My name is Andrea Chapa and I’m running the 2021 London Marathon for MS-UK. I hail from across the pond, but my story began in 2014 when I was studying abroad in Australia. Very early on during my summer term, I ended up at the hospital due to severe eye pain and partial blindness. I had an MRI done and some other tests when the doctors found spots in my brain. I still remember feeling alone and frozen in panic as I heard the doctor say ‘multiple sclerosis’ for the first time. The doctor said there wasn't enough evidence to fully diagnose but warned me that I could have more symptoms come up. But when? There was no way to know...
The following year sent me into a whirlwind of emotions and I was constantly living with the thought of MS creeping up around the corner. A year later it arrived. I had just graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles to start my career when I woke up with the room spinning. Vertigo paired with my history of optic neuritis gave me the diagnosis. I have multiple sclerosis.
I didn't know what that meant at first. Like many people I went online and saw and read things I wish I hadn't. Wheelchairs, canes, loss of motor function, mystery symptoms, shorter lifespan... I was scared and felt lost. It’s a feeling that I do not wish on anyone, but what got me out of it was the immense support from my family and loved ones. After that, I started reaching out to other people in my position and we shared advice, stories, sadness, and hope.
In 2018, I decided to do something that, to me, felt absolutely impossible. I wanted to run the six World Major Marathons before I turned 30. I was never an active person, even before MS, but I knew I needed to take control of my life. That year I ran New York Marathon and raised over $7,000 for the MS Society. I ran the Berlin Marathon in 2019 and was set to run the Chicago one in 2020 before the pandemic cancelled that.
This year, I’m taking on the London Marathon and I’ll have a partner to run with me! My girlfriend, Marette has been by my side since my diagnosis and has helped me immensely. I convinced her to take on London (our favourite city!) with me and we are both proud to be raising money for this amazing organisation. I truly believe that MS is not something one should have to face on their own and I feel honoured to represent an organization that is there to help out.
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 email@example.com
We were so disappointed for all of our #TeamPurple runners when it was announced that the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020 was postponed and then ultimately cancelled. However, we were blown away by the level of support from our runners, especially when the news broke that the Virgin Money London Marathon was going virtual for its 40th race.
After opening up our remaining virtual places to past runners and our runners’ friends and family, we had an amazing 100 people taking part on behalf of MS-UK!
On 04 October, they set out all around the UK and even some across the pond in Canada and the USA.
It was great to see how so many of our runners decided to make the event their own. Charlotte, Donna and Mim in Essex, decided to take on the challenge in fancy dress. They decided to run through the decades marking the start of the Virgin Money London Marathon.
They started in the 80s when the London Marathon began, before moving onto Ab Fab for loop three and were feeling magical in their Hogwarts get up as the progressed. They then ran around as various emoji’s before completing their run dressed as NHS staff to honour those who have been working around the clock over the past few months.
Alongside the creativity shown by our runners making their own finishing lines and having lined their routes with the London landmarks, some of #TeamPurple were invited to share their story on the BBC wall and on local radio stations which is truly incredible!
Of course, we cannot talk about the virtual event without sharing the experience of Jodey Hopcroft, who ended up covering a distance of 50 miles instead of the usual 26.2 miles due to a lack of signal for her tracking device. Despite the geological mishap, Jodey has stayed in good cheer and her story went viral after being interviewed by her local newspaper. Her story has since spread to various media outlets including Sky News and BBC, as well as other local and national radio stations and even made international news in India, Sweden and France to name a few. This led to a huge spike in donations to her JustGiving page – well done Jodey!
A huge thank you to all the runners and their friends and family for their continued support during this time, as a result of the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon #TeamPurple raised an additional £30,000!
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.
Yesterday, Sunday 01 March, 21 members of #TeamPurple took part in London’s Vitality Big Half Marathon. Runners gathered from all over the country to put themselves to the test and achieve their fundraising goals for MS-UK. Some even used this as a warm-up to the Virgin Money London Marathon, which will take place in April, and others did it just for fun!
The course started at London’s iconic Tower Hill and finished at the famous Cutty Sark. Once participants had successfully completed the half marathon they were invited to enjoy a festival put on by the event organisers. It boasted live music, street food and lots of fun for all of the family to enjoy.
Although there was the threat of storm Jorge the day turned out to be bright with blue skies and a brisk breeze, which definitely didn’t stop friends and family lining the course to cheer their loved ones on. Along the course, there was live music, including choirs and bands playing from different venues creating an amazing atmosphere.
Our cheer point in Rotherhithe was manged by our wonderful volunteers who shouted loud and proud for #TeamPurple. A big thank you to all of you, we just couldn’t deliver our #TeamPurple spirit without your brilliant support!
Those who have been fundraising for the event have so far raised £2,050 which is the equivalent of MS-UK being able to provide 41 counselling sessions to those affected by multiple sclerosis, so you really are making a difference. Thank you all for your amazing efforts!
We would also like to say a special thank you to Jonathan Dadds for his fantastic photography.
