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Monday, 6 February 2017

Nov/Dec/Jan update

Relatively quick update after my post-marathon hibernation of late last year!

I'm back running again and 5 weeks into Barcelona training having had some very quiet running weeks of no more than 10 miles per week for a couple of months.  Last October's two marathons in 4 weeks took a lot out of me mentally and physically so it was good to power down and catch up with friends and family.

I tried not to stop running altogether as I remember only too well how hard it was to get going again after my injury-plagued January last year.  But with a race more than 4 months into the future, it was hard to get out there and run just for the fun of it; something I've always struggled with.

So what have I been doing?

Well, I've entered two more races for 2017, taking my total to 5 again.

And they're both in October again, and only 2 weeks apart, eeek.

Number 13(!) will be Amsterdam on October 15th followed by Ljublana on the 29th which will take the challenge to the halfway point (14 of 28).  Why am I doing 2 in one month again?  Quite simply, because I have to.

The schedule of races is such that nearly all the countries I need to run in have October races as it's optimum weather (not too hot/wet/cold).  What results is an insanely complicated logistical challenge to try to fit in 5 across the year when I can't be in two places at once.  I don't want to be left with lots of October races that land on the same day so to get the challenge done by 2020 this is what I need to do.

This kind of explains the logisitcal challenge/nightmare!

I've been to both Amsterdam (with Cat and then on a stag do) and Ljubljana (backpacking honeymoon) and I love both cities.  Hoping to meet some Dutch friends and ME groups in Amsterdam.  Ljubljana/Slovenia will prove more challenging in trying to find patients to connect with.

Over Christmas I was lucky to get out for some great runs in Gran Canaria and Haywards Heath.  Two very different temperatures and terrains but both felt great!

That'll be my last Christmas away for a while, need to save up for flights/hotels to finish the challenge and as I haven't had much luck landing corporate sponsorship, something has to give.

Honey Power And Tim

So I googled '28 euro marathons' and was surprised to see that someone else was attempting my challenge too!!

Tim Teege from Hamburg is currently 3 races short of finishing all 28 marathons so I dropped him an email to have a chat.  Turns out, he's really nice bloke and we have a lot of notes to compare on race experiences and training.  Check his page out here

He sent me some natural energy gels with honey as the main ingredient which I'm due to try out on some of my upcoming longer runs.  Never really got on with gels as they usually make me feel sick, so I'm really hoping these work out.

Tim has Romania on his schedule the same year as me so maybe we can meet up!

Meat and Booze Free

Having spoken to Tim and also from reading a few books written by runners over the Christmas break, I decided to take the plunge and go meat and alcohol free for January!

The main reason being to both drop weight for the next race but also to see if it helped reduce my running times and make me feel a lot healthier.


Going alcohol free for January really wasn't that difficult.  I didn't feel like drinking and nobody was really up for going out anywhere.  I scheduled all of my long runs for Saturday morning so that I couldn't drink on Friday night which helped and on the few occasions that I left the house I coped OK on Diet Cokes.  It's February now and I'm having the odd sociable pint (no more than 3-4 per week) which is a marked difference to the norm (not that I'm a heavy drinker by any stretch).

Being a temporary (yes definitely temporary, maybe) vegetarian has been very interesting.  Our house is currently a building site as we get a small extension done which means the kitchen is out of action for 8-10 weeks.  So, not having to cook meat is certainly one less headache as we have a small portable oven and a hob in the living room to cook with.  We've had all kinds of weird and wonderful items to eat.  Until this year I hadn't ever eaten aubergine, chickpeas, cauliflower or butternut squash!  They're actually not that bad it turns out.

I've had some really successful long runs in training, some of which have been 5-7 mins faster than me in my prime.  Is it down to vegetables?  Not sure.  Only way of knowing is to carry it on for another month!

I'm supplementing my diet with multivitamins and protein muscle recovery shakes after each run.  I'm also trying to eat protein-rich vegetables and have changed my recovey exercises from painful foam-rolling to hip mobility stretches which has helped massively.  I'm no longer hobbling about between runs and it's working out well so far.

Marathon Globetrotters

I found this site and submitted my race times, it's full of folk who have run international marathons.  Some people have run in over 100 different countries!  I was really happy to get an email to say that I'd been made a provisional member (you get full membership after 10 different countries).  Seems like a friendly club.

