The Justgiving Awards!

Last week, I had the honour of attending the Justgiving Awards as a nominee for the Endurance Fundraiser of the Year Award.

I can hand on heart say, that it was the most inspirational night of my life! I’m going to cover it in a nutshell, because I’ll be linking to a blog by Anna Cookson, who has covered the night brilliantly with some video interviews (note to self, always get filmed in the dark! Hee hee!)

On the night, we got to hear the stories of normal people who had battled through adversity with the sole perpose of helping others. These are people who had nothing to promote, no preconcieved book deals, no DVD or Album on the horizon, just the will to make life better for people, who in many circumstances, they had not even met. 

Clare Lomas, who, paralysed from the neck down following an eventing accident, completed the London Marathon in a robotic suit, and who’s next challenge is a 400 mile cycle, all for Spinal Research! You can join her on the cycle, find out how… http://www.claireschallenge.co.uk/

The nominees for Young Fundraiser of the Year, touched everyone’s hearts! You may have heard about Martha Payne, the 10 year old who blogged about her school dinners. After having her local council threatened to shut down the blog, it went viral, and Martha now uses the popularity of the blog to fundraise for school-feeding programmes. (did I mention, she’s 10?!).

I can’t do justice to the incredible stories on the night, so please have a look at http://www.justgivingawards.com/the_winners.htm where the full stories from all nominees and winners, VT’s from the night and links to the fundraising pages can be found!

I will do a special mention to Barbara Walmsley, who has spent 27 years tirelessly fundraising for Oxfam and who is responsible for the creation of Oxfam Bridal. Barbara recieved a Special Recognition Award, which she says is taking pride of place on her toilet wall, next to her MBE!

Anna Cookson’s blog from the night, with video interviews can be found here http://blogs.qvcuk.com/anna_cookson/2013/04/a-knight-of-inspiration.html

On another note, this past week has also seen some horrific events. My heart goes out to all affected by the Boston Marathon bombing, the Texas Explosion and the Iraq bombs.

To all those running in the London (and Llanelli!) Marathons tomorrow, good luck and never give up!

“When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it” – Steve McQueen

It’s been a while since the last time I got my blog on, so in honour of the 1 year anniversary of the start of Dragonrun1027 (which was Sunday!), and because there’s at least one person that needs a bit of motivation, here it is! (It’s a long one, but bear with me!)

Last night I put a question out on Twitter…. “What is your response when someone tells you that you’ll never do something?” I was really pleased to see that all who responded to the question, came back with a similar attitude to mine. You go ahead and do it anyway and prove them wrong. This wasn’t a random question, it was linked to a conversation I had had earlier on. A friend, who wishes to remain nameless for the time being (I shall call her “Doris”!), was talking to a colleague of hers, who is a seasoned marathon runner, with finishing times that I bow down to. Sadly, along with his running strength, he also appears to have developed quite an ego. “Doris” mentioned in conversation, that she’d love to train for and do a Mountain marathon. The response to this should have been something along the lines of “Fantastic! Go for it! Do you have any in mind?” Instead she got “Really? Are you sure? I mean, you don’t exactly look like a runner, you’ll never manage it”…………… If, right now you have steam coming out of your ears and are shaking your head in disbelief, you’re on my wave length. If you see nothing wrong with this, I encourage you to read on because you might learn something!

I had my fair share of this kind of attitude, both before and during the Dragonrun. I’m not going to go on a rant about “What does a runner look like?” or “I don’t look like a stereotypical ultramarathoner, but I did the Dragonrun”. The first is a ridiculus question to anyone with half a brain cell, and the second is just too predictable. Instead, I’m going to take this opportunity to share some information that I haven’t yet gone into detail on, as I found it very hard to think about following the run.

When you complete a challenge that you’ve set yourself, no matter what it may be, eventually the feeling of satisfaction and relief often over-rides any of the pain or dark moments that were experienced in the duration (I’ve heard the same about childbirth…. I’ve watched One Born Every Minute, and I’m sceptical! Ha ha!). This was the case for me…. almost.

Previously I’ve mentioned “Day 15” in this blog, and in talks that I give, as being my darkest day of the Dragonrun1027. I wrote a blog several days after, but didn’t go into detail about it. I kept a journal throughout the run, which I have written up, and you never know, one day it might be put out in the public domain, but for now, I’m going to share with you, an excerpt from the day that damaged me.

……..It was Sunday 8th April. To most, it was Easter Sunday, but for me it was the day of my 15th marathon of Dragonrun1027. The route was Cardigan to Newquay. I was excited for the day, as I was running with two of my best buddies, Becca and Fadge*, who were joining me for a second time (hardcore!) and a friend I had not seen in years, Garod, who was running for the first 6 miles.

Physically I had the standard achy knees, and a slight twinge in my quad, but nothing to give me concern. We set off after meeting Garod and spirits were high! We were laughing and joking, and a few miles in we did the inevitable and took a wrong turn! Fadge, removed the GPS and the maps from my person and took charge, whilst laughing about how useless my sense of direction was, even with the tools! On arrival in Aberporth, we had a welcoming committee, Sarah (Garod’s lovely partner), their little girl, Emily and the rest of their family were cheering and waving with Andy standing by with drinks and food. We were saying goodbye to Garod here, and after a short break, it was time to tackle the rest of the route. Soon after setting off, I became more aware of pain in my quads. I put it to the back of my mind. I had learnt very quickly the art of distinguishing between “real pain” and “psychological pain”. The thing I wasn’t prepared for was just over the horizon.

