Sunday, 7 February 2010

My new challenge ... and the JustGiving Awards

It's been a little while since I've written anything here, so I'd forgive you all for thinking I'd given up ... but trust me, I've been more than busy with the 365challenge over the past couple of months!

I'd been missing having a fitness goal of my own, since I finished my original 365challenge in September 2009, so on January 1st 20010, I launched a new 365challenge for CRUK - which will see me covering the distance of 36.5 marathons across the year ... that's 956 miles of running, so just a little something to keep me going, eh?

Well, I started off okay and completed the first of these within the first part of January, but then managed to develop an injury, which has put me behind already! I was getting some pain in my shins from my longer runs (I'd got up to a few 6 or 7 mile runs), and discovered that I was at risk of developing shin splints, which can be very painful. it seems I had developed very tight calf muscles, possibly due to increasing my mileage so rapidly for the challenge, and this was causing the problem. Luckily it is treatable, and I am undergoing some physiotherapy for this, having my calves torn apart and rebuilt (well that's what it feels like anyway!). But I can't run again just yet, so I am going to have my work cut out for me when I can start again (hopefully soon!). And I've got a the Wilmslow Half Marathon coming up on March 28th ... gulp! Mark, my physio, from Harris and Ross, reckons he'll get me running again and that he'll make sure I complete my challenge in good health, so I must place my fate in his hands!

But as well as giving myself a new 365challenge, I've continued to support other 365ers, help new 365ers launch their new challenges, and keep my dialogue with CRUK going as I persevere in my efforts to have the charity adopt this concept as a national campaign (it's progressing, slowly, but it IS progressing)! I'm delighted to report also that so far, overall, the 365challenge has raised over £26,000 for Cancer Research UK, and with around 30 people on board, and new people coming up, this figure will only grow.

The biggest news of the month, however, was the call I got from JustGiving, the company who run the website that manage donations for over a million fundraisers (and of course, my page, to tell me that I'd been nominated for an award at their Inaugural JustGiving Awards in the category "Most innovative Fundraiser", and inviting Donna (Mrs 365er) and me to join them for the award ceremony on February 3rd in London.

WOW! What an honour: to be selected as one of just three nominees in this category from the huge number of possible candidates for something like this! My fellow nominees were Tracy and Jon Morter, the couple behind the Rage Against the Machine for Xmas No 1 Facebook campaign, who had tied this into a fundraising page on JustGiving for the charity Shelter, raising over £100K in the process, and Simon Painter and "Big Dave" who completed a very impressive Jailbreak for the charity KidsCan, a children's cancer research charity.

Of course we went along to the ceremony, and had an amazing night, meeting some very inspirational fundraisers, including the founders of JustGiving, Zarine and Anne-Marie, two very impressive ladies, and Major Phil Packer, of Help for Heroes fame, whose achievements and own battle just cause my jaw to drop; he is truly inspirational and I hope to link up with him again after speaking with him on the night about some ideas.

In the end, I didn't win, sadly, but I was happy to cheer on Simon and Big Dave as they collected their award, as they are a couple of great guys, and again, I hope to link up with them in the future.

But I came away fired up to work even more on taking the 365challenge to the next level. I was also delighted to win a donation of £250 to my page from JustGiving as acknowledgement of my innovative fundraising concept, so that recognition was a huge boost for me. As you can see, the 365challenge isn't going away ... there are other developments on the horizon, which I'll tell you about next time, I hope ...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Pure Gold ... Beverley Knight blows me away ...

If you visit here now and again, you'll know that I'm a bit of an advocate for Twitter - it's such a great way to connect with people and I've made lots of friends for the 365challenge through my tweets.

Well, one of the friends I've connected with is the soul singer,
Beverley Knight. Through tweets of friends of friends, over time, she'd heard about my 365challenge and been kind enough to pass my message on to others on Twitter through what we call Re-Tweets ... listen, if you're not into it, don't worry, it just is what it is, and as a communication tool, it is great fun ... so anyway, I'd tweet about something in response to a comment Beverley might make, or she'd respond to one of mine - one time, I think she was at a function and her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers were playing a crucial game, so I and a couple of others kept her in the loop over how the game was going (they won and got promoted), and she was quite happy about that! It's that kind of place!

