In October this year, I decided to run a virtual marathon, my first one. I began training, building up and getting the miles in my legs, tentatively at first to avoid injury but building up the distances as I went. It was very hard but didn’t take long and like my dad, I (quietly) don’t give up.
My motivation… my dad. An athlete, a footballer, champion snooker and darts player, canoeist and lifelong fisherman. He received his multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis when he was 27 years old, not long after I was born. He is now 66 and although the progression of the disease has been relatively gradual, it has taken away all those things. He has lost the vast majority of the mobility control in his legs amongst other things. Having lived with MS for 40 years I cannot believe how resilient and calm he is and yet open. We all keep a little back from our loved ones and I do not doubt that he does because this is his and he owns it. He shares what he wants and faces into what he doesn’t. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t moan and he doesn't give up.
I originally intended to run the Official 2020 Virtual TCS New York City Marathon solo and self-supported, however, an ambitious practice run turned into the full distance a week ahead of schedule! I was out on the trails and things were working out well so decided to push on to make sure I understood what the ‘real thing’ would be like… good job too as I learnt a lot about what my body needs when under this much pressure. I thought of my dad.
On the day, after designing my route and packing my vest with food and water, I decided to set off from my dad’s home and take a nostalgic run through the old days along roads, towns and villages I remember when growing up. The weather was shocking with heavy rain and being soft underfoot - so Garmin ‘Set', crime audiobook ‘On’ (Dad loves detective stories), head down, swing the arms and see where the legs take you!
20 miles in and to be honest I’d had enough of natural beauty, enough of my audiobook, my body was rejecting food and all the water in the world was not hydrating me. There was no reason I could be, but I was bored! So I called my wife and spoke to my kids who buoyed me up. Then called my dad who picked up just as the wind and rain returned and couldn’t hear a damn word I was saying! They say the last six miles are the worst. That said, I completed it, solo and self-supported while playing detective in the pouring rain.
My reward (medal) is still in the mail from US however the New York Road Runners app provided this augmented reality one which really lifts the spirits when you award it yourself while you pose for as good a selfie as you can get (or care about getting!). My other reward was a cold, then hot bath, a can of American Cream Soda, nine sausages with huge amounts of Dad's mash.
I was reading about MS-UK and what caught my eye, in particular, was their focus on the mental health of individuals with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. My dad, my brothers and I are all fortunate to have one another to provide all kinds of support, particularly through lockdown, but we all know there will be some serious and important decisions to make in the next few years. We will need to strike a balance between support and independence. There will also be times when we do not know what to do, or if it is the ‘right’ thing and we will need the support of MS-UK.
As for fundraising, I told my story to those at work, those I run with or who I know run. With so many charities, particularly in 2020, needing more support than ever I didn’t want to appear to pressure them but when explaining the reason for my choice and the impact the support of MS-UK will one day have, people gave what they could.
Simon has raised an incredible £737.53 for MS-UK, here is the link to his fundraising page https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=SimonGardner11&pageUrl=1
If you would like to take on your own challenge to raise money for MS-UK like Simon did, please contact Lucy today on 01206 226500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Hello, my name is Sophia, I am Seven years old and I care a lot about MS-UK - It feels cool knowing I’m MS-UK’s youngest volunteer! I started volunteering because I like helping MS-UK and I want to help people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), I want them to feel happy and have a smile on their face. My great aunty Loraine has MS and she isn’t very well. I started by helping her, but I also want to help other people too.
I started volunteering for the MS-UK cheer-point cheerers when I went to watch my mum run the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2017. My dad and I cheered with Jenny at mile 17. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again! Sometimes it gets cold standing around but I don’t make a fuss because the cheering is more important!
The best bit of volunteering is cheering everyone on at events, especially when I’m allowed to use the megaphone! I like to cheer all the runners, “Well done runners! You can do this! Do not stop! The quicker you do it, the quicker it’s over!”. I also like to look out for the purple t-shirts so I can shout MS-UK! And one time Jenny bought me chips so that might be the best thing that’s happened at an event!
I woke up on Sunday 26 April, London Marathon day, or at least it should have been! It should have been the 40th anniversary of the event. I thought about those who should have been taking part, the months of training, the moments of pain and the little victories along the way. I picked up my phone with my cup of tea and started catching up on the social media updates when I came across an MS-UK post on Facebook “The 2.6 challenge, Save the UK's charities, 1 Day to go”, and it was posted yesterday meaning launch day was today!
