Saturday, 29 August 2009

*** Blog Post 100 *** 365challenge: DONE!

Well readers, welcome to my 100th blog post - this could be a long one!

I started this blog in August 2008, as I was starting out on my 365challenge for Cancer Research UK, and over the year, I've done my best to keep you informed of all the developments in my own 365challenge, as well as what's been happening as I try to develop the 365challenge concept beyond myself and bring more and more 365ers on board to help raise even more money for this vital cause.

It has been a truly wonderful year, with lots of "ups" and no "downs" that I can recall, which is great. Indeed, as I look back over it, I'd have to say that it has gone better than I could have possibly expected, and the icing on the cake for this particular posting is that I can very happily announce that this morning, August 29th 2009, 363 days into my 365challenge, I have completed my final 5 Km run to achieve my final challenge target of running the 135 Km distance that marks the length of Hadrian's Wall, my 6th and final challenge. Whoop Whoop!! (okay, I'll keep it down now, sorry).

It is hard to believe that it was only a little over a year ago, and just after we lost my sister, Brenda, to cancer, in July 2008, that I began to develop an idea to raise some money to help in the fight against cancer. The 365challenge started from my desire to do something that would capture the attention of potential sponsors - I felt that it had to be BIGGER than a one-off sponsored walk or run. It had to be something that showed just how seriously I was taking this cause and that I was going to give my all to earn the support of my sponsors.

When I put out the word that I was going to climb the 3 peaks, cycle the length of the UK, row the length of the Thames and swim the Channel to raise money for Cancer Research UK, well, it was always going to get people's attention, wasn't it? (I've since added a second round of the 3 peaks, and running the width of the country, along Hadrian's wall). That everyone then didn't drift off mildly annoyed with me, calling me a chancer and conman when I explained that I was going to complete these challenges over the course of my 365challenge year, accumulating mileage over my regular gym visits, is something for which I am truly grateful to you all. But that so many of you thought this was a flash of true inspiration and then queued up to sponsor me has been so rewarding and inspiring for me: I have felt truly humbled by the response.

That some of you then asked if you could play too has been further evidence to me that there are a lot of wonderful and committed people out there who were just looking for the right idea to come along to allow them to be part of the battle against cancer too. You are all heroes in my book, thank you for letting me know you.

And that has been a feature of this last year: I have encountered many wonderful, selfless people, who have given of themselves to support me and the 365challenge: from Nick and Paul with my website and logo, to all of the current and pending 365ers, to the CRUK staff who have encouraged and brainstormed with me on how we can make the 365challenge even bigger, and on to my family and friends who have been behind me from Day 1. There are a number of these people I have never met - we exchange emails now and again and I try to encourage them in their efforts - and this has been fantastic that they want to do keep doing their bit: they have gotten on with doing what they can to make a difference, and together we ARE making a difference!

So far, with just 8 x 365ers running active Justgiving pages, we have raised over £23000 for CRUK. With around another 10 x 365ers still putting their challenges and fund-raising pages together, there is absolutely no reason why this figure won't grow substantially. But of course, I WANT MORE! And with my own 365challenge ending, I now have some more time to devote to supporting the 365ers and working to find more and more people to take their own 365challenges for CRUK. The charity themselves continue to work with me and behind the scenes on ways that the 365challenge can fit into their grand plans too, so together, over time, I am positive that the 365challenge WILL play an important role in the fund-raising that is undertaken to support CRUK.

The end of my personal 365challenge will not see the end of my work for the 365challenge and CRUK. I'm already booked on a training afternoon to learn about being an ambassador for CRUK, speaking on their behalf to various groups, and I will be presenting the 365challenge to several conferences for CRUK later in the year. This thing has legs, so bear with me and keep popping back here to see what else I get up to for the cause.

The title of this blog contains a subtitle: "tracking my charity fund-raising efforts over 365 days" ... I will now alter this to add the words "and beyond" ... watch this space!

