Just because it’s there – four marathons in one week
In autumn last year, Jamie and I decided it was time to do another fundraising run but this time, Jamie set the bar rather higher than normal. By Christmas, he had persuaded four friends to run four marathons in one week for HemiHelp, namely James Ellis, David Bone, Darren Strachan and Mike Bestvina.
The 'Just Because It’s There’ challenge consisted of the Brighton Marathon on Sunday 10th April, then a fifty-two mile (double marathon)run from Brighton to London on Wednesday, followed by the London Marathon the following Sunday (I got away lightly and only had to run the London one!).
Having failed to secure any places via the ballot, we had to buy Gold Bond places which meant we had committed to raising an awful lot of money so we really got our thinking caps on as to how we were going to find over £9,000!
We knew that in doing such a physical challenge, we would get a fair amount of sponsorship, but we were still worried about hitting our targets. Both Holly’s school and her little sister’s nursery donated the proceeds from a cake sale and Christmas raffle respectively, but felt we should also back this up by organising a quiz night.
We managed to get some fantastic prizes (many donated by friends) and when the questions weren’t being fired out, we were taking bids for anything from theatre tickets, signed football shirts to iPhones! The whole night was a roaring success and we raised over £1,400.
During the course of the evening (and with the assistance of a few beers!) two other people signed up with us: Graham committed to rowing 26.2 miles down the Thames during the London marathon and Martin was to run the last ten miles of our Brighton to London leg (together raising nearly £1,500).
Martin joined five other foolhardy volunteers who had also pledged to raise £50 each if they could run with the boys for the last ten miles into Greenwich Park, the final destination of the big run. We couldn’t believe the enthusiasm of everyone involved! However, this has not just been five months of logistics and hard training: it was enormous fun too. With four IT specialists and a journalist on the team, a blog was inevitable.
I was rather nervous about this at first, having never read one, let alone written one, but I have to say it was one of the best things we did. It not only cemented the team together (I only really knew one of them other than Jamie) and provided a medium for a mixture of serious, comic and informative banter among ourselves, but it also gave us something to send out alongside our requests for sponsorship. I was always amazed at the number of people who actually said how much they had enjoyed reading it!
It was also one of the final entries on the blog that gave me some food for thought for this article. James’ words were very moving and gave alternative perspective on what we had achieved. To quote:
"A week ago, I’d struggled badly over the last six miles of the Brighton Marathon and had no idea whether I could go on to run another 70 odd miles in a week and then we went for a pint. And it was the first time I’d really met Holly. Until that point, I think I’d been doing the challenge for myself. I barely knew Jamie and
Chevs and, while I had every ounce of empathy for what they’d been through and I was pleased to help them raise money, the run was more about me trying to do something different, trying to better myself.
"But then I met this bright, intelligent, polite, incredible young lady. I knew some of the things both she and the rest of the family had been through as her result of hemiplegia but I marvelled at how she could be so positive after everything. We sat in a Brighton pub, me 43 and exhausted, her 12 and sparky and she made me laugh out loud with her jokes, good humour and sweet nature.
"As I left the pub and we said goodbye, her parting words were: "Don’t give up." And the die was cast. Whatever hardship, however dark it got and however much I wanted to quit, there was no way I was stopping. And so we went step after step after step.......a truly memorable experience in a truly memorable week that will stay with me…."
And give up they didn’t. Between January and April, most of us experienced injuries that threatened to scupper our big plan – James ran with knees heavily strapped , Darren ran through considerable pain after Brighton, and Mike and I were both plagued by knee problems which pretty much halted training altogether.
However, the boys ran Brighton in the blistering heat in 4.5 hours, and after a twelve hour gruelling run over the North and South Downs (and somehow managing to run 54 miles instead of 52), the boys were chomping at the bit to get out of the starting gates for the final London leg.
I was totally humbled at their drive and dogged determination to finish the job, not to mention their athletic ability. After thirteen miles my knee injury forced me down to walking pace and we agreed that we would all meet up for a glass of bubbly in Green Park at the end. It was a long, hard slog but the whole team made it past the finishing line – and it was mission accomplished!
This was not just about raising money for Hemihelp, it was also about raising their profile, and with the help of a little bit of PR, Hemihelp had several mentions in our local paper, on a website that covered 40 London papers, and even a plug on BBC Radio London when we managed to get an interview with JoAnn Goode!
So, with 500 miles of running behind us and nearly 300 sponsors, we were thrilled to have collectively raised over £16,000 for Hemihelp. We put a lot into it but this final total made every step, begging email and lost toenail worth it. Thanks so much to everyone who has listened, supported, contributed and donated – it really was a truly unforgettable week.
Read more about Chevs and the team on their blog.