In 2014 my wife Poppy and I were blessed with the birth of our son David, however within a few hours his health had rapidly deteriorated and he was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. During David’s treatment Poppy and I stayed at one of The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’, Chestnut House.
I cannot put into words the help and support we received from House Manager, Abi, and all the team at Chestnut House. Poppy and I decided that we needed to raise as much money as possible for The Sick Children’s Trust, and what better way to do this than to run the London Marathon?
Applying to run
I originally applied for the London Marathon ballot but I knew this meant my place wasn’t guaranteed. I desperately wanted to run in support of The Sick Children’s Trust as part of #TeamSCT and so I applied for one of their five golden bond places.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I was fortunate enough to be offered one of The Sick Children’s Trust’s golden bond places! I had such mixed emotions; I was absolutely thrilled but I also knew I was about to embark on a massive challenge.
My first run
I ran 3.1 miles and boy was it hard. I pushed myself for the entirety of it and I struggled. But as the weeks went on, running became easier and my cardio began to improve. I followed a training plan, but this didn’t mean I escaped a few niggles along the way. I was reassured by a friend who runs regularly that this was completely normal, and I didn’t need to worry.
My most difficult run
Inevitably, I had difficult runs. But my most difficult run was when I was well into my marathon training. I was aiming for 18 miles and all was going well until I hit the wall, in the rain, at mile 12.
I just felt like I couldn’t run anymore and that I wouldn’t be able to run 26 miles on the day. I was in the middle of nowhere without any phone signal so I couldn’t ring Poppy to ask her to pick me up, I was soaked through and my knee was hurting. As I slowly began to believe I wouldn’t be able to complete a marathon, I started to think incredibly negative thoughts: I wasn’t going to be able to run the distance without injuring myself, I wasn’t good enough to complete it, and for a split second I questioned why I was even trying in the first place.
But then I stopped, took a deep breath, and thought about all the families I was fundraising for. All the families, like my own in 2014, that the money I raised would support. I knew it was an epic challenge and it wasn’t easy, but in that moment I realised that it wasn’t just about me, how I was feeling and how hard it was going to be, it was about supporting as many families as possible with critically ill children.
The lead up to marathon day
The Sick Children’s Trust’s events team were amazing. They helped with fundraising ideas and I was able to go to JustGiving HQ to speak to a pro marathon runner who gave tips and advice, which I found incredibly helpful. There was a #TeamSCT Facebook group for everyone running the marathon and we supported and encouraged each other throughout our training. We all had our own reasons for running in support of The Sick Children’s Trust but everyone came together as a team. I remember on a few occasions I felt quite low as running on your own gets lonely, but the rest of #TeamSCT and the events team were always there to pick me straight back up.
The big day
The nerves definitely were against me, but as I stood waiting to begin, I remember looking around and I could see it definitely wasn’t just me who was suffering from nerves. The atmosphere was electric and once the horn sounded, I realised I had a job to do – and I was going to complete it!
I knew I would see my wonderful wife at The Sick Children’s Trust’s first cheer point at mile 12, and so I started to count down the miles to get to this point. I knew the cheer point was on the left-hand side of the road so between mile 11 and 12 I started to move over. As I passed mile 12 I saw The Sick Children’s Trust’s flags in the distance and my spirits were instantly lifted. I put my hands in the air and everyone just erupted. It was incredible. Poppy began to get emotional, which made me emotional and I just can’t put into words how much seeing all the support drove me to keep running.
As the miles clocked up, putting one leg in front of the other started to become more difficult. I managed to get to mile 21 with no wobbles and The Sick Children’s Trust’s second cheer point lifted me once again. I remember the hand clappers going crazy as I ran towards them and the noise was unreal.
But it was after this point that it began to get tough. It was getting hotter and hotter and my legs just didn’t seem to want to move anymore. I started to tell myself that I wouldn’t make it and I started to believe that I wouldn’t either. I’d taken one of my son’s toys with me, and it was at this point I pulled it out of my pocket. I ran the remaining distance with David’s toy in my hand, spurring me on to keep moving. And it worked. I crossed the finish in under five hours and a massive sense of elation and pride overcame me – I’ve never felt anything quite like it.
In the first few days post-marathon I told myself I’d never run a marathon again. But as I began to think about it, I realised that completing a marathon, and even all the training beforehand, had given me such an indescribable feeling that I just had to carry on running. It also helped that my local community had really got behind my fundraising and I’d raised over £6,000 for such an amazing charity.
I’m now thinking about other challenges I could take on in support of The Sick Children’s Trust and I’ve signed up for the 2019 London Marathon ballot. I’m going to enter the Brighton Marathon too and I have a special challenge up my sleeve for the future – watch this space!