Chris Rayner turned his life around in his mid-30s and competed beyond his wildest dreams
Watching athletics with my Dad when Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram flew the flag for our country is one of my earliest sporting memories. However, if you had told me back in 1983 that I would one day pull on my country’s colours in competition, I would have found that hard to believe. Skip forward to October 2019 and I found myself proudly slipping into my England vest ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon!
During my early 30s, as is often the case, I’d put on a bit of weight and didn’t really exercise. I was stuck all day behind the wheel of a car as a sales rep, and my eating habits weren’t the best.
The big change happened when my marriage failed. I began jogging to try and do something positive. It’s well known that running can really boost mental health, and I was feeling a bit lonely. A friend suggested I go along with her to an event organised by Chiltern Runners. I became a regular.
I was adamant I would never enter a race, but one night, after several post-run beers, I was persuaded to enter the 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash 10k and, during the same beer session, declared I’d be able to do it in under 40 minutes. I didn’t even have a running watch back then so decided I’d better train hard, and crossed the finish line in 39 minutes 22 seconds. I was hooked!
The excitement of Leeds was short lived, however. A few days later I was in an awful car accident near Aberdeen which saw me upside down in a field. A week later my spleen ruptured, which resulted in major abdominal surgery to save my life. I felt lucky and so thankful to be alive and was desperate to get back to running to put events behind me. Six weeks after surgery and now minus my spleen, I cautiously took part in the South Manchester parkrun and it felt great to be back.
My first marathon
The next huge event in my running story was, again, after a few beers when I was persuaded to enter the 2016 Manchester Marathon. I woke the following morning thinking I’d made a terrible mistake, but then I promised myself I would dedicate the next three months to doing every single run on the plan, come rain, sun, snow or sleet.
I stood on the start line that sunny April morning knowing that I could not have done any more and that, whatever happened in the race, I had already achieved the real value the marathon. The icing on the cake was that after a rather frantic sprint to the finish line, my watch said 2 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds!
After that, there was no stopping me and I competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon, then Venice, then London, and then the Chester Marathon. I managed to finish in under 2 hours 45 minutes and, a week later, I received an email to say I’d qualified to represent England Masters in the 2019 Yorkshire Marathon!
My first charity marathon
It was going to be a proud day for me pulling on an England vest in my home county with my parents watching. I decided to use the occasion to do some good and considered running for charity, something I had not done previously. My grandfather Thomas Rayner had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died before I was born. I knew my father and uncle would be very delighted if I ran to support an MS charity and I chose MS-UK because of the fabulous support they provide to people living with the illness, including friends and work colleagues. Having set up a Just Giving page, I was amazed when £1,000 was donated in just 48 hours and £1,500 in total was pledged. I am fortunate to have some very generous friends and family.
The big day
The day itself was amazing. Lining up with my England colleagues for the team photo made it suddenly seem very real, but I quickly got my race head on as I had a job to do. I had my girlfriend and friends cheering me at the start and knew my parents would be at mile 14/15. Despite having had a few issues in training was determined to give it my all.
Standing alongside my Chorlton team mate Matt in the start pen, we wished each other luck and waited for the off. The conditions were pretty good – dry, cool, but a bit windy in places. I went out hard in the early stages and waited for the wheels to fall off, but got to halfway feeling good.
The shout of “Go on England!” from my mum gave me a boost at 15 miles, but a mile later, I started cramping a bit in my left hamstring. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the cramp but lost touch with the group I had been running in, which meant running into the wind on my own, which is hard both physically and mentally.
The marathon is a massive mental game – you have so much time out there where you need to maintain form and focus and also remain hard in the head. Fortunately, Yorkshire folk are famed for this! The last six miles are always a battle in every marathon – they often say it’s a 20 mile warm up for a six mile race. I kept thinking of the finish line, all the people who I knew would be tracking my progress, the people who had sponsored me, and I shut out the message from my body that was saying Stop!
