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Monday, 31 August 2015

August Update

This month I successfully ran my 3rd marathon of the 28 marathon challenge, Helsinki in Finland!

It was a hot and hilly one, the hardest yet but the race and trip itself felt like a big success in helping to raise awareness and money for ME research projects via Invest In ME.  I completed the race in 4hrs 30 mins and despite not finishing with a great time it was a fantastic day (click here for race report).

I met with Christel Rimaila, Paula Aarnio and Mintti Raassina from the Finnish CFS/ME Association, all were very welcoming and gave me a good insight into what it's like there for ME patients (click here for info).  Thanks too to Nadja and her friend for making signs and coming to support me!  We had some great donations and messages from the Finnish supporters, things do look like they're starting to improve slowly there although I know the government's current stance on ME is frustratingly backwards and misguided (like in many countries I'll visit).


Helsinki has some fantastic lakes and islands with a lively city centre and very friendly people -I'd definitely recommend a summer city break there! (click here for pics of my trip!)

Sponsorship Update

As I type we've just ticked over £2K raised for Invest In ME so they can fund their research projects!  That's really great given the challenge is less than 1 year old.  The idea from here is to try and reach as many new people as possible so there'll be a big drive on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word in time for the next race in Dublin.

I've come up with a basic flyer to help reach corporate sponsors to help me try to cover some of the logistical costs (below).  

I'm offering a spot on the front page of my website as well as logos, regular posts and mentions on all social media and any press/media that I'm offered.  Just £100 a year from a handful of sponsors could be the difference to me getting the challenge finished quicker.  As the challenge progresses I'm expecting greater coverage from local TV, media and the running world so there could be some decent exposure for anyone who'd like to be a part of it.

If you know of any company that would be interested please ask them to drop me a message through my contact page -I have a letter drafted outlining the challenge, sponsorship benefits etc, if you would like a copy to send on to your MD or HR contact please drop me an email.

Training for Dublin

I'm a week into my Dublin Marathon training and it's going OK so far after a slow start.  I've only got 25 runs before race day, not long to get ready.  You must be ready though from the other marathons I hear you say?!  Well although it's all valuable mileage, it doesn't quite work like that.  I need to wipe the slate clean, re-focus and build again slowly.  I'm also going to introduce more hill work and interval speed training to make sure that I perform better at the next one.  I want to be a bit leaner and mentally stronger for the next one as it's my last one until April -that's a long time to stew on a disappointing race.

So far I've done a 20 mile week (week 1) which has encompassed a really good hot and hilly run in Hay On Wye.  I went out with Nick for the run and took it nice and steady.  I'd fallen out of a canoe on the river Wye scraping and bruising my knees and shins earlier in the day so was glad it didn't affect it too much!


Whilst I wait for Easyjet's flights to come out so I can book my 5th marathon (likely to be either Thessaloniki, Greece or Linz, Austria), I've signed up for Stockholm on June 4th!  It's a big race with over 30,000 runners and I know that we'll be well supported by the Swedish ME Association.  

Other Endurance Challenges

A quick shout out to the following who I'm following regularly on social media and continue to inspire my challenge.  Have a look at their amazing events!

2015 miles in 2015 for ME - Chris Croshaw is running for 4 ME charities
Mike Shepherd - Mike conquered the North Pole Marathon for Invest In ME and has more challenges to come
Running At The Front - Nick Butter from Bristol is running 3000 km in 2015 for BHF, VICTA & Cancer Research
401 Challenge - Ben Smith from Bristol is running 401 marathons in 401 days for Stonewall and Kidscape
Marathon Man UK - Rob Young has run 370 marathons in 1 year, new challenges announced regularly
53 Marathons - Amy Hughes ran 53 marathons in 53 days last year and continues to set new challenges
Owain Thomas (Yolo7dayUltra) - Owain runs for Ochre cancer charity on for a friend who has terminal cancer

By the end of next month I hope to have booked my first race of 2016 and secured some corporate sponsorship.  I'm also hoping to have made contact with the Irish ME Association and gathered some followers there.  I'll also be very heavily into my Dublin training plan, busy times!

