April 2010

Sunday 4 April 2010

I am now tapering. Before I started this running lark, a taper was a thin bit of wood a bit like a lollipop stick for lighting a Bunsen burner in chemistry at school. We used to steal them only to discover they were fairly useless outside of the chemistry lab. In the world of running, tapering is reducing your mileage in the run-up to an event. I have peaked! This week I have run 35 miles, including a 20 mile run on Thursday. Next week the mileage reduces to 29 miles followed by 19 miles the week before the marathon. It doesn’t seem right to start slowing down three weeks before the day. I have always followed the philosophy that “nothing concentrates the mind like the last-minute”, I always learn more when studying for exams in the three days before than in the previous three months. To give up studying three weeks before an exam would be a ludicrous thing to do. This is what tapering feels like. Three weeks to go, it seems amazing.

In the last 13 weeks I have run over 300 miles mostly with Karen for company. You get to know someone pretty well in that time, however I was still surprised when she turned up for our 20 mile run on Thursday looking like David Dickinson. She is in Majorca this weekend for a hen night and she wanted to have a bit of colour about her in advance. She went to get sprayed with fake tan and I think she accidentally got sprayed with creosote. My only concern is she won’t get back into the UK as she looks nothing like the picture on her passport.

It is Ella’s eighth birthday today and it has coincided with me feeling quite symptomatic. We bought her a desk and chair for her room which I assembled yesterday. I was quite shaky as I put it together and it was a bit of a struggle. I could sense Vicky watching, unsure what to do. She knew if she offered to help I would refuse through my own sheer determination but equally she wanted it finished this week! I am going through one of the periodic lows which I have to to work my way through. As usual I have taken too much on and it is getting to me. I never learn!

I have bought a few books on speechwriting as I will have a couple of speeches to do this year, and by far the most entertaining is the Complete Speaker’s Handbook by Bob Monkhouse. It is an excellent read. He discusses all the pitfalls that you might encounter, including trembling. Being a subject close to my right arm, I had a good laugh at some of his comments. He discussed the time he had to speak to the adoption panel when he was trying to adopt a child and he said “My God, did I have the shakes! I reckon I could have threaded a sewing machine while it was still running.” He also mentioned seeing Kenny Everett shaking before making a speech, Kenny commenting he was as “insecure as an elephant’s gynaecologist”. He was still shaking when he got up to speak and he said to the audience “I think somebody has organised a sponsored walk across my grave”. It is a fabulous book.

The next few weeks are busy, I will be working this week and then the following week we are off to a caravan in Southerness near Dumfries. It will be good fun. As far as I recall from a previous visit there is no mobile phone reception and no Internet access so I will have an enforced layoff. Fabulous. The week after that I am in Munich for a court hearing and then it is the marathon. But that is all for the future. Today I eat chocolate.

Monday 19 April 2010

So the training is done, well almost, a 3 mile run on Wednesday will finish it, and then we head to London on Friday. How do we get there? No idea. The volcanic cloud appears to be shifting so maybe we will be able to fly. My trip to Munich this week has been cancelled, which makes my life a bit easier. I can forget all my plans to take one set of marathon kit to Germany with me and send a spare set with Victoria to London (I have no faith that KLM would have got my luggage from Glasgow to Munich and then back to London. Once when I was checking in with my pal Billy, he said to the check-in assistant “I am checking in three bags, can you send this one to New York, this one to Paris and this one to London”. The check-in assistant said “this flight is going to Amsterdam, we can’t do that”. Billy replied “you managed it last time.”)

The last few weeks running have been very difficult. Once the 20 mile run was out of the way and the tapering started, I have not really enjoyed running, I just want to get on with the main event. I am also in a bit of pain with my foot from dystonia. I had to stop after 9 1/2 miles of a 13 mile run last week. It was quite disheartening. However much I used to dislike running, I would miss it now. It is quite sad.

I think Richard, Karen and I will run together on the day, trying to get around in one piece, probably taking about five hours. Of the others, Bob will be heading for a time of around four hours and Adele probably a bit quicker. Alan, however, is a mystery. It is remarkable he is going to be on the start line given the bad luck he has had with injuries and could finish with a time of anywhere between 3 1/2 hours and two days. But he will finish it. There will be two other Wobbly runners, Mark Wilson and Darren Boyce, I have no idea what they’re times will be like however if either of them look even slightly athletic I will be trying to swap timing chips with them.

I am now focusing my thoughts on the last half mile of the marathon, trying to imagine what it will be like, trying to build up an image which will see me through the last ten miles. What will the medal be like? A survey of the 20 medals I have collected since I started running produced the startling result that 9 are circular and 11 are square. This is outrageous, medals should always be circular. Jim’ll Fix-It badges are square. I do not want to have run nearly 400 miles in training and 26 miles on a single day to end up with a medal which might be mistaken for a Jim’ll Fix-It badge. It takes considerably more effort to run a marathon than write a letter saying “Dear Jim, Can you fix it for me to dress up as a chimpanzee and throw poo at tourists in Regent Park zoo?” However appealing that might be.

