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
I began fundraising for MS-UK back in 2017. It was an obvious choice of charity as my grandad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when he was younger and lived with it for many years.
Pretty much all of my memories of my grandad, minus any earlier photos are of him living with MS. Really you know no different when you are younger, and for my brother and me, this was normal. A more vivid and charming memory is how he would always have a tin of humbug sweets which we would help ourselves to whenever we visited him.
I have always wanted to run a half marathon. Saying that I have always wanted to say I have completed a full marathon, but expectation and reality are worlds apart. A good, or not so good starting point was to sign up to a half marathon when on a sun lounger, with a cocktail, in Mexico and forced myself into training upon my return. I thought if I’m signed up, I’m committed, and I really was committed to raising as much money as possible in honour of my grandad and for such an amazing charity.
The training was going well, it was hard and I was often faced with the mentality of “I’ll do it tomorrow”, but I was gradually getting my runs in and my miles up. Ultimately I wasn’t too fussed about hitting a certain time or pace, for me it was about the finish line, not finish time. My goal was to post as much as I could on social media, text as many people as I knew and keep sharing the event with as many people as possible.
In October 2017, I ran, completed, and surprisingly didn’t pass out after my first half marathon. It was hard work! The atmosphere was amazing, and the supporters throughout the race were incredible, especially those handing out Jelly Babies! I hit a wall on the ninth mile but continued with some kind of walk/run. I thought of how proud my grandad would have been to have seen me, and to have known I was running for the charity. Not only that, but some people don’t have a choice in their abilities and limitations because of their health. I should be ecstatic that I have the ability to finish a race and for such a good cause!
After the race, I said I wasn’t going to run another half marathon, but I would raise money for MS-UK in other ways.
May 2019, I signed up for my second half marathon....!
Same thoughts, same struggles, but through amazing friends and family and sponsorship I have been able to raise over £1,200 across both runs. I said I wouldn’t run another half marathon, but I guess I’ll be at the start line in 2020. Wish me luck!
If you would like to donate to Lauren's amazing efforts, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lauren-chrimes2. Thank you! If you, like Lauren, want to take on a new challenge, call Lucy on 01206 226500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday March 23, more than four thousand people took to the streets of Colchester to be part of the towns’ biggest community sporting event the year, the Colchester Half Marathon.
The event is organised by a group of volunteers from Colchester Colne Round Table who work tirelessly throughout the year to stage this fantastic event. All the proceeds from the race are shared between local charities.
This year MS-UK were lucky enough to have been chosen as the main charity beneficiary for the event. Brain injury charity Headway Essex were the other charity partners. MS-UK worked closely with the organisers and recruited a team of over 100 volunteers and 50 runners to support the event.
Taking on a half marathon is brave enough, but not enough of a challenge for MS-UK’s long term supporter Clare Thompson and her running buddy Dave, who completed the course wearing an MS-UK branded purple tyre!
It was a great day, everyone had loads of fun and the Great British weather was exceptionally kind to us too.
This week MS-UK received a very handsome donation of £48,750 from the event. Jill Purcell, MS-UK’s Fundraising Manager said 'We are delighted to receive such a fantastic sum of money raised from the event. The amount is equivalent to MS-UK being able to provide specialised supervised exercise sessions to more than 50 clients for a whole year at Josephs Court, our wellness centre in Colchester. Thank you to the Colchester Half Marathon committee, and all runners and volunteers for their generous support. It is always a great event which significantly benefits the local community too'.
Every penny raised from the Colchester Half Marathon helps MS-UK support even more people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), by raising awareness of the condition and offering services like our helpline, MS-UK Counselling and New Pathways magazine.
Thank you so much to all involved and our amazing #TeamPurple runners!
It was a beautiful day at the Colchester Half Marathon 2019 (24 March), the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky!
MS-UK had over 60 runners pounding the streets of Colchester, including an amazing duo who both wore and ran in a tyre!
Clare Thompson and her running buddy Dave, who ran the race while carrying car tyres, really went to town on decorating their accessories in aid of MS-UK. Clare said, ‘Some years ago my wonderful sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then all the family have been so grateful to the work MS-UK do and we have done everything we can to help raise money for this positive and hugely supportive charity’.
It was also great to see some of our Virgin Money London Marathon runners using the event as a training session with just five weeks to go! So far #TeamPurple have raised £4,000 collectively – Go #TeamPurple!
Thank you to our 130 wonderful volunteers! These types of events just cannot happen without your commitment. You all pitched in to help and support MS-UK in any way you could. You lined the course acting as event stewards and keeping the runners safe; handed out water, bananas, medals and goody bags; directed traffic and helped people park their cars, and our volunteer photographers took some amazing shots of everyone enjoying the day. We just can’t thank you enough.
See the amazing photos from this event in our Facebook photo album today!
MS-UK is here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), to empower them to live healthier and happier lives by improving the understanding of MS and providing support where it is needed most.