Two miles to go and my pace had just dipped a touch between 20 and 24 miles, but I rallied myself and knew I had this race and another personal best was within my grasp. With half a mile to go, the organisers kindly put a short but sharp hill in your way, but you know when you crest it you have a 400 meter downhill run to the finish. My cheer squad was placed on that hill and I flew up it, then belted it down to the finish line as the commentator called my name over the public address. I crossed the line, arm aloft, in a new best of 2 hours, 40 minutes and 51 seconds.
It is only when you finish a marathon that you realise how much pain you are in and you go from sprinting to the line to suddenly finding it hard to walk! However, I am so lucky to be able to enjoy my sport and it serves as a great reminder that things I sometimes take for granted are not so easy for others. Whilst I am very proud of my progress from taking up running in my late 30s to running for England in my mid-40s, the amazing donations I raised for MS-UK was the something that meant the day was truly special.
This weekend I had a fantastic day cheering on our amazing #TeamPurple swimmers at this year's Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine - thank you to everyone who made the day possible! The water was a lovely 17 degrees and the sun was shining as we made our way to Hyde Park to set up our MS-UK stand in the festival area.
We were thrilled to have 21 swimmers taking on challenges in this year's swim and every penny they have raised will help us continue our work supporting people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). Our fantastic fundraising total already stands at over £10,000 and it makes such a difference to our work at MS-UK, thank you!
A thousand people at the event achieved their London Classics Medal this year, including four of our very own #TeamPurple swimmers - congratulations! One of our London Classics Medal winner even learnt to swim this year just to get it on Saturday!
A massive well done to everyone who took part in the Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine and thank you to everyone who volunteered with us on the day to make it such a special atmosphere for our amazing swimmers.
Can't wait for next year!
On Sunday I had the privilege of cheering on our amazing #TeamPurple runners at the Simplyhealth Great North Run!
The weather was warm (if a little windy!) as I joined crowds of well over 200,000 people lining the route of the run, right from Newcastle to South Shields. Over the whole weekend around 58,000 people took part in events, from the 5k run through to the Great Tees 10k, but I was there to support the amazing runners taking on the Great North Run in aid of MS-UK.
This was the first year I have travelled North to support #TeamPurple at the Great North Run and I was amazed at the dedication and energy of our runners. It was a brilliant atmosphere and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who wore our purple running vests with pride.
Every penny raised from this event helps us support even more people across the whole of the UK who may be living with multiple sclerosis (MS). One service we offer is being able to listen to people’s worries and concerns through the MS-UK Helpline and offer lots of information and support at times when it is really needed. Our amazing fundraisers make this possible.
The date for next year is already out – 13 September 2020 – so if you want to join #TeamPurple please get in touch with me to register your interest. I would love to be cheering you across the finish line at this unforgettable event next year!
Events Fundraiser, MS-UK
Earlier this month, Gary Beck and I did the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 event. My wife Diana is Head of Services for MS-UK and I went with her as a volunteer supporter at the Virgin Money London Marathon in April. I was so inspired by the experience that I wanted to do something myself. I didn't think I had a marathon in me but when I heard that I could support the charity with a 100 mile bike ride I signed up immediately. I work with Gary and when I told him I'd signed up he said he'd do it too!
The most interesting thing about all the training (and there was lots of training!) was that you get to see all sorts of things on a bike that you don't see from a car. I've nearly run over dozens of pheasants, seen stoats and weasels, a buzzard that nested at one of my stopping places, foxes and deer and I've even seen a snake for the first ever time in this country. I can also guarantee that potholes are worse on a bike than they are in a car!
Gary was responsible for a lot of the fundraising and he managed to twist the arms of a lot of people at his golf club. I have to say a big thank you to the Colne Valley Golf Club Swindle Members who raised over £250 between them. I also have to thank my employer, Gallagher, which has a charity commitment to double anything it's people raise. Thanks Gallagher! That's my main tip - a lot of companies will match any funds raised by their employees so it's always a good idea to ask.