Everyone has heard of “The Wall”. I had experienced it at least 5 times in the previous 2 weeks, and I was getting used to dealing with the situation as it happened. The breakthrough happened in Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, in the baking heat of day 2, where I literally slapped myself, re-fuelled and gave myself a good talking to! On this particular day however, mile 18 gave me a wall, a razor wire fence and a team of snipers. I was struggling to cope with the perceived pain that I had, and slowed right down. Becca and Fadge, suggested a quick stop and pretty much force fed me. You need to remember at this point, that this was far from a flat run, we were running up and down steep cliff paths the whole way. We plodded on, Becca and Fadge could see that I was struggling, but as yet, I was not prepared to crack. Inside my head however, I was breaking down. The words of the doubters were echoing in my mind, and instead of fighting against them, I started to believe them. I was seeing visions of my mum and dad shaking their heads with disappointment at me and it was breaking my heart, but I didn’t have the strength of mind to fight it. Every tiny niggle suddenly felt like I was being pulled apart limb by limb. Fadge helped me take the weight off for a while, and both he and Becca kept telling me I could do this. At no point did they suggest shortening the day, or tell me that I’d done so well so far, no-one would think less of me if I stopped. They refused to put any doubt into my mind. “One foot in front of the other…. One foot in front of the other” that’s what I was trying to yell inside my head to drown out the doubt that was taking hold. “NEVER GIVE UP!” We were nearing the end of the route and down to the last page on the map, something that normally gave me the fire inside to finish smiling, this time though, I felt distraught. I had been in a bubble of despair for miles, and was now feeling terrible that I hadn’t checked on how Fadge and Becca were feeling. I was disappointed with myself for being self absorbed. We took another wrong turn and had to navigate our way across steep sheep tracks. Each step felt like I was being hit by a car, and no matter how close to the finish we were getting I didn’t feel any happier. Andy walked back from the finish to find us, and he and Fadge held onto me for the last 50 meters. We finished and I burst into tears. I don’t cry very often at all, but I made up for it this time, I was hysterical and hadn’t cried like this since the day my dad’s death sunk in, it was a reminder I didn’t need right now. Andy drove us back to my friend Karen’s house where we were staying. He had pre-warned her of the situation, and Karen, having known me for years and her being an exceptional endurance athlete who really inspires me just knew what to do and say. She gave me a hug, told me to “woman up” and took over the care of Becca and Fadge, who I felt I had let down at this point, and who had a 4 hour drive to contend with that evening. I went to bed that night exhausted and with a broken mind, but waiting on my pillow was a card from Becca and Fadge with the Steve McQueen quote “When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it”. Never before has a quote been so apt. The next few days were tough, I was still quite numb and exhausted, but had to repeat the distance over tough terrain every single day. I had to block out all bad experiences of the previous day and get on with it. I didn’t write on Twitter or Facebook because I refused to write anything that wasn’t entirely positive and heartfelt. Getting through the day was my only aim, and I was helped by the incredible support I was getting along the way………

Amongst all of the good memories and awesome experience I had doing the Dragonrun, that day still haunts me. It always will, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. You see, thanks to those that were there on the day, and who witnessed the aftermath, I’m able to draw the positive in that I didn’t give up. I wasn’t even halfway through the challenge by that point, but went on to have some exceptionally good days, along with some not so good and very slow days, but through sheer grit and, lets face it down right stubbornness, I made it to the finish. My point, if you haven’t worked out already is that challenges are not meant to be easy. No matter what your personal challenge may be, 5K, half marathon, Ultra, Scaling the North Face of the Eiger, the clue is in the definition. If a person has set themselves a personal challenge it is no-one else’s right to enforce the opinion that they don’t think they’ll do it, especially in such a patronising way.

Mind over matter is a powerful thing, and I maintain that in many Ultra-endurance challenges 80% of it is psychological. If you let your head quit, you’ve had it!

Anyway, the next blog entry will have news of new challenges coming very soon! Oh, and “Doris”…….. you’re going to do that mountain marathon! I know you are!

*Becca and Fadge, this is probably the first time you’ve heard some of what was going through my little brain on that day. You are, and always will be, my heroes!

A Shiny New Year!

How far into January is it still acceptable to say “Happy New Year”??? I’m pretty certain I’ll still be saying it in May, so seeing as this is the first blog post of 2013, I’m going to say it….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

So, last year for me, was the year of the Dragonrun1027 (and some awesome marathon sport watching… How awesome were the Olympics and Paralympics!). I started 2012 thinking it would also be the year that I would hang up my trainers, because I was pretty certain that THE run would finish me off. It didn’t, but a tiny training run in one of my favourite South Wales locations, very nearly did!

The ankle that I broke last August turned out to be pretty bad and prevented me from running for the rest of the year. It’s by no means back to “normal”, but the turn of 2013, has seen me back to running! Whoop whoop!

I still have a lot of cash that I want to raise for Velindre and Gozo CCU. The money that has already been raised for Velindre, has gone towards the Stepping Stones Appeal. A previous blog post explains in detail what it is being spent on. The work that is being done is incredible! Gozo CCU money is being used towards purchase of Ventilators for the CCU and Emergency equipment for the Hospitals A&E unit. These are both parts of the hospital that mum and dad spent time in. If it wasn’t the work of that hospital I would have had much less time with both of them.

So, what’s happening this year????