Brass Monkeys

Now we're in the nasty English winter time, in order to get out of the door, it's important to remember how much I hated running in the Summer.

Here's a few reasons why running in the cold is so much better:

  • Less sweat.  Yes you do still sweat a bit but not to the point where you can't see where you're going!
  • The cold encourages you to hurry up to stay warm.
  • You feel pretty heroic when you're done!
  • The amazing views.  Whether it's snow, frost or winter sun, it's just great.
  • There's nobody else out running. Not many people brave those weekend mornings so you get the whole run to yourself!
  • There's less temptation to go out afterwards and eat/drink too much. Hot shower, wrap up warm and watch a film. Awesome.

Jen Brea - TED and 'Unrest'

January saw the unveiling of Jen Brea's super-inspiring and emotional TED Talk (click below).  Jen has been very receptive to my challenge so far and her organisation ME Action have run a couple of features of my races and reports on what it's like for ME sufferers around Europe.

Her long-awaited documentary/film 'Unrest' premiered at the Sundance Festival and won an award.  Can't wait to see it.

Norwegian Researchers Come To The UK

In late January, Dr Fluge and the team from Haukeland University in Norway visited the Invest In ME research team in Norwich.

The partnership and shared research has given real hope to ME patients.  Everyone waits in anticipation for the final wave of results to come through from the Norwegian Rituximab Trial.

There was a really good feature (right) from BBC Look East on the work that Invest In ME and their researchers are doing in collaboration with the Norwegian team as well as a feature on the new ME Centre Of Excellence to be based in Norwich.  Another fantastic achievement from a charity of volunteers run on donations alone.  Great for everyone to see where their donations are going and to hear Invest In ME finally mentioned on tv.


ME in Spain

As I usually do, I've interviewed patients in the country I'm next due to run in.  This time out I was really grateful to Maria, Gabriela and Teresa from Spain who shared their stories and experiences of living with ME in Spain.

As I type, the interviews have had over 3000 views which is great to see.  I will be translating them and sending them off to media and the health authorities over there, you never know...

To read the full interviews please click here

That's it from me for now.

Thanks again for all your support, I'm excited about year 3 of the challenge.  If I can stay injury free, raise some money and awareness then it'll be a great success. or text 'IIME82' and £1, £3, £5 to 70070

Total Sponsorship Raised: £5707.90
Social Media Followers: 1383
Miles Covered: 142
Average Temp: 5C
Lessons Learned: Rest is good, but gotta keep at it!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Aug/Sept/Oct Update

Been a while since I've done a round-up, but it's now 3 marathons since the last one and a lot has happened in the last 3 months.

Here's a quick recap on where we were back in July!

#7 Solidarnosci Marathon - Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk was a hard race as temperatures predictably rose from 16 to 26C across the race which I struggled with a little.  I got round OK and really enjoyed Gdansk and a boat trip to Westerplatte immediately after the race.  I had great support from our newly formed Polish ME Support Group and managed to talk to Mira, an ME sufferer from Warsaw.

Full race and trip report here

Pace Trial Data Release

In August there was a fantastic victory for the ME community.  If you're new to the story, in March 2014, Alem Matthees sought some of the data from the controversial PACE trial, using the process set out in the English Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This information was held by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). QMUL refused to disclose the data.

In October 2015, ordered that the information be disclosed. QMUL appealed against the IC’s decision; that appeal was heard by the First-Tier Tribunal on 20-22 April 2016 in central London.

The results of the PACE trial promoted psychosocial treatments (cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy) which many patients find either ineffective or actively harmful. As a result, some patients have been using FOIA to try to obtain the trial data in order to understand how these results were achieved.

According to analysis of the released data, “recovery” rates for the graded exercise and cognitive behaviour therapy arms were in the mid-single-digits and were not statistically significant. In contrast, the PACE authors managed to report statistically significant “recovery” rates of 22 percent for their favored interventions.

The release of the data proves beyond any doubt that the treatments recommended to doctors in the UK and beyond to their patients is totally flawed and dangerous and needs to be changed.  The fight goes on to get the Lancet to retract it's support for the doomed trial but this is a huge step in the change of attitudes and treatment of people with ME.

For more detail please click here

If you haven't already, I'd urge you to please sign this petition to end harmful treatment of ME patients in the UK, click here

Summer running

Over the summer I was lucky enough to get in some really fantastic long runs.