Perhaps the funniest thing to share is that I've broken my vow never to wear Lycra. I can't say I'll be rushing to buy any more Lycra gear but it did the job on the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I enjoy cycling but I've never done anything like 100 miles before. The only thing I'd really say is that if you fancy doing something like this but aren't sure if you can do it then have faith, you'll be surprised at what you can do.
We have places in #TeamPurple for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 2020! A lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, this event sees more than 25,000 cyclists take on 100 miles from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, through the city and onto Surrey's stunning country roads and the Surrey Hills before the brilliant finish on The Mall in central London. Could you be one of them? Every penny you raise will help MS-UK support even more people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).
Last year I went along to the Swim Serpentine to cheer on our amazing supporters as they took part - I was blown away. The festival atmosphere and the fantastic efforts of all the swimmers really inspired me.
As a rule, I'm not one for sporting activities. Last time I did some fundraising for MS-UK I sat in a bath of baked beans - it didn't exactly need high levels of fitness! But that was some years ago and I felt it was time for a new challenge so I decided to take on the Swim Serpentine this year. As I work at MS-UK, I know that every penny makes a real difference to people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). I also get to meet people affected by this condition in lots of different ways and I am always so in awe of people who live life to the full with MS. It feels great to give something back by fundraising, but also it feels great personally to take on something new.
However, it's not all plain sailing when you take the plunge, so here are my top tips for new open water swimmers...
There are so many more tips that other swimmers could share, but here's my top five. For everyone taking on the Swim Serpentine this year, good luck and I will see you there.
Just keep swimming!
We have just two spots left in #TeamPurple for this year's amazing Swim Serpentine event - do you fancy taking the plunge?
On Saturday 21 September the annual Swim Serpentine will be held at Hyde Park in London. It’s a one-day open water swimming festival where many swimmers will take part and raise money for charities - and you could take on the challenge for MS-UK!
Not only is it the same location as the open water swimming competition that was held in the London 2012 Olympics, there is an array of amenities that will help the brave swimmers through the two mile swim. These include a dunk zone, heated changing rooms, hot tubs and a pontoon start and finish.
With over 6,000 people diving into the challenge last year, we can only expect more success in 2019.
Until September, just keep swimming!
Events Fundraiser, MS-UK
I made a promise to my dad twenty years ago that one day I would do a charity event and raise money for multiple sclerosis (MS). My dad is 83 and had relapsing-remitting MS for 40 years and I have seen first-hand how this disease not only affects the person but also the family.
So, after twenty years of procrastinating, my partner Anne-Marie and I decided to finally hold true to my word. I was already in the RideLondon-100 so we looked at MS charities for Anne-Marie. Thankfully we spoke to Jenny at MS-UK who was enthusiastic and welcoming and that sealed our decision.
I know a lot of people use charity places as a way of getting into an event they wanted to do anyway but if there was one bit of advice I could ever give someone, it would be to pick a charity that means something to you.
For all those rainy days you don’t feel like training, for all the times your bum hurts (even with a litre of chamois cream slapped over it), for all those times you are halfway up a steep hill wondering why you aren’t slouched on the couch chowing down on popcorn, knowing why you are putting yourself through this makes such a difference to your resolve and dedication.
Training went well until one sunny May afternoon, I had a collision with a car whilst out cycling. The end result was a road closure, ambulance, two police cars, a suspected broken leg, injured back and hand, stitches in the chin and my bike was written off.
Subsequent x-rays and MRIs to my hand and leg miraculously showed nothing broken. By sheer chance, the angle of my knee prevented a far more serious long term knee injury occurring so I feel incredibly lucky.
Nevertheless, I was told I would be on crutches for up to 10 weeks and that all cycle events would be out until September.
This was devasting for both myself and Anne-Marie.
To put this into perspective, Anne-Marie is not a confident cyclist. She has never ridden on her own so the thought of her cycling 100 miles solo scared her to death.