I’m going to be running the Ring ‘O’ Fire Ultramarathon in August. I was meant to run it last year, but managed to have my accident just 3 weeks before the race (I was totally gutted). So I have a score to settle with my mind, and I’m going to give it my all. It’s 131 miles, the entire Anglesey Coast Path (and a bit!), and my favourite section of Dragonrun1027. There’s a catch though…. It is done over 2.5 days, to strict check point time limits. There are a lot of highly experienced Ultra runners entered this year, so as well as aiming to finish in however many pieces there are left of me at the end, I also hope to learn a lot from my competitors.

So, after 5 months off running, there’s a bit more of me physically (not for long though!), but my brain has been pumping some iron, and I am more determined than ever! I now have the opportunity to use everything I learnt from the Dragonrun1027 and apply it to my training, fundraising, motivational work and the race in August.

I’ve been doing some Motivational Speaking since the run, which has been great, because some of the people that have contacted me afterwards really seem to have taken on board the messages from the mental side of the challenge, and are using them not only for their own challenges, but in work as well! Though my non dragonrun based work over the past decade both, with elite sports and in physical activity promotion, the biggest rewards have always been seeing people achieve what they had never thought was possible. It’s like a part of the brain needs to be unlocked, and when you know how to find the key, the sky’s your limit!

For anyone who is in the midst of New Years Resolutions, training for events, planning challenges, fundraising etc, keep this in mind ….

"When your at the start, be it of a 5K race, a marathon or an ultra endurance challenge, keep the vision of the end in your mind….. that way, you will always be able to see the finish line"

Where’s it all going?…. CSI Lung Cancer

Tonight I got the opportunity to see where the money raised for Velindre’s Stepping Stones Appeal is going to. The Dragonrun1027 contribution to that so far stands at just over £10K and rising! That’s a lot of your hard earned cash, and I’m so happy to tell you that it’s being used in the most incredible, ground breaking ways!

I was invited with a group of other Stepping Stones supporters to a special presentation evening, which would update us on their work. I didn’t expect for even a minute, that we would also have the opportunity to see the work in the pathology lab first hand!

Stepping Stones is an appeal which is dedicated to the research and treatment into one of the most difficult to treat and underfunded areas of cancer research… Lung Cancer. It’s a cancer that’s media awareness raising tends to be restricted to “Stop smoking” campaigns, leading to the assumption that it is just the “Smokers disease”… well, I have news for you…. it’s not.

Lung Cancer is the commonest cause of death in England and Wales, an increasing number of those deaths are in victims who have never touched a cigarette. Research into lung cancer is poorly supported and has a relatively low profile, but it is time for this to change.

So, where is your money going?….

Lung Tissue SamplesThe Wales Cancer Bank is a bank of tissue samples that have been collected (following patient consent) during operations to remove suspected cancerous tumours. In standard practice tissue is removed, a small amount of that tissue is sent for diagnosis and the remainder is incinerated. Now, with consent, that remainder tissue can be preserved and stored for use in groundbreaking research Worldwide. For the first time, thanks to funding from the Velindre Stepping Stones Appeal, lung cancer samples can be collected. Researchers from around the world can put in a proposal, and subject to ethical approval and scientific review samples from the Wales Cancer Bank can be used to improve the understanding of lung cancer and help in the search for new treatments. For example, there is work looking at the identification of genes that may effect the success of treatments from person to person. What works for one person, may not work for another… why not? This question can be answered and treatments can be directed to individuals accordingly.

Earlier, I met the people involved (Researchers, Doctors, Nurses, Fundraisers), and I was able to see first hand, how the samples are used. It was like real life CSI, but cancer was the bad guy! I found myself wanting to stamp on the nasty purple dyed irregular cells, but sadly cancer treatment isn’t that simple.

As it was highlighted this evening, this work is the difference between a diagnosis meaning less than 5 years of life or meaning survival.

It hit home to me, a key reason aside from personal connections, that I have chosen the charities I support so carefully. I know exactly where the money goes, and it’s not on fat cat salaries, clip-board nazi’s or telesales. It’s on people like you and me, that either have been or will be affected by this hideous disease. More than that though, it pays for survival.

I’d like to thank Andrew and Kylie from Velindre Fundraising for arranging this evening, and Dr Jason Lester, Dr Simon Noble, Professor Malcolm Mason, and the rest of the team from Wales Cancer Bank for taking the time to share their work with us.

Over all, thanks to you, who have donated and supported the fundraising efforts from my Kilimanjaro climb, to the Dragonrun1027 and all events that are following. It’s you guys that have raised this total, by putting your hand in your pocket! (or by entering your card details, what with it being all modern these days)! Give yourselves a pat on the back!

The donation page is remaining open at least until the Dragonrun 1027 target of £20K is reached. There are more challenges and fundraising events in the pipeline!

www.justgiving.com/dragonrun1027

Knocked down?…. Get back up again!

Motivation….. You’ve either got it or you haven’t…. but if you haven’t got it, you can get it! That’s a lot of “gots” and “gets”! (Hey, I’m qualified in motivation, but I’ve started by talking nonsense about it!)

What the bloomin’ heck am I on about?!

Basically a few things have popped into my mind over my past 8 weeks whilst going from totally immobile agony, to swinging around on crutches, to hopping, to hobbling, to my current state of walking, driving and waiting to find out what else in on the cards for the broken ankle saga!

I consider myself lucky in the respect that there are certain things that I am very highly motivated for:

·        Running in the dark

·        Running in the cold

·        Running in the wet

·        Running for stupidly long distances

·        Repeating the day before’s ridiculous run

·        Eating Chocolate

·        And most importantly Fundraising

The past 8 weeks I haven’t been able to do any of these things (except eating chocolate, the effects of that are apparent!), so as a result, I’ve discovered a major downfall of being me…. I lack the ability to easily channel my motivation into alternative directions. The result is that I turn into an uncharacteristic whinging, moaning, general pain in the neck! My brain, for other personal reasons doesn’t cope to well with having these things taken away.