When she started tweeting about her up-coming tour, I decided that as she was coming to Liverpool, which is about 30 miles away, I'd take Donna and I managed to get some tickets for last night, November 10th, at the Liverpool Philharmonic, a really lovely venue. So I tweeted BK, told her we were coming, and wished her well for the show.

As a little extra, I thought I'd also send a 365challenge t-shirt backstage as a "thank you" for her support and so when we got there (after a bit of hassle finding somewhere to park, I must say), I asked one of the venue staff if they could get the package backstage to Beverley, and they dutifully took it away, and we made our way to our seat (in a box, no less ... no really, it was a good price, and I thought it would be fun).

The support band were excellent - Mamas Gun - a really tight, funky outfit who are worth a listen, I promise. Then, it was show time, and little Beverley came on with both guns blazing. High energy, high powered show from the start, with the whole place on its feet, singing and dancing. Brilliant.

Then, after about 30 minutes, she slowed it down, the band left the stage, leaving just BK up front with her keyboard player as accompaniment. And she started talking to us ...

"... this next song is dedicated to a woman I've never met, who is no longer with us ... but through the power of Twitter, I know her brother" (Gulp, what's this, surely not ...) ... "Colin ... who is doing amazing things through his 365challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK" (audience cheering, Colin going "Oh my God!!!") ... "I don't know where you are sitting Colin, but this is for Brenda" ... (Colin totally stunned, Donna staring at me, going "Did you know she was going to do that? Me: "No ...") ... and then the wonderfully generous and thoughtful Miss Beverley Knight launched into a beautiful version of her song "Gold", from her 2002 album, "Who I Am". Please click through and listen, it's a beautiful song, and in the context of last night, with a truly stunning live performance, I have to admit to sitting there with tears in my eyes ... Brenda would have loved it!

And it got a standing ovation!

The rest of the show was superb, she worked that audience, sang her heart out for an hour and a half, and I'm not sure she actually wanted to stop, but all good things must end, and the show closed with the equally great "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda".

Donna said it first, though i was thinking it "You have to go and say hello and thank her for that". I wanted to as well, because
what she had just done meant so much to me, so I went down to the side of the stage and tried to get word back to her that I was there. We ended up being shifted outside to the stage door, where there were a few autograph hunters waiting too, and I managed to tweet with Beverley to let her know that I was still around. However, we ended up waiting quite a long time, as she had some promotional things she had to do, but we both agreed that we should wait.

Eventually, she came out. I waited while she signed autographs and then introduced myself, to be greeted by a huge BK smile. Her manager was trying to get her away to her car, but she was saying, "No, this is Colin, the 365 guy, I sang a song for his sister tonight" ... we moved back to the window for some light and Donna snatched a couple of photos on her iPhone (it's a bit dark, I know ... of all the nights not to have her compact camera with her!), and then Beverley was being ushered away, calling over her shoulder that she'd tweet me!

Well, it certainly was a night to remember ... thanks to the lovely BK!

And today, true to her word, we've been tweeting away, and now even Donna has gotten into the picture, with BK now following her on twitter too, and commenting on her photo, which Donna put up earlier on her Blog (the title refers to the fact that she got her photo taken with Vincent Simone from Strictly Come Dancing on Sunday!).

Today has been quite special too, as I kept thinking about how generous BK was to do something like that ... I know it took no effort really on her part, but it's the fact that she DID it and wanted to do it, as she said in a tweet today, "to honour Brenda".

What a special person you are, BK. Thank you.

PS - BK tells me the SMALL t-shirt I sent through to her was HUGE on her ... well she is just Pixie-sized!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Recognition for the 365challenge ... slowly, slowly, moving forward

About a week ago, the 365challenge got itself a pretty nice chunk of recognition by the fund-raising community ... and I wasn't even there to be my usual pain in the arse to promote it to them!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Jon Waddingham, a Charity Champion with Justgiving, and someone I'd linked up with through Twitter in the early days of promoting the 365challenge. He explained that he and someone for Cancer Research UK were giving a presentation somewhere on the potential for using social media in fund-raising, and he wanted to get some of my thoughts, as I've had some success with this. Ever happy to oblige (and plug the 365challenge), I knocked off an email to him with feedback on my experiences, and, as an afterthought, asked him to let me know if it was the sort of thing he was after, or of any help to him.