She continued to train on an indoor bike in the gym but only for an hour at a time which wouldn’t be enough to get her in shape for a 100 mile ride outside.
She also suffered far more than me after my accident. My damage was physical but Anne-Marie’s was mental. From a lack of sleep due to nightmares leaving her exhausted, from having to be my carer for five weeks leaving little time for the bike, to seeing her partner in almost constant pain, her confidence plummeted.
But this is where choosing a charity that means something to you is so important. Despite all her fears, she knew she wouldn’t pull out. It was too important a promise to go back on.
After a few weeks of mental turmoil, she made a last-minute decision to try the Tour of Cambridge on her own. A massive feat for her and one I am so proud of her for.
In the meantime, I had been rehabbing for up to two hours a day. I developed a huge admiration for people like my dad who, because of their MS, have to ‘rehab’ every day just to keep mobile and functioning.
I remember the first day I managed to do a full revolution of a pedal stroke in the gym. It took me 10 minutes to get my leg over the top of the pedal stroke and it felt amazing. Within a week I managed five minutes on an indoor bike. A week later I double that time to 10 minutes and a week later I tried 20 minutes. Each time I felt exhausted and despite the Physio telling me there was no way I would get to the start line of the RideLondon, the prospect of being there with all the other MS-UK riders really made me want to give it a shot.
Despite everyone telling me not to overdo it, I cautiously overdid it and increased my longest ride from 20 miles to 25 to 35 to 53 to 70 miles on subsequent sessions with Anne-Marie always by my side.
At the end of each ride, I felt exhausted and would fall asleep in a sweaty mess.
So here we are today. My max longest ride will have been 70 miles. I don’t feel ready for the event, my hand still hurts but I’ll give it a jolly good bash. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the importance of the charity, I wouldn’t have tried anyway near as hard on the rehab. Anne-Marie would have certainly dropped out of the event too but she feels a connection to the charity through me and my family.
Seeing the effort families put in to helping their loved ones, seeing the effort those suffering from MS put into daily life means that you can’t help but feel motivated and inspired to put that little bit more into your own daily life.
For those who are reading this who are doing the event, I look forward to seeing you on the start line. I also look forward to seeing you (hopefully) at the finish line.
It’s all for a great cause and the journey has been unexpectedly up and down but also an amazing growing experience for both of us.
Good luck everyone and go #TeamPurple!
David Bint and Anne–Marie Cannon
Myself and two close friends completed the Action Peak District Challenge, a run covering 100 Kilometres (62.5 miles) 2450 metres of elevation (Ben Nevis is 1,354m). The route took us through a tough and varied figure of eight loop around Peak District National Park. With none of us having attempted a challenge anywhere near this distance, we were entering completely uncharted territory. However,18 hours 17 minutes and 41 seconds after departing Bakewell showground we crossed the finish line. Out of a field of over 600 runners, 508 completed the continuous challenge, we ended up finishing 68th.
My Mum and Uncle were diagnosed over 10 years ago and over this time I have watched how horrible multiple sclerosis (MS) can be. Over that time the treatments have got much better however the unpredictably of symptoms occurring has remained. When deciding to use this challenge to fundraise my first thought was to find a charity that helps people with MS.
Before this challenge I had never ran more than 15 miles. I had no idea how to train to run over 4 times that, and working away from home made training difficult at times. Before the challenge started I knew it was going to be more of a mental battle than a physical one, to mute that little voice telling you to give up.
Having completed the first 52Km with no major problems and feeling confident we headed off after grabbing some lunch feeling really optimistic. Almost immediately after setting off I hit my biggest obstacle. At the 54Km mark whilst descending a steep hill, I started to feel a shooting pain in my left knee, which as the miles went on got worse and worse. The pain and discomfort escalated and became a gruelling mental battle to carry on and at a prolonged slower pace. Dealing with the frustration of not being able to run and watching as people we had overtaken hours ago now overtaking us was hard to take, we had out worked them and a freak injury meant they were now in front. At the time it seemed very unfair. At that point I also felt a massive burden to the other two guys who could of carried on running. However later they too came up against their own injuries which together we worked through.