There were a few things that were said to me prior to Dragonrun1027, that helped me deal with the fact that some people expected me to fail….

“When someone says ‘you’ll never do that’, what they really mean is that they would never do that”

“I do it because I can, I can because I want to, I want to because you think I can’t”

These two quotes, act like a front line response to doubters within me. They prevent me from getting down about being expected to fail, and more than anything, they give me the urge to prove people wrong. That’s the way I’ve always been. Moreover, they help me realise that just because somebody assumes that you will fail, it doesn’t mean they are willing you to fail. Something that I have often mis-interpreted.

I don’t have a fear of failure. If I did, I would never have made it to the start of the Dragonrun1027. What I do have is a mentality in which I prepare for just about every consequence to ensure that if I did fail it would be for completely unavoidable reasons (preparation in the form of crutches in the support vehicle, incredible expert advice, sheer pig headedness, that kind of thing!). My mantra is “Never Give Up”.

So, what am I getting at? Well…. One person who had told me I would never do it, is a seasoned club runner. A very good road runner, with marathon times that make me whince! Said person, who I shall call…. Erm…. Bob, for the purpose of this blog, recently entered a 10K race,  that he had brushed off in conversation as an easy one, he was just doing for the hell of it. Race day came and weather conditions, were not as expected (wind, rain etc). He set off, keeping to electronic pace thanks to the age of computerised running! At 6K he noticed that his split times were too far out for him to obtain a “respectable” time, so he dropped out of the race. The reason stated was that he didn’t want to have his name associated with such a slow time. (By slow he means the speed of the average bolt of lightening.) I asked Bob, a simple question, “would you rather have a slow time or DNF after your name?” (DNF is the acronym for Did Not Finish). Bob couldn’t answer that immediately, instead it got him thinking, and I passed on a few of the constructive thoughts that have crossed my mind not only during the big run, but throughout my time of taking part in races. Why drop out of a race that wasn’t going your way (with no injury), when you can learn so much from each race and training session? If the conditions aren’t how you planned, surely you can use that to help inform future training and races. And another point, why the ego?

I do admit that a couple of days later I did get a small dig about how I knew he couldn’t finish that 10K race (touché!)

It could be argued that there is a certain amount of ego involved in taking on a massive challenge and refusing to believe that you would ever fail. But at the same time, that can be constructive ego, in another words it could be described as motivation. Particularly when there are personal reasons for attempting it.

When I run, I compete against myself, not always for time, but for the challenge of getting up the hills, through the mud, over the sand dunes, against the wind, whatever gets thrown at me. That’s the beauty of my chosen sport, trail running. Throw in some Ultra distances, and there’s even more things to compete with. That’s just my thing. I now need to train my mind to use this attitude to aid recovery from the injury that could be catastrophic for this particular sport.

Everyone has a bad training session, everyone has a bad race or event at some point, but the real challenge is using the negative experiences to inform and strengthen the positive, and not to fear things not going your way.

Motivation is about finding an internal reason to do somethin, and grasping the determination to see it through. An important part of this is distinguishing between the barriers preventing you from doing something and the excuses you make for not doing it, two very different things that tend to be confused. Be honest with yourself.

The moral of this blog is “Never Give Up”. More so, never let other people’s opinions stop you from trying. To quote from Oscar Pistorius’ autobiography…

“The loser isn’t the one who crossed the finish line last… he is the one who never had the guts to stand at the start line” (this quote was written to Oscar in a letter from his mother explaining the decision process behind his bilateral amputation as a baby)

Now, whilst I kick myself up the arse to get back fighting fit to pound the trails again, there is a small group of people very special to me, who are preparing to take on their own challenges in aid of the Dragonrun1027 charities, please visit http://dragonrun1027.wordpress.com/the-hatchlings/ to see what they’re up to and show your support!

What happened when the fire went out…

I’ve been meaning to write a post-run blog for ages, but instead, I put my writing energy into compiling the entire Dragonrun1027 story into a book form, more on that another time. I’ve decided however to write this entry to give an insight into the difficulties faced following a massive endurance challenge.

Right now I am sitting here with an Aircast on a broken ankle, obtained on Saturday whilst running funnily enough. The real frustration was that in just 2 and a half weeks time I was due to take part in the Ring O Fire Ultra marathon. A race that could get me qualification points towards a race I long to do… The Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. Unfortunately that dream is shattered, and whilst the words “there’s always next year” may appear comforting, they are hard to take as mental and physical endurance takes a long time to build, and I was ready for it this year. Next year will be a lot harder for me, but I’ll damn well try my hardest!

Yes I know there are plenty worse off and blah blah blah, but that’s the case with anything, and I’m pretty sure that anyone who is sports obsessed (as in doing not watching!), who competes, who works in sport or who has studied sports psychology will understand where I’m coming from when I say gutted isn’t the word! I’ve spent years working with athletes and helping them through the mental and physical pain that injury can cause. For many of us, being told you can’t train does more than effect fitness, some of us use training to channel energy away from other trauma, as a coping mechanism, and when that is removed where do you turn?

Anyhow, moving away from the immediate dramas, what happened post run? Here are some answers to the good old FAQ’s! (in rough order of popularity!)

Did you do any damage to yourself?

Yes, I did, but a minimal amount in the grand scale of things. I came away from the run with some cartilage damage to my left knee, that I had known about since Day 4, and that was kind of it! Thankfully the strength I gained during the run (thighs like a wrestler! ha ha!) helped to keep any serious damage at bay.