Herm (Channel Islands)


Sherborne (Dorset)

Cornwall (Bodmin to Padstow and back)

Belgium interviews

Just before the marathon in Brussels, I interviewed Nancy van Hoylandt from the Belgian ME Association about what the situation there for patients with ME.  Read here

Message From Down Under

I had a fantastic message on my website from an ME patient in Australia that I was keen to share.  It's one of a few amazing posts that I've had over the last 2 years, most from people that unfortunately I may never meet.

Hi Mike. I'm an ME/CFS sufferer from Melbourne, Australia, who's only just heard of your incredible efforts to raise funds and awareness for those experiencing this terrible condition. I'm an avid track and field fan, having followed the sport for more than two decades, which is also ironically about when I was diagnosed.

I'm really impressed by your putting your body on the line for the last couple of years (and in the years to come), in an effort to help those in my situation. I hope that much-needed research can lead to a cure, or effective treatment for those with ME/CFS so that I might one day complete a marathon too!

Best of luck on your next upcoming race, and many thanks for your efforts thus far, and in the future.

Millions Missing Protest

On September 27th I took part in the worldwide ME protest for health equality and funding for biomedical treatments.  Spread across 25 global cities, the events were the second round following a successful campaign earlier in May.

I went to the demo in Bristol and handed out flyers, talked to members of the public and some even donated some money to my challenge which was fantastic.  It was great to meet a lot of people who had supported me on Twitter and Facebook and put faces to names.  Regional tv and press came along to talk to some of us and the event was a huge success that I look forward to being a part of.

For more info on Millions Missing please click here

#8 Brussels Marathon - Belgium

Number 8  was a fairly last minute addition of Belgium to the schedule.  It was a real success for me as I managed my best race on by far the most challenging and hilliest course!

I met up with two ME patient organisations whilst I was over there (WUCB and Belgian ME Association), both helped me in securing press and donations to Invest In ME.

Full report on the race and trip here

Post Marathon -recovery and illness

Quick post on what seems to happen to me in the 4-5 days after a race:
  • Hamstring cramps - if I I've not sat down for 30 mins immediately post race or drunk enough water.
  • Calf strains/micro tears - a tightness that can be relieved with ice and foam roller but often when I'm abroad I don't have access to either for a day or so until I fly home
  • Sore quads and glutes - making it hard to climb or decend stairs, legs can feel heavy/immobile.
  • Hips - usually a stiffness and inability to rotate hip flexors very much
  • Minor Plantar Fascitis - a pain on the sole of the foot and edge, usually lasts a few days
  • Cold - nearly always seem to get a common cold, as though my body wants to fight back.  Most likely caused from the lack of sleep post-race (tired but wired) and the sub-conscious knowledge that I have a week off and it's a 'good' time to get ill.

Invest In ME Centre Of Excellence

Building work continues at pace over the Quadram Institute in Norwich where Invest In ME are planning to base their ME Centre Of Excellence.

Here's a recent statement on the fantastic news that they'd won a lottery grant for the project.

"We are therefore pleased to announce that Invest in ME Research has been awarded a Big Lottery Awards for All grant to help us publicise our proposal for a Centre of Excellence in Norwich, UK, which could form a hub of biomedical research into ME for Europe.  The charity will use the funding to create a business plan for the development of a dedicated Centre of Excellence for ME.
We will also produce a DVD containing the latest research, information and support with regard to ME – still to be decided but maybe connected with the IIMEC12 conference in 2017.

We also plan to organise an event explaining our proposal and plans for the Centre of Excellence for ME to potential beneficiaries. This will show the potential for such a Centre and how it can achieve a dramatic change in progress in resolving this disease.
Our proposal holds out great hope to find the cause(s) and treatment(s) for this disease by creating a hub of translational biomedical research into ME which would be sustainable.  A strategy of biomedical research is being developed and would be expanded by this Centre and provide a focal point for developing treatments based on high-quality research.
We invite support from anyone who wishes to make progress in understanding and treating this disease. More details of funding campaigns will be coming out in the future.  We are very grateful to Awards For All for this support for our CofEforME proposal.
This will take a major effort to achieve but we feel it can be done and the rewards for people with ME would be huge"
Here's a great FAQ on how the centre of excellence will operate.