If you didn’t attend the Virgin Money London Marathon ‘Meet the Experts’ event, our Events Fundraiser Jenny Poulter reveals you what you missed
On Saturday, Lucy and I went down to the Meet the Experts event organised by the Virgin Money London Marathon events team.
The day was broken into two-time slots with sessions in the morning and afternoon covering training, nutrition, fundraising and more. There was then a chance to visit the charities that had attended, have a sports massage, have your gait measured by New Balance and buy some new running gear! To see more on what was covered, visit www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/event-info/meet-experts/.
It was also a great way to meet some of our #TeamPurple runners and catch up with you about your preparations for the big day.
Some of the points Lucy and I took from the talks were
The Virgin Money London Marathon is working really hard to become as sustainable as possible, and here are a few ways in which they are doing this.
We’re hoping to get hold of the slides that were shown on the day to share with you all too. If you haven’t yet seen this video do take a look www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGBANm2xlhs – you will be part of this amazing event sharing its amazing milestone! It really will be one of the greatest days of your life!
Don’t forget we are on the end of the phone, so if you need any support from us just call us on 01206 226500.
Virgin Money London Marathon runner Alison Rosenberg shares her journey
I started running later in life, my challenge just prior to my 40th birthday was to be able to run a 5km park run without stopping! I completed a ‘walk to run’ course with Chase Life UK then proceeded to regularly take part in park runs, 10KM races and eventually a half marathon.
Early on in 2019 a very close friend was hospitalised with what was a severe acute episode, an Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis followed. My friend received this diagnosis and to be honest, none of my friends fully understood what MS meant or how it affects the individual, family and friends.
So, after three years of running I had thought about maybe taking part in a marathon but had never really had the time or motivation to commit myself to the training. I attended the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2019 as a spectator and on that day, I decided that it was my time to apply! My friend has had to deal with so much and I wanted to show my love and support by raising money for MS-UK. I mean, what better motivation is there, than to run for one of my greatest friends in the iconic London Marathon!
As soon as I was offered a place to run London, I started my fundraising. Initially my head was just full of ideas! I could barely sleep with the mix of excitement and nerves all at the same time! I found it useful to sit and write all my ideas down and to talk to friends about which ideas were the most practical and realistic.
Firstly, I set up my Just Giving page followed by my London Marathon Facebook page. Facebook has been a valuable tool for me to advertise my fundraising events and update my followers with my achievements.
Fundraising has been a challenge, but enjoyable and rewarding at the same time! Here are some of the main ideas that have helped me reach my initial target
I sold every date of the year for £2 each, with a great 1st, 2nd and 3rd cash prize!
My friend has an online Body Shop products page, she supported me with making a marvellous hamper. It had around £75 worth of products and goodies, including Pizza vouchers kindly donated by Domino’s. I attended a couple of Autumn Fayres with the hamper followed by a Body Shop party hosted by a friend
I arranged three separate cake breaks at work. I was very busy making cakes, but my work, family and friends all supported me and baked cakes too! These cakes breaks to my colleagues raised £250
I emailed and telephoned many companies to do with dogs and dog walking! I was totally blown away with the generosity of both small and large companies who donated over £500 worth of products to me. I have two Labradors myself, which only added to the excitement of the wonderful prizes on offer and I was able to share this with all my fellow dog walking friends!
A local sweet shop kindly donated a sweet bouquet worth £22. The owner of the shop counted the sweets and wrote the answer in a card for me so that nobody else knew the answer!
I have emailed and telephoned several companies over the last few months, asking if they would consider donating to my London Marathon fundraiser for MS-UK. Many companies have emailed back to explain that they are unable to support me due to other charitable works, however others have supported me with wonderful donations. I have been so grateful for each one of my donations, however big or small, each one has helped me push forward with my target.
At just £106 away from my £2,000 target I received a message from a local accounting company to inform me that they would like to donate the remaining money to get me to my target. I was overwhelmed and very happy to meet with one of the Directors to collect the cheque.
Since reaching target I have continued with my fundraising ideas and have received further items from larger brand companies. I am busy planning my final event which will take place in March, a craft and products sale at our local social club. I have organised for people to come and buy a table to be able to sell their products, while I will be running a Tombola and “Name the teddy” stall.
I am the type of person that likes to feel that I can be of some help, to try to make a difference. Through my running and raising money for MS-UK I feel that I can make a difference for my friend - along with many more individuals and families.
To date, I am at the 15-mile mark with my training, this is a huge personal achievement, but I know I still have a long way to go! My running friends have all signed up to the Virgin Money London Marathon as well. All 10 of us are training together and raising money for charity. My friend Rachel is running alongside me for MS-UK and is keeping very busy with her own fundraisers! We are all excited and nervous for race day, but between us we know we will make it and in the process, raise as much money for charity as possible!
If you would like to support Alison and follow her on her journey to the Virgin Money London Marathon, you can donate to her Justgiving page below
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.
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.