I wonder if Jim could fix it for me to be cured of Parkinson’s? Probably not. I might just drop him a letter. Given the number of enormous cigars he smokes, and the recent evidence that smokers are less likely to succumb to Parkinson’s, he is probably safe. He will probably have no sympathy.

We had a terrific week at the caravan in Southerness. The weather was fantastic and the children were on great form. Always helps. I started my carbo-loading process, but unfortunately didn’t distinguish between the carbs and everything else, so I have put on about half a stone, which will now be transported round the streets of London. I just can’t stop eating sometimes. Much of the week was spent honing my speech for the Past Captains Dinner at Douglas Park golf club, which I delivered on Saturday night. I wasn’t too nervous, I had prepared as well as I could and it went very well. Most of the jokes got a good laugh however one or two of the Parkinson’s related jokes, which parkies would have laughed at, drew more sympathy than chortles. It made me realise I have to be careful what I say to different audiences.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

I am marathon runner! How cool is that? 24 hours after finishing in 5 hrs and 12 mins I am elated, sore and looking forward to number two in Chicago in October.

Everything went smoothly. By the time we got to the start line I was bursting to start. Karen was just bursting so after a couple of miles we had a short loo stop. Richard, Karen and I made a pact to go through it together and it was a great experience to share. We had a list of games to play and things to talk about but the crowds were so noisy you just wanted to run, listen to them and get drenched by the atmosphere. It was brilliant.

Pubs were decked out (the pirate ship in Greenwich was my favourite), people had parties in their gardens and even the churches got involved with a priest dishing out the holy water.

Our supporters did a great job. John Hull was at 8 miles, Vicky, Linda, Gill, Barbara and Alan were at 9 and 25, Helen was at 15 and Angela at 21. We had our names on our shirts and all the way through the marathon the crowds are yelling your name, it is very motivational. There was plenty of “Come on Bryn” and “Go Richard” shouts. Karen got less because her name was at the bottom of her shirt, whereas ours were plastered across our chests. Many people must have thought I couldn’t spell because Bryan was a popular shout, and a few wags called me Uncle Bryn (from Gavin & Stacey on TV)

We ran a level speed and bashed out the miles. The crowds along the first 9 are noisy enough but from mile 10 onwards the atmosphere goes up a level. Having felt uncomfortable for a spell early in the race, I was in great shape crossing Tower Bridge at 12.5 miles.

For a mile or so after the half way mark we ran on one side of the road, towards the Isle of Dogs, as the faster runners (28000 of them it turns out) ran on the side of the road heading for home. They were heading for a three hour finish whereas we were on course for a sub-five hour run.

The Isle of Dogs was where I hit bother, about 17 miles. I took advantage of a tunnel to have a pee and shortly after I started running again a bit of cramp grabbed my lower right leg. Richard and Karen grabbed me and got me to the side. The crowd really got behind us and a bit of stretching eased it enough to get me going again.

The next 9 miles were a personal triumph. My legs were teetering on the edge of cramp the entire time. Richard, Karen and the crowd kept me going. I guzzled water, the stations couldn’t come fast enough. Running along the Embankment towards the finish was wonderful. And then my left leg cramped at 24.5 miles.

I pulled up and a St Johns Ambulance man came belting towards me. He had amazing hands and massaged the pain away sufficiently for me to start again. I ran the rest of the way on my heels to keep my muscles taut. Vicky, Gill and Linda were at Parliament Square and beyond them was the home straight to Buckingham Palace. I had imagined the excitement of the moment I passed the Palace and saw the “Only 385 Yards to Go” banner. The reality doesn’t disappoint. You run under the sign, turn at the Statue of Eros and the finish is in front of you. Amazing.

We crossed the line holding hands, we hugged and cried. It was a moment of elation, achievement and the fulfilment of a dream. We had run the whole way.

My Parkinson’s had little effect on me. The right leg was a bit dead for a few miles early on and my shaky hand resulted in a few spillages, but my foot from Dystonia behaved like it was a native, nae bother at all. My problems were the problems of people who attempt to run a marathon.

The medal is beautiful. A heart.

The rest of the day was a blur. We met up at the Red Lion in Whitehall. Bob was beaming at his 4hr 15min time. Alan was vowing never again. We met Adele’s family, bumped into a lovely chap we saw at Silverstone, and caught up with John, Angela and Bruce at a pub in Leicester Square (also had a chat with Trevor who was married to Mo in Eastenders) and Paul, Mark, Pam and Andrew at our final resting place in Tower Hill. I had two dinners, a couple of pints and went to bed! Live it up Williams!!

It was a great experience and my gratitude goes to the Running Team for their supreme efforts raising money and awareness whilst putting in the miles. Thanks also to Linda, Gill, Lynsey, Vicky and Gavin for supporting us as we disappeared for hours on end to train. Alan has overcome awful injuries to run this weekend, he said that in a few years time he will be featured in the papers under the headline: “My mate is cured of Parkinson’s but I’m left a cripple”.

When I got home on Monday, the first thing the girls asked to see was the medal. Rebecca loves a heart, or a loveheart as she calls it, she is always drawing them.

Before I showed it to her I said “Guess what shape it is. It’s your favourite”

She thought hard and said “Peppa Pig?”

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