#9 Toulouse Marathon, France

3 weeks after running Brussels Marathon, I lined up for my second race of October in Toulouse.  In truth I'd been struggling to recover a little from the rigours of the former.  Martin, my sports massage guy, told me my legs were 'wrecked'.  I'd done a long run a week before Toulouse and although it had gone well I could definitely feel pain when walking along the edge and arch of my right foot as well what felt like a muscle tear by my left knee.

In any case I knew I had the mental strength to finish the race, though it certainly wasn't going to be easy.  For my race report click here

Karina Hansen

On Monday 17 October 2016, after three and a half years of incarceration, Karina (who has severe ME ) was finally returned home to her family. The arrangement was on a trial basis but in the hope and expectation that she would be finally and permanently back where she belongs.

In 2008, Karina (who lives in Denmark) was diagnosed with severe ME.  As we know, ME patients in many countries are still routinely referred to psychiatrists who use the inappropriate, and sometimes dangerous, psychosocial treatment model.  Karina's family continued to care for her at home, in accordance with her express wishes. However, in February 2013, then aged 24, she was forcibly removed from her home by a large team of police, doctors and social workers. She was taken to Hammel Neurocenter, against both her own will and that of her family. Hammel is part of “The Research Clinic for Functional Disorders” at Aarhus University Hospital.

Shortly after her initial detention, she was classed as a “voluntary” patient, despite having been taken there against her will; she was found by a court subsequently to lack capacity to make her own decisions. As a result of that finding, the court appointed a legal guardian to take responsibility for her welfare and make decisions on her behalf. Her condition deteriorated rapidly after her admission to the Clinic.

Three years on, in February 2016, Karina remained a de facto prisoner of the state. She had been moved to a nearby rehabilitation center but allowed very little contact with her family. Her father was permitted to visit her in December 2015. Whilst she was physically clean and cared-for, she was apparently immobilized, in a wheelchair and unable to speak except for incomprehensible mumbling and grimaces. At that time, she did not appear to recognize her own father.

I completely agree with Valerie Eliot Smith's comments on her story, "Karina’s story is horrifying. It is a story which should be of the utmost international concern, as a salutary reminder not only of a shocking breach of one young woman’s rights but also of the continuing scandal of the appalling treatment and stigmatization of ME patients all over the world"

For more background please click here

Close Season Plan

Now that I've finished trainng for the year, I'll be taking a couple of weeks off running altogether.  After that I've decided to run twice a week to try and keep some of my fitness and make it less of a shock when training begins again on Christmas Day in Gran Canaria.

Back with a pre-Christmas update in mid December where I hope to have booked another race for 2017 (Currently have Spain in March, Luxembourg in May and Lithuania in Sept).  I'll also be working hard to secure some help with the cost of flights, hotels and kit from corporate sponsors, wish me luck!

Thanks for all your support the last 3 months and (18!).  9 down, 19 to go!

Total Sponsorship Raised: £5446.20
Social Media Followers: 1302
Miles Covered: 261
Average Temp: 20C
Lessons Learned: Plenty!  Probably not to fear hills and recover properly!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

June/July 2016 Update

It's Summer!  Finally, sort of, over here in the crazy UK.  So much to bring you up to date with if you haven't been following my semi-regular Facebook page.

The bend before the finish line!

First up a quick word on Marathon #6: Stockholm on June 4th!  Well it was a really amazing trip.  I got round in 4hrs and 5 mins which I was pretty happy with given the heat on the day (25C) and the hills.  The course was great, taking in some fantastic views and with some decent support in the built up areas.

Finished! Outside the Olympic Stadium

It was my first trip to Sweden and came with many highlights including getting over to the beautiful Fjaderholmarna island and Skansen Park the day before as well as meeting up with ME patients Susanne and Catharina immediately after the race.

Full race report here and pics here 

Invest In ME Conference

I couldn't make the conference due to being in Sweden but I heard it was a fantastic success.  If you'd like to find out what was discussed then there's some very useful info/links below.

Conference Journal -I'm on page 33-36!

Invest In ME report on the Conference 

They also managed to raise some money for our cause with a collection tin at the conference which I've added to the justgiving site.

I'll try and get to the next one guys!  Won't be racing that weekend next year.

Change in schedule!

First up, I've booked my 2nd race for 2017 (to follow Barcelona Marathon on March 12th) and it's going to be the exciting Luxembourg Night Marathon.  Exciting for many reasons, not least that it starts at 7pm which will no doubt be the latest kick off of all 28 that I do.  It presents all kinds of dietary conundrums but hopefully I'll be able to deal with that, I get a lie-in I guess!  Will be strange finishing a race at circa 11pm, eating dinner and going to bed!

