Roger Boys, 74, on his incredible challenge for MS-UK
I have a good friend Sue Bennett who has run a number of London Marathons on behalf of MS-UK, and in the past, I have helped her raise money on their behalf by organising a Rock ’n’ Roll Bingo nights for her Run Together Group, which I am a member of. Sadly this year the Virgin Money London Marathon has been postponed and will possibly have to be cancelled and therefore MS-UK could miss out on a considerable amount of income due to the pandemic.
Sue has, during the lockdown, done her very best to keep us all motivated via a Whatsapp group that she set up, despite being isolated herself. This proved to be very successful and great fun, it certainly kept me motivated and keen to get out and continue with my running.
I am not a great runner having only really taken it up in later life. I was 68 before I had run a mile without stopping. However, I do have determination and therefore when I first heard about the parkrun events I was keen to join in and run their 5k. This I managed in 2014.
It was taking part in these events that I first met Sue who, in her quiet way, motivated me to continue and try and improve my technique, so I joined her Run Together Group on a Wednesday evening for some coaching.
It was great fun. I was the only man taking part at first but was made very welcome by all the ladies. Sue helped a lot with my technique and breathing, although I still can’t talk and run like the women!
So when it was suggested by Sue that we might like to take part in the MS-UK fundraising event called My MS Marathon, where people are encouraged to do something 26 times, be it running, skipping, walking, yoga or making cakes, I decided to set myself a challenge.
What can I do that I will enjoy but will also challenge me? How about trying to run a mile for every year of my life during July? Sounds fun and it will certainly be a challenge because that will be 74 miles in 30 days. I mulled it over with Nicky my wife, and we agreed I should have a go and she gave me my first £25 towards the target I had set, which was to raise £100 for MS-UK. I completed the registration form and was then committed. Things escalated as I put my intentions on to my Facebook page.
After I had run the first six miles, within a couple of days our friends had sent the total climbing. It went past £200 rapidly and was still climbing towards £300 by the time I had completed the third six-mile run, and more importantly, there were lots of words of encouragement. By the time I had got to halfway towards my target, the total had passed £500. I simply could not believe it.
For some reason, which I cannot explain, the challenge seemed to get tougher proportional to the total sum raised which of course is all in the mind but brings additional pressure never the less.
When we hit £750 I was about 75% of the way to achieving the objective and began to think that just maybe we could get to the magic £1000 mark. The running was becoming fun, as I explored the towpath on the Kennet and Avon canal searching for the wildlife and butterflies that became my companions as I headed towards my total.
Other days I explored new parts of Greenham Common looking for relics of the period when it was used by the US Air Force during the cold war, also the Craven Estate, a beautiful place to run with the sheep and lambs and very occasionally deer. Some days it was very hot and humid others windy and raining, neither affect the determination of the long-distance runner!
For the final two miles, I was joined by Sue Bennett and friends from Run Together who offered to accompany me for the final run-in. Some were standing on the route waving banners and cheering me on – observing the protocol of social distancing of course! This was great fun as we tackled the parkrun course which is three miles, giving me an extra mile, making the grand total 75 miles completed during July, so one mile in the bank for my 75th birthday in September 2020. There was a professional photographer David Hartley on hand to take snaps as we crossed the finish line to be greeted with a glass of bubbles. Challenge completed – phew!
At this point, I must say a huge thank you to all who supported me with words of encouragement including Lucy King from MS-UK, who rang on a regular basis, and everyone who so generously donated money to the fund. How it got to the grand total £1,200 is just amazing. Nicky and I were just blown away by the support our idea generated.