Turns out, he liked it, and last week, he tweeted me to let me know that the presentation had gone very well. Oh, by the way, the presentation was actually a workshop, at the 29th International Fund-raising Congress, in Holland, an event that attracts hundreds of charity professionals from around the world. And his co-presenter was Bryan Miller, Head of Strategy and Consumer Insight with Cancer Research UK!

The workshop was called "Understanding the new breed of digital donors and how to maximise your fund-raising through their networks". You can see the slides from the presentation here, but if you just want to get to the 365challenge/Colin bit, go to slide 68 and forward from there (the whole thing is worth a look though, so let me know what you think).

Anyway, Jon told me that they sent everyone away to "telling people to try & find their own Colin" and "I think your example has inspired fundraisers from around the world! :D" ... not getting big-headed of course ... I mean, me? GET IN!

Oh, and tomorrow I'm off to do some promotion of my own, presenting the 365challenge to the Cancer Research UK Liverpool Supporter's Conference (yes, in Liverpool ... doh!).

See, I'm sort of commited to this thing now, and I know it's an idea that WILL bring funds in for CRUK, and so maybe I am a little chuffed about the attention its getting, because I believe it IS worth it ... but I'll never be big-headed (grins)!

The Rhyl Run 10K for CRUK

So, my first race in 25 years finally happened. I took on the Rhyl RUN 10K for Cancer Research UK this morning. It was a beautiful day, but a little windy here in Chester as we set out (Donna came for moral support and photos). It was still beautiful and sunny at Rhyl, but the light Chester breeze ahd become a full-on Westerly gale! Well, it felt like it at times.

I met up with Fred, who is doing her own 365challenge, and two of her friends, George and Craig, so we planned to run together. While we were waiting for the start, I took the opportunity to go around the other runners promoting the 365challenge, handing out cards and directing people to check out the website later on ... hopefully I'll pick up a few new 365ers!

Start time came along, and we were off. The route was a fl
at, sea-front promenade, out and back, from Rhyl to Prestatyn. The boys took off at a fair pace, so Fred and I settled in to our own race together. The pace was comfortable, I thought, but maybe a little faster than Fred had planned, so as we came towards the halfway mark, we'd slowed a little.

We made the turn at 5 Km in 27 minutes, on course for around a 55 minute finish, which I felt was a good target, but then BAM! We were hit head-on by that wind! It had probably helped a little on the outward leg, but wow, running into it was a different matter all together. I suggested Fred run behind me for some relief from the wind, but that didn't help her too much, and somewhere before the 6Km marker, I lost sight of her (she's only little, she was no match for that wind!).

So, I decided to push on as best I could in the wind, and finished in 59 minutes. I was a bit disappointed with that time, given that I've run 56 minutes in training, but I can understand why with those conditions ... I'll do better next time, eh?

Oh, and Fred didn't lose too much ground, by the way, she finished in 64 minutes.

I made some more 365challenge connections on the way around, so here's hoping some of them feel inspired to take it on now too. Overall, it was a very enjoyable day, if you consider running in a gale while being sand-blasted, to be enjoyable (it takes all sorts)!

A great return to running after all that time away, and no problems with my hip, which was the icing on the cake. Onwards and upwards, as they say ... planning to start training for a half-marathon next!

Friday, 23 October 2009

it was 25 years ago today ...

October 23rd 1984 ... 25 years ago today ... I was three days away from the biggest physical undertaking of my life. Over two years of preparation was coming to a head finally, injuries had been endured, physio had been applied, I'd suffered through a four week running embargo while a hip injury had time to recover (just weeks before the off), I'd been through registration, and now ... I was just counting down the days and hours to the moment I would cross the start line at the Dublin City Marathon.