ING Luxembourg Night Marathon, race number 11 of 28.

I've never been to Luxembourg and really don't know what to expect from it.  Maybe some cobbled streets, smart alfresco restaurants and nice squares mixed in with some imposing business-district buildings?  I'm not sure given the small population that I'm likely to make contact with any ME patients/groups but I'll certainly try to look and do what I can there.

Impulse buy

So, the other change is a very last minute entry into Brussels Marathon on October 2nd this year.  I toyed with this a lot.  Major considerations were cost and whether I could physically do 2 marathons in 3 weeks.  But as I'm feeling good and could get cheapish flights and accommodation I thought I'd give it a go.  I've been to Brussels before but only for a few hours before heading off to Bruges (where I proposed to my wife, Cat).  We went to the main square and it looked amazing, I'm looking forward to going back and exploring it properly.  I've already made contact with Nancy Van Hoylandt from the Belgium ME/CFS Association (already members of the European ME Alliance) so hopefully we can meet up and get some press/raise awareness on this one.

ME in Poland

In June I managed to interview Mira from Warsaw about what it's like for ME patients in Poland.  The article has so far received over 5,000 views and has been shared over 100 times across a number of sites.

The piece focuses on the continuing struggle around the perception of ME in the country.  Not only that but where there is an interest in the illness, upon further research it's clear that exercise therapy is the most favoured form of treatment prescribed.  As we know this only makes patients worse and it's no surprise that they're not keen to come forward for help at this particular clinic.  I'll continue to try to find doctors and researchers that advocate biomedical research, hopefully we can put them in touch with the European ME Alliance.  There's approx 150,000 people suffering with ME in Poland, the challenge is as it is with many countries in Europe but hopefully things will improve with recent breakthroughs and developments ocurring elsewhere.

Mira has been really helpful (despite her severe ME) with giving me media contacts and I hope to have something to report on this soon.  I was really happy that ME Action were able to feature it on their site, which has become a hugely successful platform for information and news.

Polska ME / CFS Grupa Wsparcia

I decided that I needed a focal point for bringing together Polish patients and that setting up a facebook group would be a decent start.  There didn't appear to be any in existence and I thought it would be a good way of getting people to talk, help each other and share knowledge.

With the help of Juli Persson (a Polish speaking ME patient), it grew to 55 members within the first 48 hours and I'm hopeful that now I've taken a backseat to let it grow organically, it can make a difference to someone, whether they themselves are Polish, or maybe their carers, family or friends.


Big thanks to Karen Denmark for putting me onto MEPedia -a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME/CFS.  Hopefully it'll get some decent traffic and inspire others to take up challenges to raise funds and awareness.  MEPedia is an initiative by ME Action -I'll be at their #MillionsMissing protest in Bristol on Sept 27th -more on that next month!


I couldn't write without mentioning the infamous referendum.  I'm not going to get into my thoughts on the result, I don't want to upset people or lose supporters.  What I will say is that it took me a fair few days to try to figure out the impact on this challenge.

Prominent thoughts:

  • If the UK are out of the EU, will anyone care that I'm still doing the challenge?
  • Should I scrap the EU plan and run in every country in Europe? (maybe another 20 countries)
  • Will the rest of the EU countries be interested in supporting me?
  • Will more countries leave and what will that mean for the challenge?
  • Will the EU dissolve/combust?!
  • People still need help regardless of where they live
  • The EU could in fact grow, would I add more countries in that case?  If not then it doesn't make any difference.
  • Everyone I've met in the EU has been fantastic so I'd hope that would continue
  • I've done the UK already.
  • I really can't afford to get to every European country and some don't have recognised marathon races.
There you go.  I'm carrying on.  Maybe i'll try and do it quicker so the EU isn't a distant memory when I've finished.

Solidarnosci Marathon, Gdansk (August 15th)

Just a few lines on the significance of this unique race!

The Solidarity Marathon commemorates the workers who were killed by the Polish communist army and police during the strikes and riots of December 1970 in the area.  The race is always held on the 15th of August (a public holiday and the feast of the Assumption of Mary, an important feast day in Poland).