Volunteers are paramount in our success at any event MS-UK attends. If you’ve been inspired and you would like to get involved and offer your help, please get in touch with Jenny on 01206 226500.
‘Our sister and cousin, Nicola, 48 year old mother of three, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2017.
‘Obviously such a diagnosis came as a shock to us all. From the beginning the support she has received from MS-UK has been tremendous. It gave her a forum to discuss her fears and engage with people who also have MS. In turn, it continues to give her strength and courage and is empowering her to live her life to the fullest.
‘Through Nicola we heard about the MS-UK sponsored places at the Royal Parks Half Marathon and as runners, it was an obvious way for us to give back, do an activity that we love, make a difference...all in all, a win-win situation.
‘Out the outset, as busy people, we wanted to keep our fundraising efforts simple to achieve our target of £800.
‘We canvassed family for their suggestions on how best to raise the money and the consensus was very much in favour of fundraising activities rather than just donations. This enabled us to bring our family and friends together and the desire to have some fun along the way!
‘We agreed our two events would be a garden tea party and a quiz to make the most of the lovely summer we had this year. Both activities exceeded our expectations – you can see we raised an amazing amount on our fundraising page!
‘The key challenge for us was to ensure that our guests at both events went away feeling they had an enjoyable experience and the £10 fee was good value. Feedback from both events exceeded our expectations, with suggestions we should set up our own afternoon tea business and turn the quiz into an annual event.
‘We smashed our target and raised approximately £1,200, which enabled us to spend the latter two months focusing on training for the race.
‘Both of us came away from this experience feeling a sense of pride in achieving some personal physical targets (we both set a new personal best) and in our own small way we have made a difference.
‘So what’s next? We are delighted to be volunteer stewards for the upcoming Colchester Half Marathon and looking to engage as many family members. Maybe we will see you there!
Karen and Maxine
08 November 2018
Around the corner from the MS-UK offices in Essex, a bright-red boat is moored by the quayside. It's an impressive sight. The deck is busy with cranes and pulleys. Porthole windows gaze out across the water. The light tower that rises from the deck is seen by hundreds (possibly thousands) of commuters crossing the nearby bridge on their way to and from work.
So imagine our surprise when the Colchester Sea Cadets, who use the boat as their base once a week, said that they'd be willing to turn the tower light purple to show their support for MS-UK.
Last Wednesday evening, we made the short trip down the riverfront to see the purple light in full glow. It was astounding to behold! Set against the dark night sky, the light blazed, bathing the riverside in bright purple and causing a few passing heads to turn.
We spoke to a couple of cadets who had come to meet us, and they talked us through how they had planned the fantastic show of colour. While most of their explanation was far beyond our understanding of all things nautical, we were incredibly grateful to them for pulling off something so magical for MS-UK!
Thanks to Colchester Sea Cadets for welcoming us to their one-of-a-kind home and for helping us 'paint the town purple' in preparation for the Colchester Half Marathon 2019.
On Sunday 25 March, nearly 3,000 runners took to the streets of Colchester in Essex to complete the Colchester Half Marathon. The day promised an ‘amazing mass-participation event bringing together local runners, businesses and the community’. It didn’t disappoint. With lots of excitement the runners set off at 9am sharp!
Taking part in the race and running especially for MS-UK were occupational therapy masters students from the University of Essex, Tess, Claire and Lauren. Lauren and Claire both have personal experience with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Commenting before the race, Claire said: ‘My neighbour was diagnosed three years ago and it has driven me to fundraise for this charity, I know it will make him proud.’
Neil Dulieu, a Teaching Assistant at Mersea Island School, has been running semi-seriously for around five years. His wife Amanda has secondary progressive MS and he took part in this year’s Colchester Half Marathon as part of his bigger fundraising plans.
Neil explained: ‘At the end of last year I decided I really wanted to set myself a challenge for 2018 to raise money for MS. 2018km in 2018 just came to me one night, the numbers worked well, it equated to averaging a full marathon distance every week and meant I could start on 1st January and incredibly finish the challenge on my birthday, 1st December. I tend to run most days before or after school and then often run the Colchester or Mersea Park Runs on a Saturday morning to finish my week off (with one rest day on a Sunday).’
The chosen charity partners for this year’s Colchester Half Marathon were Essex & Herts Air Ambulance who will receive 75% of the proceeds and MS-UK who will receive 25%.
Jill Purcell, Fundraising Manager from MS-UK said: ‘It was great to see the turn out on Sunday and the atmosphere was buzzing. We had Myles the MS-UK mascot dancing away and spurring everyone on, as well as volunteers at water stations, marshalling and in the stadium supporting all of the runners.
‘We at MS-UK are so proud of everyone who took part and would like to thank you all for your time, dedication and effort in raising money for people with MS. The charity relies on the generous support of our fundraisers to make our work possible, and we’re delighted that we’ll be able to continue supporting people affected by multiple sclerosis.’
To see all of the great pictures taken on the day, visit the MS-UK Facebook page. Don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ our page while you’re there!