This was my first time fundraising. I have learnt a lot of lessons. Everything revolves around social media, get posts out often, start fundraising well in advance, Have information for how to donate on you at all times to give people, lots of times in conversation people expressed an interest in donating but I didn’t have the link at hand to give them.
I attempted this challenge predominantly for selfish reasons – I wanted to know if I could do it, if I could raise some money for a good cause at the same time that was a bonus. However the lessons I have learnt from the experience are far more than that of physical endurance.
The key take away lesson from this experience for me was that we always have more in the tank than we think, and it is often the support given from others which allowed us to see it. Me, Louis and Ryan were able to achieve as a collective something that would of been beyond us as individuals. And I think that really underpins the importance of the work done by charities like MS-UK, because that support really does make a monumental difference in what we can all achieve.
Get in touch! Call Lucy on 01206 226500 or email Lucy today.
Last year, MS-UK launched its first ever corporate fundraising challenge. Dubbed the 925 Challenge (only very slightly inspired by the Dolly Parton hit, ‘9 to 5’), we invited local businesses to try and raise at least £925 in nine weeks, two days and five hours.
It proved to be a huge success. Teams from Ellisons Solicitors, Charles Derby Financial Services, Harp Commercial Interiors, Whitehall Electrical, Team Pivotal, Push Energy, The White Hart, OPM Response and Direct Solutions, all entered into the spirit of healthy competition and let their creative side run wild on their quest to beat the countdown clock!
The 925 Challenge returns in September and this time it’s going national! We are on the hunt for ambitious companies from every corner of the country who want to gather work colleagues together for the ultimate test of teamwork and outside the box thinking.
There’s no right or wrong way in which teams can raise the golden £925. Plan to raise funds by sponsoring the construction of a giant pyramid of cards? Go for it. Fancy hosting a slinky race? A little strange, but be our guest. Whatever shape the masterplan takes, your fundraising efforts will inspire camaraderie, raise the public profile of your company and potentially bring your local community together.
The challenge is set to launch on Thursday 12 September 2019. Then, nine weeks, two days and five hours after the first second ticks over – Saturday 16 November to be precise - the countdown clocks will be stopped!
Which team will prove to be the most innovative or imaginative? Who can showcase what it means to be a true team? Prizes to answer these questions and more will be handed out at an awards evening held on Thursday 28 November.
On Sunday we had 30 people take on the ASICS London 10k in the bright and sunny London for MS-UK. Congratulations and thank you to all those that ran and came along to cheer and support, it goes so far in helping those affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) to live happier and healthier lives.
Part of our 30 racers was a running group from Berkshire, who was organised by a cherished long-term fundraiser who is affected by MS herself. Alongside many people who have taken part in the Asics London 10k previously, as they enjoyed it so much before!
Our team have been hosting their own events to help fundraise for this day, ranging from a gin tasting night, to a boot camp and even a rock and roll bingo night!
We had a very enthusiastic cheer point of volunteers who came along to support #TeamPurple at this event in London, most of who had either volunteered before or had taken part in our other events. We are so immensely grateful for this support and just can’t do these events without you, so we wanted to give a massive thank you!
Here is what Chris and Fran Setterfield, two of our amazing volunteers, had to say about the day…
'We love supporting our runners at the cheer points. Seeing the unexpected smiles on their faces when they suddenly hear their names being called out means so much to them! We know how important this is, having been at the receiving end!'
Deb Wald, who ran the race itself, said 'I’m so happy to have taken part and done it again for MS-UK, there’s a continuity with them that’s very motivating.'
Places are still available in the Royal Parks Half Marathon!
Email Jenny today to find out more or call us on 01206 226500!