Was it a relief to stop running?

I thought it would be, but it wasn’t! For weeks afterwards I was really restless and just couldn’t keep still! Mentally all I wanted to do was get back out there and run again. I also had an altered perception about a lot of things, but I guess that’s inevitable after 6 weeks of fighting with your mind.

What was the first thing you craved after finishing?

Apart from a pint of Bow, which I finally got a few hours after finishing! It was to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and crap tv!

How long before you ran again?

5 days! I had to keep moving or my body would have gone a bit nuts! I went for a 3 mile run and then a 5 mile a few days later. My joints ached, but it felt amazing running on much fresher legs!

Would you do it again?

In a heartbeat! I still have a lot of cash to raise for Velindre and Gozo CCU, so you never know!

How much did you raise?

It’s still rising, but in the region of £9K for Velindre and £2k for Gozo CCU. I’m determined to reach the £25K target, so will be doing charity auctions and various other events too!

What now?

I’m cooking up some ideas. Watch this space! The injury is a set back, but it’ll make me come back with something ridiculus no doubt!

Favourite bit of the route?

Anglesey! I didn’t know what to expect from Anglesey where as I was prepared for other sections, and it really did blow me away. The Ceredigion coast is stunning too, but I wasn’t in a very good mindset whilst running that section, so that affected my perception a bit. I’d love to go back to a lot of sections and walk them so that I can fully appreciate them. The downside of running the distances I was doing was that there was very little time to really appreciate surroundings or to stop off anywhere. I want to do most of it again, much slower and with tea and cake on the way! hee hee!

Did you get a World Record?

Touchy subject! From the beginning I made it clear that I wasn’t doing it for a personal record, even though I was the first to run the route. I was encouraged to contact Guiness, as the publicity from an official record, could potentially boost fundraising.

The response from Guinness in the first instance when I attempted to register it was that a charitable cause record couldn’t be registered. This info turned out to be wrong, so when I contacted retrospectively not expecting anything as they weren’t able to verify, my response was that they didn’t feel that it was “Internationally significant like swimming the Channel” - So, after 40 days of running, covering over 1000 miles in distance and over 40,000 meters in ascent and descent, I could have swum 30 miles or stuffed hundreds of marshmallows in my mouth and got a record! Needless to say if someone a few years down the line tries registering the same record after Guinness have woken up from their bubble and seen that the first perimeter path around a country is attracting International interest and challengers, I will be fighting it all the way!

I’m recogised as the first by all the relevant organisations involved in the development of the paths, so for the sake of obtaining support for the charities and further sponsorship I will be advertising as such (just without the word Guinness! - Who needs them anyway!)

Is it back to normality now?

Yes, if “normal” is a word that can ever be used to describe me! :o) I’m back to the day job, and back to my Sports Therapy Business (and I’m an even harder task master now!). In addition I’ve been asked to do some motivational speaking, which I’m happy to do, as I hope my experiences can encourage others to push themselves in ways they never thought possible. Any funding that I can get out of that and from the story when it is finally out there will be used to boost the fundraising for Velindre and Gozo CCU.

In addition to the people who I have thanked for their support during the run, I have a few thank you’s for the people who have kept me relatively sane afterwards…

Andy: Mr Arry continues to be a legend! And one who has just brought me home from a hospital appointment and handed me Dairy Milk and Ben&Jerrys.. You rock!

Spud Allen: Spud told me after I had finished that I would need his help more now than I did during, and as a fellow multimarathon challenger, he was right. Spud picked me up and helped me deal with the emotions following it. A true friend, who I will miss now he leaves to start a new life in the good ole US of A!

Becca and Fadge: These guys were there at the best and worst times during the run, and have kept me giggling now it’s over! Dream Team forever!

Piers Bramhall: Another true friend, he’s been on the end of the phone and email and has kept the laughter going throughout! Watch this space, we’re working on world domination…. oh yes we are!

Everyone who has continued to support myself and the charities: I am so grateful for you for believing in me and the causes, even though many roll their eyes when I come up with a new idea (oh, yes, you thought I hadn’t seen you!) you don’t try and stop me… with the exception of when I decided I was going to do a 131 mile race 2 weeks after breaking my ankle… I’ll let you have that one!

Once the ankle has repaired itself Ultra training begins once again, and I aim to be a regular in the world of Ultra racing. 

For the time being though, if you never got the chance to donate, or if you have a new found urge to top up the total a bit, here’s the link! www.justgiving.com/dragonrun1027

Luke Maggs has compiled a little summary vid from the challenge (thank you Luke!) That I have no idea how to embed on here, so here’s the link!

http://youtu.be/qj21fvPVcdA

"Run if you can, Walk if you have to, Crawl if you must…. just never give up!"

The Dragon Ran!

On Saturday 5th May, I am pleased to say that I completed Dragonrun 1027. Over 1027 miles of blood, sweat, mud, sand and tears in 6 weeks is at an end (final mileage was approximately 1060 due to additional coast mileage not taken into account, diversions and, of course, my appalling sense of direction!).

On completion of Offa’s Dyke at Sedbury Cliffs, I started the next day at Chepstow, where I was to run the 30 mile Coast path route to Newport. It was a really good day! Not only was I running like the wind (except when I lost a trainer in a bog and once again came face to face with an intimidating cow - with horns), but I hit my official 1000 mile mark and was greeted at Goldcliff by all of Andy’s work mates at Andrew Williams Cabinet Makers! They had a “Go Arry Go” sign and everything! After a chat with them and the lads from Newport CC, who were waymarking (thanks for helping me with the maps guys!) it was on to Newport Wetlands, where Kevin Dupe met me and let me and Andy have a look at some newly hatched Avocet’s (I think I got that right!), I plodded on to the office where I called in to find Andy and Kevin by the log burner with a lovely cuppa waiting for me! After that pitstop it was onto the Visitors Centre, where they stayed open a tiny bit later and gave me and Andy tea and cake! Thank you all of you!