In the eighties, marathon running had come of age. It was the distance to aspire to for anyone who loved distance running. I had discovered running a few years earlier as a way of keeping fit for my weekend hiking adventures in the Dublin mountains, and within a relatively short time, I was running 3, 4, 5 nights a week with like-minded eejits who met on dark evenings at Belgrave Square, between Rathmines and Ranelagh in Dublin, to venture off for 5, 10, 15 mile runs around the city.

The Dublin marathon had started in 1980, and had quickly caught the imagination. I was tempted to go for it in 1983, but it didn't happen, so, when I gained my place in the 1984 line-up, nothing was going to stop me. Training runs happened most nights by this stage, with 2 hour jaunts being nothing special ... I was loving it. I remember at the time crying off from a run so I could go out for a drink with some friends one night ... and sitting there feeling miserable, knowing that I should have been running instead ... that's when I began to wonder if maybe I had a problem ... but that's another story!

The build-up was intense, exciting ... I was going to run 26.2 miles, for heaven's sake ... so when I began to have pain in my hip, I ignored it: I had a marathon to train for. But it wouldn't go away, and eventually I had to give in and go and see a sports physio (thin on the ground back then) about it. Her diagnosis ... severe pronation of the left foot, rolling outwards as I placed it, due to running in shoes past their best (what did I know about these things back then?), resulting in a referred problem to the hip. Treatable, yes, but lengthy rest from running absolutely required, and no, it didn't matter that my first marathon was only a month away ... NO RUNNING!

Even now, as I write this, I can still hear the song of the moment that always seemed to be on the radio as I lay on the treatment table ... John Waite's Missing You ... wow, it's amazing how it all comes back ...

Anyway, I'd come through the treatment and enforced rest (most of it, anyway), and in 3 days time, I was going to run a marathon!

And I did ... and I enjoyed most of it, but my lack of running in that last month took its toll, as did the injury, and at around 22 miles, it was all hurting again ... but I finished ... not in the 3.5 hours I'd hope for, but in just over 4 hours (4.04) ... I'd done it!

But afterwards, my hip just wasn't the same. I got back out running soon after the marathon, but after a few miles, my hip was hurting and I'd then have to limp home. Eventually, I had to make a decision ... and it was to give up running. Not being able to run more than three miles was incredibly frustrating after being able to run for 15 miles or more regularly, and the prolonged injury was getting in the way of my hill walking, so running had to go.

Over the years, I occasionally dipped my toe back into the running world ... starting out again, building up to three mile runs, and then after a few weeks of this ... ping! Something seemed to go in my hip and I'd be hobbling again. I had to accept that I couldn't run, so I put my energies into other activities ... cycling, gym, korfball ... various efforts over the years to get and stay fit ... but I always missed and longed for running.

Then, after my brush with cancer, I created the 365challenge for Cancer Research UK. You may have noticed that none of the challenges involved running initially, but when I had completed my Lands End to John O'Groats ride, my channel swim, the three peaks (twice) and rowed the Thames, I found I still had 2 months of my 365challange year left ...

So I thought I'd try to run again. But before I got too far, I consulted a specialist about my hip. And to my great relief, he diagnosed a different problem, one that was manageable with a little physio and a lot of regular stretching ... so ... I got to run again!

I took on a new final challenge, to run the length of Hadrian's Wall, and over those two months, with all that stretching, I discovered I COULD run again ... and it felt just great!

Since I finished the 365challenge, I've continued running, and this Sunday, almost 25 years later TO THE DAY, I'm tackling my first race since that Dublin marathon in 1984, the Rhyl 10K, part of the CRUK Run 10K series.

Can't wait! Come along if you can - Sunday October 25th at 11.30.

Let's hope it's not hip, hip, oh heck!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thanks everyone who supported the 300mile guys ...

Remember EdTwestival and my plea in September for support for the 300mile guys, as they sought to raise funds for CLIC Sargent?

Well, I meant to tell you that they won the nomination to be the charity to benefit from the event, and as a result gained a £3400 donation to their fund. Brilliant, well done Lee and Garry, and thanks to everyone who responded.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Where does the time go ...?