The uprising was in protest to a sharp rise in the cost of food and everyday items by the ruling communist government and saw those working in the dockyards in Gdansk, walk out on strike in protest.  After other workers did the same across the city and tri-city region, they were met with fierce aggression by the militia who shot dead a number of the protesters.  Demonstrations and strikes broke out in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin in the north, which were brutally suppressed by 27,000 communists troops, and a hail of bullets were fired at workers in Gdynia on 17 December, with 42 killed during the month-long protests and over 1,000 wounded.

In detail -more info 

The price increases were abandoned shortly after, and the uprising was seen as the catalyst for change and the first time that communist rule was seriously challenged in Poland.  In August 1980, after more strikes, the Solidarność ("Solidarity"), the first independent trade union in a Warsaw Pact country, was born at the Gdańsk shipyard.  Martial law was declared in 1981 and the struggle continued until communism fell and the country transitioned to a liberal democratic political system after 1989.

There is a ceremony prior to the start of the race at The Victims of December 1970 Monument in Gdynia which is said to be very poignant.  It's not too hard to see the parallels with the ongoing fight that ME patients worldwide have with their governments to get the respect and treatment they deserve.  We must keep pushing them and force a change.

There you go, you're up to date now.  I've got 2 weeks until the next race, got my Zloty's sorted and I'm taking a keen interest in Gdansk weather and webcams.  I know this one won't be my best, it's likely to hit 30C whilst I'm out there, there's only 700 of us running with traffic and with very little crowds.  I think it'll be the toughest one I do but I feel like I can get around OK.  I've got a new phone and will be posting the odd video update along with my usual tourist pics of the town.

It would be amazing to hit £4K of donations to biomedical research and Invest In ME by the morning of the race!

If you can spare just £1 I would really appreciate it!

Text IIME82 and £1 to 70070

Catch up soon!

Total Sponsorship Raised: £3775.31
Social Media Followers: 1234
Miles Covered: 176
Average Temp: 20C
Lessons Learned: I can do hills a bit!

Monday, 30 May 2016

May 2016 Update

End of my biggest ever month in terms of mileage!  And as you're reading this I'm about to fly out to Stockholm for my 6th of 28 marathons, one in each EU nation.

After one of many wet long runs in May!

I've gone through the month without any injury, quite unbelievably, and am feeling optimistic that I've put in enough training to get around in one piece.  But you'll be fine, you've done a few already haven't you? Well, yes, but there's a lot of things that can go wrong in a marathon.  I need to avoid dehydration, cramps, tears, sunstroke, muscle strains, tramlines and traffic amongst others; keeping concentration and a calm mind is essential.

I've enjoyed some really good and challenging runs in May, none more so than a very hilly, wet and picturesque 14 miles in the Gower peninsula (Horton to Rhossili Bay).

It was a tough little run due to the huge variances in elevation, perfect training for Stockholm and its legendary Vasterbron bridge with it's 100 metre hill (Mile 20).  I ran along the beach at Port Eynon which was my first real run on sand, it was pretty hard work!  It started raining pretty heavily and when I ran past a group of Duke of Edinburgh hikers I think both parties looked at each other as though they were totally crazy.

Stockholm Marathon is a pretty big race compared with some I've entered so far, there's likely to be around 15,000 runners and the race starts outside the Olympic Stadium, finishing with a lap of the track inside later.  The race starts at 12pm over there.  Great as I get a good night's sleep and a big breakfast but not so good as it starts at the height of the day where temperatures could get pretty high.  In recent years it seems the conditions have either been very hot (25C+) or very wet (10C).  The wet option would definitely be in my favour given my training and lack of hot weather training so I'll be doing a raindance the night before as usual.

If anyone is keen to meet then I'll most likely be around the start area from 10ish and for a short while after I hopefully finish at 4pm.

Race 9!

I booked my first race of 2017 and it'll be Barcelona Marathon on the 12th of March!  It's a well respected race taking in the Camp Nou, La Rambla and hopefully a fair bit of Gaudi architecture.  I've been to Barcelona once before and it's definitely one of my favourite cities, safe to say that I didn't think I'd be going back 10 years later to run a marathon!

I've already been lucky to be offered somewhere to stay over there by a follower of the challenge and I'm hopeful I'll be able to meet others on the trip.  Really can't wait for this one!

Running To Music and The Ultimate Playlist

Running whilst listening to music seems to be a really divisive issue for some runners out there that I follow.  Pretty much all of the ultra running community look upon it with mild disgust whilst myself and the other middle of the road plodders swear by it.