Thanks again for all your support!


Monday, 3 August 2015

July Update

Just two weeks to go until Helsinki and I've had a busy old month, with 101 miles covered and many more travelled in order to ge myself ready for August 15th.


                                                        Reykjavik running

I've been on some great runs this month and lucky to have had some amazing scenery in both South Wales and Iceland.  Running along the coast from Reykjavik was incredible and I went for 2 hours of my 3 hour run without seeing a single soul.  It was great training for sure even though at 13C it was a lot cooler than I can expect to find in Helsinki.

Laugharne Castle, South Wales

Quick thought that occurred to me recently whilst out running.  I approached Men's Running to see if they'd be interested in doing a feature but unfortunately it wasn't quite impressive enough to get any column inches -fair enough I thought as I know of some fantastic and seemingly impossible challenges out there.  They said to get back in touch when I was about halfway through my planned 28.  This could be 2-3 years away and that got me thinking why I can't get more marathons under my belt and get the challenge done quicker.

The main barrier is affording flights, accommodation and trainers.  Can I do 8 or 9 in a year?  Yep probably, I certainly feel fit enough.  Getting corporate sponsorship (and donations to ME research) is proving tough as we face stiff competition from bigger and often more well-known charities.  It's frustrating in many ways to see all the promising news come through about the Rituximab trial and still see governments refusing to help speed things up with funding.  Explaining ME to someone who doesn't know anyone with the illness is something which I know is challenging for everyone trying to raise awareness or change attitudes.

As I'm self-funding the trips at the moment I thought there was some ironic symmetry between the challenge and the quest to find effective ME treatments.  In both cases the only barrier that I can see is money.  Both are very possible, indeed, hugely likely.  But it's almost right that my road to the finish should be a longer one than it could be, as with ME sufferers who wait with frustration but hope that effective treatment is on the way.

Chilli ME Challenge

This month I decided to literally bite the bullet and do the fantastic Chilli ME Challenge for Invest In ME.  The idea is to create a stir similar to that of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from last year but to raise the profile of ME and the need for research.

It's a fantastic initiative that has been gathering loads of both funny and poignant videos and gives the participant the chance to nominate friends/family to take the challenge once they themselves have munched on super hot chillies.

For more info check out: Chilli ME Challenge

Anyway here's my contribution and my good buddy Ian (who has ME), thanks to those who've fulfilled their nominations and pledged/shared.

My Chilli ME Challenge
Ian's Chilli ME Challenge

BBC Radio Bristol

Not quite July but keen to pop this on here before I head off to Finland.

At BBC Bristol!

So I was invited to come and talk to John Darvall on BBC Radio Bristol about the challenge and Invest In ME.  John has already featured 2 discussions about ME and generously given up a lot of time to talk to sufferers and fund-raisers.  He recently found out that his step-sister has the illness and is keen to raise awareness and learn more about biomedical research projects.

John Darvall (left), BBC Radio Bristol Presenter and supporter of ME research

Having given the Action For ME charity a platform previously I was very keen to accept his invitation to let the people of my home-town know more about the Rituximab Trial and Invest In ME.  Not everyone with ME knows of the excitement surrounding Rituximab, I know that if I had the illness and wasn't aware of the great work that Invest In ME are doing then it would lift my spirits and give real hope.

Interview starts at 2hrs 11mins, click here to listen

ME in Finland

So as part of my challenge I'm keen to find out more about what it's like to have ME if you live in each country I visit.  I got in touch with the Finnish ME Association for more info, click on the link below.

ME in Finland

So next month I'm hoping to report that I've ticked Finland off the list successfully and that we've raised a little bit more money and awareness for Invest In ME and ME sufferers.  I'll be taking a week off training to recover, eat pie and drink cider then it's all eyes on Dublin at the end of October.

I'll also be booking flights, accommodation and grabbing a ticket for my first planned marathon of 2016!

Thanks again for your support, flicking through my Facebook/Twitter I've had some really nice messages, most from people I've never met which is just fantastic.

Catch up on the other side!