April 2011


4 April 2011 – Party and Paris

The 40th party was lovely.  The wobbly team were there in their entirety and I’m very grateful for their support.  We had darts, we had George, Tony and Donald on the guitars, and we had a fabulous venue.  Although I was fairly on edge most of the time, particularly as I wasn’t sure how many were going to turn up (about 30 dropped out on the day!),  with hindsight it was a brilliant night.  Thanks to Lynda for organising and Oli for letting me use the venue.  There were two cakes, both, coincidentally sporting a darts theme. My chum Serena, from when I worked at Glasgow Uni, made one of them, a ten hour masterpiece.

The TryAthletes, instigated by Karen, presented me with a framed running team shirt sporting the name “Brian”.  A long-standing joke going back to the London marathon. It is a truly lovely gift.

I was gobsmacked when I opened the gift from Bob and his family, a Crafty Cockney darts shirt signed “to Bryn, happy 40th, Eric Bristow”.  It still smell of sweat and cigarettes as Eric had been wearing it when Bob’s Uncle Alistair approached him at a tournament in Holland and told him the story.

Tony was unable to get the gift he wanted for me.  He was hoping to get a blue plaque, of the sort which adorn the houses of famous and worthy people.  He was hoping to have it proclaim…

Bryn Williams

Pompous ****

But the blue plaque brigade wouldn’t have it.

This weekend I rewrite a chapter of my life.  Two weeks after I was diagnosed I went to Paris for the weekend.  On Monday, 24 September, 2007 I wrote, in my second blog entry…

“The last week has been difficult. Pain started in my left arm and I have been worried that it is a rapid onset of symptoms.  Everything that happens to me I put down to the Parkinson’s disease and that has to stop. Over the weekend I went to Paris with Edward, my buddy from school to watch the rugby.  Ed’s Dad came too and showed us a great time. It was good but difficult. There was a lot of pain in my arms which causes worry and, which in turn, generates more stress and more pain.”

It was a tough weekend in many ways but one which made me realise I had to take action.  It is one of the darkest blog entries I wrote and I feel numb and scared whenever I think of Paris.  This has been difficult for me because open to Paris many times and have many wonderful memories.  Prior to diagnosis the most unpleasant association I have with Paris is David Humphreys missing a kick in the last minute to beat the French in Paris for the first time in 28 years (Ireland have a long history of going vast periods of time without winning against certain teams, the current crop of young rugby fans who know nothing but relative success for Ireland, frankly, haven’t got a clue).

Anyway, I digress.  On Friday morning I’m flying back to Paris for the first time since that weekend.  Since I first went to Paris when I was 17, this is the longest period of time between visits.  I have been avoiding this trip.  However, when the opportunity to run the marathon presented itself I couldn’t refuse.  If only the neurologist the diagnosed me had said “if you put your mind to it, keep positive and retain hope,  three and a half years from now you, a dedicated and proud coach potato, could run the Paris Marathon.”  It would have been music to my ears. Instead he told me I could go on tablets if I wished.

I plan to relive the weekend from 2007; dinner at Charlot’s on Place de Clichy, the open top bus, the river cruise.  Richard, Karen, Alan and Linda will be there and we will have a great time.

So on Sunday morning I will take to the streets of Paris to exorcise a ghost, lance a boil, lay a ghost to rest (I really need to put some of these clichés to bed).  Richard Karen and I are running, Alan and Linda are going to wait at the wind station at about 20 miles.

My dream is to break five hours for the first time.

My goal is to finish.

I will succeed.

14 April 2011

The Ghosts of Paris

The ghosts of Paris have gone home with their tails between their legs.  Alan, Linda, Karen, Richard and I had a marvellous weekend.  I didn’t succeed in breaking 5 hours. I didn’t even succeed in breaking 5 hours 12 min and 30 seconds.  But I finished the Paris marathon and we will have another go this Sunday in London.

Vicky and the girls went off to Marbella for an unexpected week last Tuesday.  “Ha ha”, I thought.  “A week living as a single man!!”  Unfortunately, when the week ends with a marathon, one has to restrain one’s desires to live out of pizza boxes and build pyramids from empty beer cans.  Or at least one should restrain these desires.  I adopted a median position, possibly a bit closer to the pyramid building end of the scale than the dedication to marathon running end.  However, I left for Paris on Friday morning in fine shape (the previous four days having taken the sharp edges off my physique).