Friday, 21 August 2009

And while I'm playing catch-up ... Anouska's LEJOG success

As I am making some time to get my blogging up-to-date, I realise that I have been extremely remiss about telling you about the wonderful effort that one of the 365ers, Anouska, has been putting in for her 365challenge, CRUK, and most especially, the memory of her very good friend, Debbie, who lost her battle with cancer at just 27 years old.

From when she first heard of the 365challenge, Anouska was IN! She was looking for something that would do justice to Debbie's memory and support cancer research, so when she saw my poster in the gym, she was one of the first people to call me, asking to take part too. She launched within weeks of me starting my 365challenge, and she set herself some impressive challenges: run a marathon a month for a year, then add on the Edinburgh marathon for real too, swim the length of the River Dee (110 Km), and for good measure, cycle the Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) route FOR REAL ... all 1600 Km of it!

Well, she's blown the marathons out of the water ... having already completed the equivalent of 16 marathons (she got a little carried away, I think), including the Edinburgh race in May (read more here). Her focus for the final phase of her 365challenge is her swim, which she is about a third of the way through, but the point of this blog posting is to let you know that this wonderful lady has just spent her summer holidays on the road, completing the ride from Lands End to John O'Groats (along with 5 friends, and a valiant support team - GO ROB!), all 1600 Km/1000 miles, in just 13 days.

Rob, her fiancé, blogged about the trip as it was happening, so I'll happily refer you to the LEJOGGLER blog for all the gory details (the tale of Anouska's eye on Day 9, with accompanying gruesome photos on Flickr, is one that will haunt you .... ;-P), but I have to acknowledge Anouska's wonderful achievement within these pages too.

You see, before she decided to take on this 365challenge thingy, Anouska had never ridden a "proper" road bike before, and she'd certainly never undertaken any distance cycle rides. When she heard that one of her friends was planning the LEJOG ride this year, it just fitted in with her extreme challenges plan for her 365challenge, so she signed up for that from the off. And then had to get some kit and training in pretty quickly, which she obviously managed well, because when they all set out on July 25th for the real thing, she was as ready for it as any of them!

Together, they put in some serious mileage every day for the two weeks, through terrible rain in the early days, over energy-sapping hills throughout (but most notably in the South West, it seems, which was a bit of a surprise), and despite the aforementioned injury, she and the rest of the LEJOGGLERS completed the distance successfully and in good spirits (and indulged in even better spirits later on, I suspect, as it took Rob several days to add his final blog update!!!).

By the way, Anouska is the most successful of the 365eers to date on the fund-raising front, having brought in a staggering £9931 in sponsorship already (by August 21st 2009) ... and I am totally confident in her ability to break the £10K mark by the end of her 365challenge too. If you want to help her chip away at the final £69 needed to hit that target, you can sponsor her on her JustGiving page here ... go on, she is most definitely earning all of your support ... and in the process, doing something incredible in the memory of her friend, Debbie ... GO ANOUSKA!

em ... I forgot to mention ...

You know how it is ... you all have busy lives, so I'm sure you'll understand how, sometimes, something you meant to do just slips your mind ...

Well, I suppose I should have mentioned this around the time it happened, but it just got by-passed, what with building up the kms for my 365challenge, work and sorting out the day to day challenges of life in general ... thing is, I had my (nearly) 2 year post-op review with my oncologist on August 6th (yes, that long ago), and the sooo good news is that the X-rays were all clear, my arm looks and feels good, and he doesn't want to see me now for SIX months! I was on a 4 monthly check-up cycle, but as it's all looking so well, he's happy to bump me onto the twice yearly cycle, which will last for three years, and then, all going to plan, which I am sure it will, it'll just be annual reviews from then on ...

Kinda pleased ... so forgive my tardiness in sharing ...!
Feel free to comment!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

the finish line is in sight ...