Experienced runners feel that the mind and body should be in sync with each other in total concentration.  You should listen to your body, breathing and the sounds around you.  Race organisers dislike it too as they claim that it can make some runners a hazard to those behind them looking to run through and also make any announcements or directions hard to communicate -I've even heard of some races where runners have been disqualified for wearing earphones.  I do definitely see an advantage of hearing the rhythm of your steps and breathing in order to maintain pace and stay 'in-flow'.  But I'm afraid I'm siding with the other group on this issue.

The sounds of birdsong doesn't do anything for me I'm afraid and I don't get a boost from hearing a cow mooing.  When I run on main roads I leave the volume low enough to hear traffic don't get me wrong but whether it's a quick 10k or a 3-4 hour run, I need distractions and preferably ones that make me want to turn on the turbo, sing along (badly) or punch the air (yep, sorry).  On training runs I have set playlists and particular bands that are easy to run to.  These are mostly rock/indie (Idlewild, BRMC, Placebo, Gaslight Anthem, Manics, The Music, Thin Lizzy, Metallica, Bowie) with the occasional dip into electronica/dance (Prodigy, Depeche Mode, the odd bit of circa 1999 Trance).

Music can mask pain, massive hills and mental fatigue.  Memories of where you were/what you were doing when you last heard the tune can take you away from the run; you can concentrate on figuring out cryptic lyrics too in some cases.  Running the same route (as I often do in the week) with the same playlist can form a bit of a target -can I get to X before hearing Y.  For me it's as important part of the kitbag as any pair of high spec running shoes.

When I'm running in a marathon race it's important to draw upon the energy of the crowd, it can give you a massive lift that's for sure.  Of the 5 races I've done so far all had a decent atmosphere at the start and finish as you would expect.  But usually come mile 3, the crowd thins out and the early camaraderie with others on the start line has started to fade as everyone zones in on their PB's and plans.  It's only been in London and Dublin so far where I've gone without music until the latter stages of the race -I've simply been entertained so well by the crowds and bands there that I've not needed it.  I defy anyone to not get bored running 20 miles on the motorway of northern Greece where there's no crowd, just cars and every form of roadkill imaginable.  Miles 22-26 are so hard, I find that music is as essential as energy gels or bananas in fighting your brain's urge to quit.

Anyway, that's my view.  And here's the 10 tunes that I rely on each race to get me home that last 5-6 miles or so!

Ultimate Marathon Top 10

ME Awareness Day and #MillionsMissing

May 12th every year is ME Awareness Day worldwide.  It's an opportunity to reach people outside of the ME community and let them know more about the illness and how to help.  Social media is understandably a valuable tool for patients and there families to do this and with the current PLOS One tribunal and increased pressure on the PACE trial to be retracted, this year felt like a really big one.

'Millions Missing' was a fantastic initiative from ME Action whereby protests took place on May 25th across the world to highlight the lives and time lost by ME sufferers.  Shoes were placed at each protest to represent the lost lives of patients and there was a huge Twitter storm which had the event trending, a fantastic achievement.  It was picked up by the media too and hopefully has had some impact on the perception of ME and further highlighted the need for research funding.

Outside the Department of Health in London

ME in Sweden

I managed to catch up with RME, the leading patient organisation in Sweden to find out a bit more about what it's like for the approx 40,000 ME sufferers there.

Click here for the full interview

I know it's easy to feel that the situation is hopeless and immensely frustrating from reading the article but it's important to get behind organisations like RME and commend them on the good work they're doing to try to change attitudes and lobby governments.  The clinic at Skora Skandal is really stretched but vitally important.  Many countries I've visited can only dream of such a place so it's vital that we spread the word and try to help them to survive.  RME are doing everything they can to encourage and fund biomedical research, they're a key member to the European ME Alliance chaired by Invest In ME.

Thanks for reading and all your support this month.  I have a plane to catch and must dash!

If you'd like to drop a few quid in the bucket for biomedical ME research in support of my Swedish adventure then click below:

Text IIME82 and £3 to 70070

Catch up soon!

Total Sponsorship Raised: £3353.66
Social Media Followers: 1070
Miles Covered: 126
Average Temp: 16C
Lessons Learned: Still can't do heat!

Friday, 29 April 2016

March/April 2016 Update

Just catching up with a quick Spring update as the next race hurtles towards me!