I dropped a quick comment to ask if it was too late to sign up and on hearing I wasn’t too late, I quickly started thinking about what I could do. I glanced around and saw the face of the famous Pokémon Pikachu painted on the side of my beer barrel from a previous event, he looked at me smugly from across the room and my challenge started to come together.
I decided that I was going to dust him off and carry him while running 26.26km, in keeping with the 2.6 challenge. I set up my JustGiving page and told the world about my challenge for MS-UK.
It got to 5pm and as I was walking to my start line I check my JustGiving page to see I had already raised over £200, which was the perfect little boost I needed before setting off!
At 5km in my elbows were already screaming at me, I had some water and a bit of flapjack and set off up the river path. I negotiate the barrel into different positions to ease the pain on the elbows. If I held it in one hand over my back it bounced on my shoulder blades, in front of me it banged on my hips, two hands behind my head and my elbows filled with pain, there just isn't a comfortable way to carry that thing! I focused on all the reasons I was doing this, I'm running this for my parents, I'm running it for those that can't, I'm running it to raise vital funds for a charity that is due to lose out. This isn't about me or my challenge, it's about them.
I reached the half way point and pulled out my phone to find messages of support, I snapped a quick photo, picked up my barrel and continued my run feeling a little more refreshed from those encouraging words. I saw a family ahead and moved well over to let them pass, but really I was grateful for a short rest. As they passed I heard, “You do realise they make smaller water bottles mate?” It made me smile and once they'd passed I carried on, getting ever closer to the end of my journey.
Three hours after I had set off, the sun had started to set in the sky and I was just 3km from the finish. I took one quick photo with the sunset and then I picking up my pace because I knew I was almost there. Literally on the home stretch now and running towards my house, barrel in front of me, I was regularly checking my watch for distance. I watched the numbers tick over… 25.90, 26.00, 26.10, 26.2... 26.26km, I was there! It was done! My hands felt bruised, my legs tired and I felt like what I had just achieved was harder than the marathon itself. I checked JustGiving again to find the total was now over £300! I was astonished at the generosity from friends, family and even social media followers.
It was then time for a bath and a cup of tea! I feel happy to know I've helped my charity in their time of need.
If you would like to make a donation to Gavin’s fundraising page visit his JustGiving page here.
We hope that you and your family are well in this difficult time.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on UK charities leading to an estimated loss of £4 billion for the sector. Charities depend on income from fundraising events and thousands have been cancelled or postponed. For many charities, including MS-UK, the 26 April would have been the biggest fundraising day of the year thanks to the Virgin Money London Marathon, the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event which raised £66.4 million for charities in 2019.
In response, the UK’s mass participation sports event industry has come together to create The 2.6 Challenge, a nationwide fundraising campaign to Save the UK’s Charities. They are inviting the public to dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to charities like us. It would be wonderful to have your support.
How can you help?
Please find more information about The 2.6 Challenge by visiting www.twopointsixchallenge.co.uk.
Thank you for continuing to support us, every penny raised will really make a difference to the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis.
Jill Purcell, MS-UK Fundraising Manager
I’m still going!
This week will be my 18th swim which means I will have swum a third of my target, whoo hoo! That will be 1,080 lengths which is 27km. Lucy in our fundraising team has just informed me that is almost 17 miles.
I swim every week at Clacton Leisure Centre and the distance from the pool to our office in Colchester is just under 15 miles. I am amazed that I have swum further than that. It puts it into perspective for me that’s for sure.
I looked up distances for even more perspective and it appears that The Strait of Dover, which is the narrowest part of the English Channel, is 33.3km / 20.7 miles. Looks as though I am almost there then!
I must admit the last few weeks have been really difficult to stay motivated. I thought the winter months would be hard but wow it’s actually become a chore to get out of the house and go. I’ve had a knee problem that made swimming quite uncomfortable. I mostly swim breaststroke so I found it was aggravating it. Last week I tried to swim more front crawl which I do not find easy at all but my knee is much improved now anyway.
So far I have raised £325 which is great. I didn’t set a target as my swim is more of a personal challenge for me, than a fundraiser. I am delighted I have raised that much though and hope I can raise a bit more too as I still have several more lengths to go.
I’ll keep you posted.
If you would like to donate to Laura's fundrasing challenge then you can do so here https://justgiving.com/fundraising/80kmfor80yrs
Mark Seabright’s challenge is to scale England’s highest mountain.