It's hard to believe, but the end of my 365challenge is getting closer and closer ... just 12 days to go! And I'm well on course to finish my additional challenge, running the length of Hadrian's Wall, with just 14 Km left of the 135 Km total.

I really wasn't sure that I'd be able to run at all, given my old injury history, but thanks to physiotherapy and extensive stretching exercises before and after my runs. I have been running pain-free again, and I am now really hopeful that running can be a part of my life again. It may sound strange to those of you who don't run, but as running used to be such a part of my life many years ago, the feeling of being able to get out there and run free is wonderful!

And tonight, less than two months after starting back into running, and just because it felt soooo good to be jogging along at a comfortable pace (quite a gentle 9 Km/hr), I just kept going ... I was aiming for 6 Km, but then thought I'd go for 8 Km, as I felt good ... and then thought I'd try to go for 60 minutes, just to see if I could! And then I thought, hey, I've managed 9 Km, so may as well go for 10 Km ... so I DID! 10 Km in 66 minutes ... not spectacular, but wow, it felt good!

And, as I said, it left me with just 14 Km to go ... which should be doable in 2 more visits. Brilliant!

And once it's all done ...? There will be a lot more to come from the 365challenge ... maybe not too much on the physical activity front (though a 10K or two may be beckinong now), but I plan to dedicate more time now to developing the 365challenge and bringing more people on board ... so watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

brief meeting with a comedy hero ...

Today, as I was just getting to the end of my day in the office, I happened to check in on Twitter to see what people were tweeting about, only to find that one of my comedy heroes was just a couple of miles away, continuing his epic trek for Sport Relief ...

What am I on about, eh? Well, you see, a little while ago,
Sport Relief asked the wonderful Eddie Izzard if he fancied taking on some sort of challenge for their charity. Not only did he say "yes", but he decided that he wanted to run from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh to London again, taking in all four capitals in the UK, running around 30 miles a day, 6 days a week, for 7 weeks! Instead of carting him away to have his head read, Sport Relief said "Okay", so that's what he's currently doing! And remember, he's a comedian, not a runner, so this is a MAJOR undertaking!

He started at the end of July, I believe, and this is his 14th marathon in 16 days of his trek,(!!!) and though I was aware of what he was doing (through Twitter - he's
@eddieizzard), I hadn't really registered where he might be on his run until this afternoon. So when he tweeted that he was on the A41, heading out of Chester, and he'd tagged on a map showing he was just a couple of miles away, I figured I had to go along and cheer him on his way.

I caught up with him at a place called Mostyn, on the edge of Chester, and pulled over so I could cheer him along. Eddie was running all on his own, with just a St George's Cross flag for company (he's going to carry each country's flag while he is in that country during his run). I jumped out of the car and waved to him as he approached on the other side of the road. It was a hot afternoon, so I asked him if he needed any water. He ran over to me to see what was on offer, and I produced a 1L bottle of water. Sadly, he felt this was too large for him to carry on his way, but he figured he'd be linking up with his support car shortly, so he'd just keep going. However, he was more than happy to pose for a quick photo and a chat about how he's been finding it all - read his blog to learn more, but as I said, it's a major undertaking. He seemed in great spirits and, once we'd shook hands and I'd wished him luck and safe running, he went on his merry way!

He's a total star, as well as being totally down to earth. I'm full of admiration for what he's attempting ... I went from waving him off to the gym to run just 5 miles as part of my
365challenge for Cancer Research UK today, and found THAT pretty hard going, so how he is keeping going, I have no idea. I'd love to have Eddie on board as a 365er, but I guess he's kind of committed to other things ...

But ... his is an amazing effort and worthy of any support that you can put his way ... you can sponsor Eddie by clicking through on this link ... believe me, he IS earning your support! Eddie, if you ever read this, may I wish you a traditional saying from the Emerald Isle to ease you on your way ... may the road rise up to meet you!

Oh, and Eddie, get that support team of yours to buy you a camelbak so you can have some water with you while you're out there on your own!