So what's being going on?

Flying the flag in front of the White Tower

Well since my last update at the end of February I have....
  • Finished marathon 5 (Greece) of 28 -completed in 4.03hrs
  • Raised £700 more for Invest In ME Research projects (now stands at £3157)
  • Had my first published blog on Running Bug website
  • Been asked to write a feature on the challenge for the Guardian's running section (pending publish)
  • Run another 185 miles 
  • Gathered another 70 new followers to the challenge

Very impressive statue of old Alex

Marathon #5 - Alexander The Great Marathon (Greece)

On April 3rd I managed to finish Greece's 2nd largest marathon, running into Thessaloniki besides the sea towards the famous White Tower.  Full race report here and pics here

Finish line smile/grimace

Looking back I can say it was a great start to the year, a lot of things could have gone wrong but fortunately I'd done just enough training (pretty much from scratch after a 2 month break) and got round without too many problems.  Thessaloniki is a great city, not as historic or picturesque obviously as Athens but some great sights and a nice weekend break.

As well as completing the race, the aim was to raise awareness about what it's like to have ME in Greece.  I'm pleased to say that my interview piece with Lefteris was easily the most read part of my website of the year so far and has been read/shared over 3000 times from over 15 different European countries. 

Over the last few weeks I've also had my first video diary out, introducing the challenge and attempting to answer some of the questions put to me on Facebook and Twitter.  Check it out here:

Look mum I'm on TV!

So with Greece done and 23 more countries left to visit it's time to move on to training for Stockholm (04.06.16) and with it a shift in tactics to introduce more hill training.

Staying focused

As I'm now in the 2nd year of the challenge with 5 down and still a heck of a long way to go, inevitably people are asking me if I'm getting bored or still feeling as motivated to complete this lengthy challenge.  The answer for me is that, if anything, I feel like I'm now beginning to find my running rhythm.  The first half of last year was about getting up to the level of fitness required to simply finish a race after so many years of a sedentary lifestyle.  I now have confidence in the plans that I create for each training race whereas before I was making it up and hoping for the best.  The turning point for me was the training for Dublin last September.  I really committed to the plan, eating/drinking properly and I got that lifelong ambition of a sub 4-hr marathon (just!).

Bling bling

I'm actually enjoying having 4 races this year and not 3.  That's 4 trips abroad, more people to meet and not long to stew on a poor race or to get that marathon buzz again.  I know there's a lot of people out there who don't think I'll complete all 28 and will give up at halfway or less, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed!  I'm not really one to start something and leave it unfinished.  By the end of August I'll be more than a quarter through the challenge, another mini-milestone.  I totally accept that it won't be until I get 20 races done that the papers and running mags will reply to my emails and requests for coverage (and a platform for ME sufferers).  That's OK, I'm here for the long-haul and part of the experience is the time spent learning about running from people I follow and in some very minor way, sharing the struggle of the people that I'm trying to help.

Stockholm elevation

I'm varying my training routes, terrain and elevation to keep things fresh.  I'm also writing blogs to try and reach communities of people outside the ME world; that's as much a challenge as the running itself.  Training is relentless but almost now the norm.  If people ask me if I'm free on a specific date to do something, my first thought is, am I running that day?  Friday nights are off limits -I need to run long on the weekend.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are tied up until 7.30pm as I run home from work.  Nothing gets in the way of training.  The consequences of not doing enough come race day are physically and mentally too awful to consider.  I'm not flying all that way to walk the course feeling low and like I've let everyone down.

Am I still focused?  Yep, I mean no, what was the original question?!

Next month

In my next update I want to talk a bit about RME -the Swedish ME Association (*Spoiler Alert* -they're doing some fantastic things for patients there) and also what it's like to have ME over there in Sweden.  I've got a long over-due back treatment coming up and the hardest month of my training to date as I get ready for Stockholm's infamous hilly bridges.  May will see me running on the beaches of The Gower, the lanes of rural Dorset and hopefully back on my favourite tow-path to Portishead.  Also my good buddy Ben Scott will be taking on Belfast Marathon (May 2nd) for Invest In ME -best of luck mate!

Thanks again for all your support!

Total Sponsorship Raised: £3157
Social Media Followers: 961
Miles Covered: 185
Average Temp: 8C
Lessons Learned: More hills Mike, more hills.
Text IIME82 and £3 to 70070