevin Oliver, wife Julia and daughter Rosie were representing the Cornwall Region of Wooden Spoon and there to meet us all.  Great to see them, and thank you for waiting for us in pretty terrible weather.

At Land’s End there is a line with ‘Start’ and ‘Finish’ written on it, some distance from the well known signpost.  We took the line as our concluding mark.  After than we piled back into the vehicles to escape the wind and headed back to our next accommodation – the Longboat in Penzance.

With the adrenaline still pumping the usual routine went out the window and interviews with the Guernsey Press and with Kevin Oliver for Wooden Spoon were completed prior to Doc attending to my feet and my hot bath – the cold baths are history!

Then it was back downstairs when the party really began.  Gary Lewis, who had earlier completed 6 ½ marathons in 7 days when we ran together in the Midlands, provided the celebratory champagne.  We had an excellent meal together in the hotel with the Olivers and the Channel Television crew.

Happy and satisfied we had completed a job well done, some of us retired to bed around 10, the hard core continued.

Today, Sunday, it was great to have an extra hour with the clocks going back and the opportunity for a lie in as well.  We all had a cooked breakfast and it made a real change for me not to be worrying about both the quantity and the substance of what I was eating.

We have received many phone calls, texts and emails of good wishes and congratulations although amongst these was the news that John Inverdale is unwell with pneumonia and will not be attending the Welcome Home Party on Wednesday.  Since we have been able to deal with adversity from as early as my being diagnosed with a hernia 6 weeks prior to departure, to the realisation that the shoes I trained with were inappropriate 2 days into the run, and having to re-jig the route on an almost daily basis, we are used to having to adapt.  Alex Bridle at The Guernsey Event Company is in control of the situation which I discussed with her this morning.

BBC Radio Guernsey interviewed me at about 9.15 and then we all had interviews with Channel TV before saying our goodbyes as Sally and I took Nicky to Bristol Airport and Doc and Alan took Peter to Southampton and the TV crew headed to Exeter.  It was interesting driving back to Bristol passing locations that we had so recently run though.  The weather was beautifully sunny and the autumn colours really quite splendid.

Doc, Alan, Sally and I met up at our last Premier Inn in Portsmouth before catching the boat back to Guernsey tomorrow.  Over the course of the coming week, we have got interviews with Radio Guernsey and others when we arrive back in Guernsey, we have the Welcome Home Party on Wednesday, another function to attend on Thursday and on Saturday we have the run relay to complete. Details of this last event can be got from Chris Griffiths at Two Degrees North.  Details of the Welcome Home Party can be got from Alex Bridle at The Guernsey Event Company.

I do not propose doing another Update until next Sunday evening when I will review these last events and try and give some thoughts on the whole challenge.

Best Wishes