I arrived not long after at the Newport Transporter Bridge. As it was shut I took the road route round to the other side so I could start there the next morning.

Friday was my last ‘day’ on the Dragonrun and it was a short 16 miler. Andy decided he wanted to run the last day with me so we dropped my car in Cardiff and drove to Newport to begin. I was buzzing! I couldn’t believe I’d nearly done it! There was only one wildlife encounter, which was with a pony on the sea wall who took a liking to me. After meeting the Media Wales photographer we powered on through to the Novotel on Schooner Way which was the finish point and would be the start of the final mile the next day! We were met by my fellow CCW Bayside Tigers, Bran and Sue and a teeny bit later on Ceinwen with the now famous Welcome home banner! :o)

That afternoon as I sat in the ooffice, drinking tea and opening post, nothing had sunk in at all! I felt like I’d never been away!

At long last the next day arrived! It was the day that I had dreamed of ever since the Dragonrun1027 seed was planted. I was both excited and nervous, I’d come this far, I had images of falling flat on my face! Firstly it was an early morning trip to BBC Wales to be interviewed on GM Wales with Dave Quarrell, who sets off to walk the path when I finish (Please take a moment to visit Dave’s page! I know what he’s got ahead of him, and he deserves every penny of sponsorship for Cancer Research Wales that he can get! www.walkwales1027.com )

I was to do my last mile with some of my favourite people! Andy (of course!), The Dream Team (Becca and Fadge… Spud was there in heart!), Karen (one of my personal heroes!), Piers Bramhall (Friend, Face of Wales and all round top bloke!), and Steve, Liz, Zoe and co from North Wales, who will be walking the path in July.

Before starting me and Piers did a bit of an Italian job with the help of Ceinwen and Sue around the Bay, fitting in an interview and sorting out what was happening. After running around sorting all that out and getting a hug from a man in drag we set off!

Along the route, the Bayside Tigers had been out in force putting up 1500m to go and 1K signs, with Becca skipping and everyone generally being full of beans we laughed all the way!

I finally finished at the WCP celebrations, where I was met by the Minister for the Environment, John Griffiths and TV presenter Frances Donovan. Then Dave Quarrell set off on his epic walk of the route I’d just taken (armed with a pack of blister plasters and penguins I’d put together for him!).

Thank you to everyone there who supported me and to the press who covered the run (I even got to swap tips with Ultra Runner and T.V Presenter Lowri Morgan!), I was overwhelmed by it all!

Looking out into the crowd, I spotted that my brother had made it in time (originally due to arrive much later!) thanks to friends Gareth and Lyndon, and there was a big surprise in the form of my Uncle Hugh who had travelled up from London that morning!

There were two blank spaces in the crowd on the day though, and they were in the shape of my mum and dad. I just wish so much that they were there to see me do it! I don’t think they would have believed it, because I still can’t! I’m thinking they were probably sat on a cloud watching though, and probably more proud that I wasn’t floored by my first pint when I finished!

I’m putting together a visual overview of the run, with all the relevant thank you’s included at the end. I do feel that I can’t thank all of my supporters enough.

I’m nowhere near hitting my fundraising target, but I’m not giving up! (You might have realised by now that I never give up!), The fundraising page is remaining open and I am going to be holding a number of fundraising activities over the coming months!

This wont be the final blog. There are a number of things that popped into my head over the miles, that I want to share, so once I’ve got it in order, this will most likely be where it will be channelled!

Post run, I am suffering from withdrawal! My knees are knackered, but desperate to run again! I’d entered the Anglesey 131 mile Ring O Fire challenge within 24 hours of finishing!

Dragonrun 1027 has taught me a huge amount, about myself, and the generosity and kindness of people around me. There are some things that I’ve experienced and felt, that can only be understood by others who have taken on challenges to these kind of extremes. Some of these things I had heard about in my research and training, but didn’t fully understand until now.

So, the Dragonrun 1027 is now over, this however is just the begining of the extreme challenges. I’ve now found that I have the strength and determination to do this kind of thing, and hopefully raise a lot of money for Velindre and Gozo CCU.

So, who’s gonna do my next hair brained challenge with me!?!

Offa and his blinkin’ hills!

Sorry it’s been a while, I’ve been lacking in the old access to t’interweb and when I did have it, I was exhausted! Anyhoo, I’m here now!!

After running out of Wales in the North, I had to head South, so what better way to do it than on our other long distance National Trail, Offa’s Dyke. The Dyke runs from Prestatyn in the North, to Sedbury Cliffs in the South and weaves in and out of Wales and England. If your not familiar with the history of it I will explain in a nutshell….

Scary King dude called Offa built a massive mound squillions of years ago to keep the Welsh out of England. I can confirm it’s not currently fit for purpose, I crossed the border several times. (There you go! Who needs Horrible Histories!)

Anyhoo, the catch is that rather than skirt around the bottom of hills and mountains (of which there are a lot), the scary King decided to build his mound over the top of them, so as a result I spent the last week running over the Clwydian Range, the Shropshire Hills and the Black Mountains, in what turned out to be the wettest April ever recorded. (If anyone is wondering why I don’t look like Paula Radcliffe at the end of it, it’s because 40000m ascent and descent over 6 weeks, tends to give you legs like Lomu! I can’t wait to see what I’m capable of squatting after this!)