This whole thing started with a throw away comment from a colleague stating that they would like to walk the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, and before we knew it, we were pulling a team together and agreed that we should do the walk in aid of multiple sclerosis, as a few of us have friends who are diagnosed with the condition.
It didn’t take long for a date to be agreed and the digs booked. Then came the realisation that a few of us may need to get in some practice before the big day. The idea is to do one walk a month on varying terrain and varying lengths. This should allow each of the team to judge if they need to put in any extra training.
The first practice walk took place on the morning of the 25 January when we decided to walk up a local landmark – The Wrekin in Shropshire. Not all ten of the team could make it due to other commitments. I have realised that I am certainly not in the great condition that I thought I was, and this walk came as quiet a surprise, with its incline beginning straight out of the car park and continuing all the way to the top. We completed the walk in 1hr 12mins, with a distance of 3.23 miles and an elevation of 778ft.
The next walk is planned for the 29 February. We have decided to do a longer distance, with less of an elevation over the hills near Church Stretton and we are hopeful that the more of the team can attend this one. We are out walking around the block in our lunch breaks and doing our own little bits of exercise when possible.
Our aim is to raise £500 for MS-UK, which we believe is a very deserving charity. MS-UK have been amazing, supplying branded t-shirts, a banner, and neck tubes along with kind encouragement and support.
Want to support Mark and his friends? Head over to his JustGiving page http://www.justgiving.com/Julia-Preston3
If you would like to take on a challenge like Mark and his friends, please contact Lucy today on 01206 226500 or Lucy@ms-uk.org
John Mills tells us about his marathon motivation and how training helps him manage his MS
Here’s a quick introduction for those of you that don’t know me. My name’s John Mills and I’m going to be running the London Marathon for MS-UK this year.
I was delighted to be asked to blog on the run-up to the big race by the team at MS-UK. It’s a cause that’s very personal to me. The year 2017 was one of big changes. My wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter, I turned 30, and I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
In this blog, and further forthcoming ones, I will write about my journey and progress from the perspective of a runner, how my training is progressing and how my MS is in relation to this.
I tried my hardest for over a year to ignore my diagnosis. I didn’t want MS to define who I was but, with the help of MS-UK, I have now realised that I can help define the condition instead, by raising awareness and promoting the fantastic work that MS-UK do.
Having already started fundraising, raising over £2,000 in a month, and meeting 20 or so #TeamPurple runners at a recent event means that there is now no turning back for me!
I am using the Nike Running Club (NRC) app for no other reason really than I have had it since 2013 and I know what to expect when using its training plans.
Royal Parks run
To get me off to the best start possible, I signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I am so pleased that I did. More than anything, I learnt what to expect come the 26 April 2020.
Here is what I took away from the day.
1. As silly as it sounds, 16,000 people is a lot to get across the start (and finish) line and that number will be doubled come April, which feels a little overwhelming.
2. Headphones are not needed. You won’t need headphones come race day (for training they are a must, for me anyway) as there is so much more going on to keep you occupied other than a playlist; the sights of London, steel bands, marching bands and the incredible support. It’s amazing that someone who you have never met before shouting your name can put a smile on your face after just having ran 13 miles!
3. Try to at least roughly plan where your supporters will be beforehand as you will undoubtedly miss them, as I did, if you don’t know where they are. My first recommendation to anybody running the marathon for the first time is to try and get some race day experience so you know what to expect.
My wife Sasha and I ran the Colchester half marathon for the MS Society back in 2016 because someone Sasha knows had been diagnosed with MS earlier that year. We raised £1,800 and, ironically, I had no idea that just a year later I’d be diagnosed myself.
I’ve always enjoyed running, but even more so now, as for me it is a form of meditation. All I need to think about is putting one foot in front of the other – nothing else matters. You are only competing against yourself. I wanted to act now with regards to running a marathon because with MS you just don’t know if or when it will have a greater impact on your everyday life.
Running and, more specifically, training for the Royal Parks half marathon and now the London marathon is part of my daily routine. It may sound odd, but if I wasn’t running, fatigue would get the better of me and I would spend the rest of the day in bed.
Today is a perfect example of that. I find maintaining a routine is key and exercise forms a strong part of that. I’m told that there is science behind that, but I am by no means an expert. All I know is that it helps me.
Training for the marathon is a great incentive for me to get out and maintain a certain level of fitness. After a run I get a sense of accomplishment and feel like I am beating MS one day at a time.
Currently I am not on any disease-modifying therapy for my MS, but I am due to start Ocrevus which works perfectly around training as it’s a six-monthly infusion. I take it as a sign that I am supposed to be running this marathon.