I really don't know the answer to that poser. I last blogged on August 31st, so it's over a month since I finished my 365challenge for CRUK and, while I know I wanted to have a little rest when I finished, I hadn't meant to disappear so completely! And it's not as if there hasn't been anything to blog about, that's for sure!

Where to start? Okay, you all know that I finished my 365challenge on August 31st, and as of today, my personal fund-raising pot has grown to £7980.75 - which is very healthy, but I still want to see if I can grow it to £10K over the coming weeks/months. As a group, the 365ers have raised just short of £24K to date, and with more 365ers coming on board soon, and several of the existing group still collecting sponsorship, that figure can only continue to grow, which is very exciting.

After I finished my 365challenge year, I did actually do NOTHING for about 10 days. I hadn't intended to stop so completely, but circumstances got in the way, and it was suddenly getting towards the middle of September. So, to motivate myself back into action, I only went and signed up to run the Rhyl Run10K for CRUK at the end of October! I'd been enjoying my newly re-found ability to run, so this seemed like a good idea at the time. But training hasn't been as fluid and consistent as I'd like it to have been, as I'm also just coming to the end of two weeks holiday from work which has involved time in London and the Lake District, and while I've attempted to get some runs in (including a lovely early morning run in Hyde Park), it's not been quite as structured an approach to preparation as I'd have liked. So I now have about 3 weeks until my 10K and quite a lot of running to fit in before it happens ... wish me luck.

I've also been enjoying being back in the mountains, an interest re-ignited by the 3 Peaks part of my 365challenge (that thing has a lot to answer for).

In September, I've managed a hike up Y Garn in Snowdonia, with Susie, our Golden Labrador (her first excursion into the hills, and one that will be repeated, but maybe not every time, as she kept trying to pull me over sharp edges!), and, while in the Lake District, I did a 12 mile hike around the Fairfield Horseshoe above Ambleside, where we stayed, while I tested the water on a newly emerging challenge ... I'm thinking of tackling the Wainwrights, all 214 peaks in the Lake District above 1000ft. My first thoughts on this was that it would be a good, on-going project to focus on over a period of maybe 5 - 10 years (the Lake District is about 110 miles from my home, so it's not a totally straightforward day trip if I want to climb a bunch of hills and get back for supper!). However, after meeting a guy on the hills last week who was 40 peaks into his 5th round ... THIS YEAR ... my plan seems a little feeble. I'll have to rethink.

September also saw not one but two reunions: the first the 30 year reunion of my final year at school back home in Monaghan; the second the 15 year reunion of the group I did my clinical psychology training with in Bangor, North Wales. Both went off really well, but as I've kept in regular touch with most of my clinical colleagues over the years, it was meeting up with my old school mates, most of whom I hadn't seen for those 30 years in between, that was the most surprising. It really is strange to walk into a bar and see so many faces that you recognise after so many years away. Really good to catch up with them and hopefully it won't be so long again til the next time.

Of course, the 365challenge and Cancer Research UK haven't been forgotten either. I attended a training session with CRUK in Manchester in September to become a volunteer speaker for the charity and I hope to take on a series of talks for them over the coming year, starting off with a couple of presentations at up-coming volunteer conferences this month and next, where I can plug the 365challenge further.

At the training, I met Mark Bristow, another volunteer speaker, and he contacted me just the other day to kick around some ideas about how he and his business can help promote the 365challenge too ... hopefully I'll have some more news on this soon.

As well as Mark, I've been contacted by three or four other potential 365ers in September, and I hope that as they get their plans sorted out, I can let everyone on here know what they'll be getting up to. It is so good to hear from total strangers who have been grabbed by the concept and want to commit their time and effort to this important cause under the 365challenge banner.

So you see ... I've not been idle! There is lots too that I've not mentioned, like cruising on the Thames and Lake Windermere, visiting one of Brenda's daughters, Emma, in London, or getting along to support 365er Fred at her first full triathalon, but hey, there is only so much time in the day, isn't there?

Oh, maybe that's where the month has gone ...