So, I completed the 177 miles of Offa’s Dyke in 6 days and in that time, I had a run in with some more turkeys (they’re so big!)… this time it was whilst a lady was removing her dog from my ankles, I looked up and there were 2 turkeys. I was introduced to them and informed that they were called Brian and Ethel. The lady looked at me a bit funny when I got excited and said ooh,” I have a rabbit called Brian!” I also had a visit from the Dragonrun1027 dream team, Becca, Fadge and Spud, and on the same day a surprise visit from my Uni Housemates, Gem, Barry (Arry with a ‘B’), Colin, Emma (and bump), Jo and Craig (+ little Amber and bump). Those minus bumps joined me for most of the day, and I have to say I did feel guilty that it happened to be a day where we had to wade through knee deep water in flooded fields, defy some threatening cows, climb a mountain and battle through the obligatory cow poo. All present and correct at the end though, and I’m so grateful to everyone for sharing the experience with me!

I also got to run through the town where I grew up, Knighton! Knighton is the approximate halfway point, and I was met by Angela from Ramblers Cymru (funny story about that, but I’ll save it!) and 3 superstars from the 6th form at my old school who ran the last bit with me! On arrival in town there was a lovely welcoming commitee of family, and friends! The next morning, I was met by the Mayor, and Councillor Chris Bradford and then it was off to Knighton Primary School for a question and answer session with some of the kids! They were awesome! After tea and toast in the Clock Tower Tea Rooms, and a catch up with Emma, who I used to work at Knighton Sports Centre with, I carried on!

I finished Offa’s Dyke yesterday, with the final climb to the ‘Finish stone’ on top of Sedbury Cliffs.

Today I started from the official start of the Wales Coast Path in Chepstow, to do the last section and complete my perimetre! It was a really good day! More flooded fields, more cow poo, but I also hit 1000 miles and had support from Andy’s work colleagues in Goldcliff, the Newport Council lads who were out waymarking and Kevin and co at Newport Wetlands.

Tomorrow is my last full days running. I will be going from Newport to Cardiff, stopping just 1 mile away from the finish. The last mile is being saved for the official launch of the Wales Coast Path on Saturday. I can’t believe the end is finally here. As I read back to the things I’ve written along the way, both on this blog and in my own journal, I feel so lucky to have had an adventure like this.

Thank you so much for your support so far! I can’t stress just how much it has meant! If you haven’t donated or you know anyone that you think would like to, please, please, please visit www.justgiving.com/dragonrun1027

FAQ’s!…… Well there have been a lot!

Today I reached the end point of the Wales Coast Path in Queensferry (If you’re going to do any of the WCP, I suggest you don’t bother with this section unless you’re attempting to complete the whole thing! I don’t think even Mediterranian sunshine could have made it interesting!….. To be fair I’ve been very spoilt with the amazingness of the other 800 odd miles!), I just have the 48 miles of WCP between Chepstow and Cardiff to do, before I become the first person to run the entire Wales Coast Path (unofficial, as I’m not willing to spend money that could go towards the charities on getting a World record registered). Before I can do that though I need to link my perimeter of Wales with all 177 miles of the Offa’s Dyke path, which runs close to the border of Wales and England, I start on that tomorrow and will finally feel like I’m on the home strait!! Week on Saturday (May 5th) I will arrive in Cardiff Bay, hopefully having raised a fortune for Velindre and Gozo CCU (if I haven’t I’m gonna keep on trying!) and having become the first person to run the entire 1047 mile (yep… 47 not 27!) true perimeter of Wales.

So, here are a few questions I keep getting asked, and because I’m nice, I’ll even give you the answers! :o)

Why is there not more media coverage of this challenge?

Good question! I refer to an earlier blog post, which has remained true to this day… http://dragonrun1027.tumblr.com/post/18184635973/its-a-challenge-for-a-nobody

The only reason that I want coverage of this challenge is because it is the only way to promote the fundraising for the two charities. I have learnt a lot about the media through this, and the priorities are rarely to support something like this. At the end of the day I’m just a normal girl. I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy in my 31 years, which has lead to this challenge, but I’m just not famous, so the masses wont be interested apparently. I also don’t have a DVD, book, tour or movie to promote.

I am however very grateful to those who have covered the run, in particular BBC Radio Wales, Real Radio, SWales Echo and the North Wales press. The coverage from these outlets has really boosted fundraising!

Are you superhuman?

Ha ha ha! I’ve been asked this twice, and it’s made me laugh! NO! I’m physically about as normal as you can get! My personal point to prove with this was that anyone can achieve massive things if you put your mind to it. This entire challenge has mainly been psychological. Even though I was trained for endurance at the start (the result of dedication and hard work specifically for this challenge), I have gained physical strength and improved my endurance during the challenge. The only way I have managed to get as far as I have so far is through sheer grit and determination. I NEVER GIVE UP!!

There have been days that I have finished in tears and incredible pain, and other days where I have sprinted my last 34th mile with a massive grin on my face. I can’t predict how each day will go, but I can predict that every night I go to bed knowing that no matter how much pain I’m in, I will be getting up early the next morning and doing it all again, whatever the weather.

What keeps you going?

Thinking about the money I can be raising and the ice cold pint at the finish line!

What’s been your favourite bit so far?

I loved Anglesey! Beautiful, friendly, welcoming and diverse terrain!

What’s been your least favourite part?