To sponsor John, visit his JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-mills-msmyselfandi
As soon as I found out I had a place on #TeamPurple in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020, I started telling everyone, and I mean everyone!
Setting up a JustGiving page makes sharing your fundraising story so easy. As soon as I had mine set up, I shared the link with friends, family, work colleagues, clients and suppliers at work, even the WhatsApp group that all the neighbours in my building are part of.
Spreading the excitement
Being passionate and truly caring about the cause you are running for is infectious. People feel it and get behind you because of it. Don’t worry about boring people, or get wrapped up in what they think about what you’re doing, as that’s not a productive use of your time and energy.
As well as donations from friends and family, I sold teams on a football scratch card. If you search ‘football scratch card’ on Amazon you can buy a pack of 10 for £3. I sold each team for £10, with £200 to go to the winner and £200 for MS-UK. I timed it to be drawn just before Christmas which I think helped get the squares sold. I’ll definitely be doing another card pre-race day.
I have also been in touch with my local community manager at Tesco to organise bag packing. I’ll be pushing for Easter weekend so that the shop will be a bit busier, and it’s not long before the race itself! I have linked up with a couple of other runners near me so that we can take this on together and have more of a presence in-store.
Running for my mum
My mum had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Her left leg was worst affected, making walking a daily struggle.
She would often fall in public and be left humiliated and, of course, in pain.
In September 2013, she was admitted to hospital for an unrelated skin infection. On discharge she was largely bed bound as her MS became increasingly aggressive, spurred on by a weakened immune system. A combination of all of the above led to her suffering a pulmonary embolism and passing away on 26/09/13. I don’t need to tell anyone how hard losing a parent is. I am completely and utterly lost without my mum and, even six years on, it’s as rubbish as it was then!
I was too young, selfish and naïve to take control of the situation for mum. I want to run the London 2020 Marathon in memory of her and to raise funds for MS UK to be able to help others with MS because of this. MS is misunderstood, it affects everyone differently and is completely unpredictable. I want to play my part in changing this.
My top tips
If you’re training for a big run, get started on your fundraising as soon as you can so you can smash it out of the park early and focus on training
Talk to everyone about it. It will connect you with people in a way you would never have imagined.
Use social media. I’m documenting my training on Instagram (@healthylivinglisa_). It’s an amazing tool to get chatting to other runners and widen your network even further.
Get yourself into the Facebook group and connect with other MS-UK runners. There are also a few London Marathon Facebook groups with thousands of people to chat to and get tips from.
Not everyone has this opportunity, certainly not those that are badly affected with MS, so it’s important to recognise how much of a privilege we all have to be part of #TeamPurple and what an honour it is to spread awareness and take this challenge on.
Wow, I have been dedicated to my swim challenge for 10 weeks already, which has gone quick. That equals 600 lengths, which means I have swum 15,000m. Phew, that makes me feel quite exhausted thinking about it. Of my 80km target, I have now swum 15k.
The hardest part now we are in the midst of winter is leaving my nice warm house to go out in the dark cold evenings. I am trying to get to the pool a bit earlier in the evening to help with that. I haven’t missed a week and once I am there it’s become quite easy to get in the pool and churn out the lengths.
One week I wasn’t that well and didn’t manage the distance. I made up for it the following week though by going twice. I am so determined! I can get bored and distracted very easily so I feel proud of myself for sticking to it. For some reason, this feels different to anything else I’ve ever done and the reason I’m doing it is by far the biggest factor in keeping me going.
One week I did really struggle to get into any kind of flow and I couldn’t focus my mind no matter how hard I tried. Every length was tough and I was really frustrated. I kept going but it was a very slow swim. I put it behind me and realised it was likely because I’d had a busy weekend, (and possibly a few too many drinks with friends!). It made me realise the importance of looking after my body if I want to achieve the distance.
My Dad was a very determined person, with everything he did in his life. He didn’t let anything get in his way, including his multiple sclerosis (MS). I remind myself of this at various points when I’m swimming. If he could be that determined then surely I must have a bit of that in me too! It is him that drives me forward. This challenge has made me feel closer to him than I have felt for some time. Maybe as I am allowing myself the headspace each week rather than constantly being lost in the busyness that life brings.
As we approach our tenth Christmas without him, we will remember with smiles and celebrate the memories. Merry Christmas Dad!
If you would like to donate to Laura's fundraising please visit her Just Giving page. Thank you!