On Friday night we had a magnificent meal in Charlot’s restaurant on Le Place de Clichy. Charlot’s is a fish restaurant that is utterly memorable and quite decadent.  To start the evening off, and as I had £40 birthday money to spend, I announced that I would buy a bottle of champagne as an aperitif.  The waiter produced the champagne menu with a flourish and the cheapest bottle was £80.  I swallowed hard and debated backing down. I decided that the children could do without the present from Paris, and ordered the second least expensive offering on the menu, a bottle of Pol Roger.

As I have learnt from being the youngest of seven children, I gulped mine down to make sure I got more than my fair share.

We had the taster menu which consisted of seven courses from oysters and whelks to salmon and cod.  Because I am a particular fan, we also threw in a scallop course.  It was truly magnificent.  Apart from the whelks.  And the oysters.

On Saturday morning I fell off a kerb.  In fairness, I was looking at the Eiffel Tower, which if you are going to fall off a kerb, is a great way to do it.  Pain sliced through my ankle (he wrote dramatically) and in my best French I said “oh bollocks”.  I hobbled gingerly around the place, looking for something or someone to blame, waiting for the pain to subside and everything to return to normal.  For the most part it did, however, for the rest of the day I was conscious that my ankle was not right and I had a marathon to run.

We did some sightseeing for the rest of the day but I passed on the planned boat trip to go back to the apartment and get my foot in the air. It was all very dramatic.

Sunday was a glorious day.  If you like plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies.  At 25°C, it was a touch warm for running a marathon.  My foot felt okay and we started off in high spirits.  The Paris marathon is spectacularly disorganised (a lack of water stations, a lack of water at the water stations when you find them and no toilets) but as a visual feast it is unsurpassed in my extensive career as a marathon runner in London and Chicago.

We reached halfway in 2 hours 24 min and were in good shape.  Then things started to go a bit pear shaped for me as my foot from Dystonia played havoc in ways I had never encountered before and which showed great imagination.  My Parkinson’s is to be congratulated.  I was going to chuck it at 16 miles, the demons were getting to me and making me question why I do this?  Karen said if I chucked she was chucking it too.  I carried on.  The second half took us 2 hours and 50 min and we came in 90 seconds slower than our London time.  Given the heat, I was pretty pleased.  Until I saw the medal which is like a Jim’ll Fix It badge of extremely poor quality.

It was a fantastic weekend in my favourite city in the world.

It’s Thursday morning and the pain has gone.  The batteries are recharged.  And London calls.

29 April 2011

Sore Knee!!

A week off running between Paris and London proved to be a mistake.  We have a fantastic weekend in London and everything went fantastically for the first 3 miles!  Then I felt a little twinge in my knee.  It didn’t really get worse until 7 miles when it felt as if somebody pushed a needle into the side of my knee.  It was pretty nippy.  I stopped and started and stopped and started for the next 2 miles until I got to the St John’s ambulance first aid point.  A rather dashing Antipodean chap informed me knowledgeably that it was my iliotibial band.  He smiled disarmingly and said there was nothing he could do about it.  The good news was I could carry on without worry that I would inflict further damage.  That did not amount to good news.

The remaining 17 miles were a mixture of running and walking.  And wincing every time I saw the marathon photo photographers.  I live quite heroic in some of the photographs.  But we did it.  Much to my surprise and Karen’s.  Frankly, the determination I have learned fighting Parkinson’s meant something as trivial as a iliotibial band didn’t stand a chance.

Two weeks later I have had some physio, bought some new running equipment which I didn’t know existed (and ITB strap) and have discovered the joys of anti-inflammatory gels and freezing sprays.  Today we set off for Belfast and marathon three in 22 days.  Where did my life go wrong?  Although it is my home marathon, in the sense that I was brought up in Northern Ireland, it will be the first time I have visited parts of the city which was the centre of the troubles.  I have never been on the Falls Road or the Shankhill Road.  It will be an amazing experience.

We have six runners in the marathon and the relay team taking part on Bank Holiday Monday.  The TryAthletes are gathering momentum.  We have our team of 50 women assembled for the women’s 10k in Glasgow on 8 May and we are up to 30 guys for the men’s 10k in June.  We launch our campaign to get 150 runners for the great Scottish run in September with a target of raising £15,000 for Funding Neuro.  Exciting times.

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