Rhyl - Queensferry…. Mainly due to this being the section where some idiot decided to try and trip me whilst hurling abuse (I’m proud of what happened next, but wont be sharing it on here!). And also just because I had already ran through some of the most stunning landscapes that Wales has to offer, and all I want to do is head back towards home now!

Favourite Day?

I have a lot of those, ask me at the end!

Worst Day?

I don’t want to think about them until the end!

What do you eat?


Put it this way, I wont be contributing to any nutrition books any time soon! The only things I can stomach at the moment whilst running are cheese and tomato sandwiches (I never normally even like them!) and chocolate spread with peanutbutter. Evenings it’s protein and carbs!

How much extra mileage have you done?

By the time I’ve finished I will have actually done over 1047 miles. There are 20 more miles of coast path than I had originally planned for, and due to various diversions and my ability to get lost in a paper bag I will have completed at least an extra 2 marathons.

How long does each day take?

Depends on terrain, state of my legs and number of miles. Longest day was 11.5 hours, which was a 38 mile trail run including an hour car journey to get to the point of backtracking. Shortest day was 6 and a half hours, a 30 mile easier terrain run after 30 back to back marathons. It’s hard to predict how long each day can take.

That’ll do for now!

I need to say a big thank you to the CCW and Welsh Government Staff in Bangor and Llandudno Junction for there awesome support and company whilst I’ve been up here. This included some incredible negotiation to gain permission for me to run the section of path that is currently closed off in Colwyn Bay due to the ship that ran aground. Although it was strange running through accompanied by security and being filmed on camera phones (I think the ability to raise cash for charity is the only thing I envy celebs for!)

Anyhoo, as of tomorrow I’m homeward bound!!!! (via my hometown! :o) ) Bring on Offa’s Dyke!!!!

I’ll Miss You Anglesey!!

Sorry it’s been a while, when I’ve had internet access it’s ended up being so late that I have limited brain cell function (cue the jokes about limited brain cells…. I know what you’re thinking!)

I’ve spent the last 5 days running around what I can safely say has been my favourite section of the Wales Coast Path so far! The 125 miles of Anglesey! I started this stretch after a little jog from Caernarfon (where incidently I had arrived with Eva dressed as a 6 ft Elf, causing quite a stir with some workmen and confusion in some small children!). I was met at Menai Bridge by a number of my work colleagues from the CCW Bangor HQ office and friends. We crossed the bridge together with various forms of fancy dress (Jenny, the Dragon costume was awesome!!), and I carried on with a couple of other colleagues, noticing the signs and banners that had been put up along the road thanks to Steve Webb (who is walking the WCP in July http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/thoughts-from-the-outdoors/dragonwalk-2012—-tackling-the-wales-coast-path/9546.html ) and Liz! Thank you! I was particularly taken by the Angelsey penguins poster! (more on penguins later!)

Anyhoo, in a nutshell, Anglesey has just blown me away! The scenary is diverse and stunning! And the people have been so supportive and friendly throughout! Special shout outs to the following…

1. Llys Llewelyn Tea Rooms, Aberffraw - for their kindness and support. If you get the chance please call in there, you will not be disappointed! http://www.llysllewelyn-tearooms.com/

2. Wavecrest Cafe, Church Bay - for their donation!

4. Fran Targett and Taran, who joined both days this weekend and were essential chocolate and Bacon Buttie providers!!

3. All our accommodation providers, not just on Anglesey, but all the way round! You have been stars and I am eternally grateful!

4. My next big thank you goes to Piers Bramhall, Face of Wales through the Visit Wales, ‘We want Piers Bramhall’ campaign, and Media personality. Piers drove up from London to Anglesey on Saturday morning, ran most of the day with me and then drove back afterwards. Genuinely a top bloke! It was an awesome day!

5. The man from Friends of Anglesey Coast Path who told me I can get a badge for completing the whole circuit! Yey!!

Anyhoo, there are a lot of thank you’s I could do, but I will make sure that they all get done when I finish running, I will now give you some ‘in a nutshell’ snippets of my Anglesey experience…

1. Whilst jogging round a particularly lovely bit of coastline, I spotted some big birds on a rock… in mild hysteria and very loudly (my ipod was on!) I yelled ‘Ooh penguins!!!!’ and reached for my camera… much to the amusement of the walkers heading towards me…. Note to self, contents of my brain shouldn’t be made public sometimes (incidently, the birds turned out to be Cormorants, ah well… you win some you lose some!)

2. Saw 2 Puffins! They saw me and flew off :o(

3. Charlie (my big bro!) and I discovered that the Tesco, car Jet wash is the only way to de-smell and clean trainers after hundreds of miles of trails!

4. Discovering that penguins are actually from the South Pole, not the North Pole and therefore are very unlikely to visit Anglesey, no matter how far North it is :o(

5. I could do a whole post on Saturdays day with Piers and Andy, so I might just put one together for your amusement soon!

6. Bumping into Joe Roberts, twice whilst he was installing some incredible gates along the path, a truely talented man, take a look http://www.josephsamuelroberts.co.uk/Art/Gates.html

6. Leaving the Island with the same welcome that I arrived to (only today, Eve was the dragon!)

Anyway, that’s a very brief nutshell, I’ll go into more detail about some of the challenges faced in my next post, most likely, when I’m less tired and it’s not quite so late!

There is just one thing that I do want to add….

This weekend saw the tragic loss of one of my work colleagues and friends at CCW. Ceri Lyn Jones lost her life suddenly on Saturday, and I just want to express condolences to her family and fellow friends and work colleagues. Rest in peace Ceri xx