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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Feb/Mar/Apr Update

Into Spring and I've ticked off number 10 of the 28 with a steady run in Barcelona (more on that in a bit).

Here's a quick summary of what's been going on since my last blog.

Hosting UK Runchat Hour

Way back in Feb I co-hosted UK Runchat Hour on Twitter.  The online running community have been really supportive to my challenge and in return I've been happy to give advice where I can to people training for marathons.

So from 8-9pm, I had some questions lined up for the followers of the community (52,000 strong).  It was a fast and furious hour but great exposure for Invest In ME as people were visiting my profile, website and asking questions about ME and the charity.

Polish ME Flyer

With our Polish ME Support Group on Facebook at 50 members, Kotki, Ian and I put together a flyer to help us grow membership and to get more conversations going.  The idea is that patients in Poland can print off the flyer at home and leave them at their doctors surgery or other public places to help spread word of the illness and group.


Juli (who helps run the group) has been amazing with her contributions and Poland now has an online protest and presence as part of Millions Missing's global action on May 12th (ME Awareness Day).  We've added another 15 members or so and hopefully it's a big step in the right direction.

Yorkshire Times

Good friend and ME sufferer Bill Clayton managed to get a feature on my challenge into the Yorkshire Times which was really nice of him.  The paper gets a big readership and it was great to see some followers added and donations coming through after this post.

Click on the link below to read it:
Yorkshire Times 

Care 4ME Conference (Brussels)

A week before I ran in Barcelona, Nancy Van Hoylandt (a long time supporter to my challenge and to Invest In ME) and Alice Vertommen, as part of the Belgian ME Association, organised a fantastic conference on ME at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Amongst the researchers there were Jo Cambridge, Olli Polo, Nigel Speight and Simon Carding.  Also in attendance was MEP Helga Stevens, more fantastic progress for the European ME Research Group and European ME Alliance.

Millions Missing Canada

Big thanks to Barbara Fifield and Lindy Bilyea for picking up my challenge and for very generous sponsorship.

Barbara has featured my challenge on the MillionsMissing Canada social media and I've had some really fantastic support over their side of the Atlantic.

Click here for article: MillionsMissing Canada

Petition For Parliament Debate

Finally an ME petition has hit it's target this month.  There's now over 10,000 signatures which triggers a response from the UK government into the continued neglect and mistreatment of people with ME.

If you haven't already, please do click on the link.  It takes 10 seconds and you won't get any spam through.  It's fair to say that the pressure is building on the UK Government to start taking biological research seriously and dump the ludicrous PACE Trial rhetoric.

Open until 3rd May

Barcelona Marathon

So if you missed it, I ran Barcelona on March 12th (4hrs 10) and we managed to raise over £1000 for Invest In ME in this race alone.

It was great to meet so many ME patients over there as well as being able to stay with Teresa over there.  It was a really well organised race and although it did get uncomfortably hot towards the end, it was a decent start to the year and I'm sure I'll get faster.

Well done to Ben (right) for getting round under difficult circumstances and raising lots of money for Invest In ME also!

Full race report here

UKRunChat Charity Feature

Every Tuesday, UK RunChat select two runners to feature and I was really happy that they were able to publish a piece on my challenge. It went out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (60,000 followers in total).  Love those guys.

Click here to read article:  Charity Tuesday

Haywards Heath Run

I love running in new places.  I enjoy switching between my 3 usual Bristol long runs but getting out on the roads and trails in a new town seems to make the running less painful.

Ouse Valley Viaduct

I got out for a 15 mile morning run in the sun from Haywards Heath to Balcombe and then back through Cuckfield.  It got a little hairy sharing the road with the traffic but it was a really enjoyable run and some very pictureque views.

Luxembourg ME Interview

With a population of 500,000 I thought it would be incredibly unlikely to find someone to interview from Luxembourg (next race) about their struggle with ME.  Big thanks Robyn James for searching groups and to my friend Juli for finding Katja in one of the German groups on Facebook.  Katja's story is uncomfortable reading but it's important that people understand what patients are going through and what it's like in Luxembourg for sufferers of ME.

Since publishing last week it's had over 1000 views already.  My goal is to try to reach other patients there and put them in touch with Katja.  I've also contacted Luxembourg Marathon and some local press there to see if we can raise awareness for people with ME living in Luxembourg.

Click here for the article:

Luxembourg, hills and the one-speed gearbox

I've read a fair few reviews about Luxembourg Night Marathon.  It's fair to say nearly everyone who has run it says that it's not a PB race.  There's a 15 mile or so decline (great!) followed by a steep drop into a valley/ravine and a reverse back up it for the final 11 miles.  Ouch.  As a result I've been running up and down what I consider to be one of the steepest hills in Bristol, Bridge Valley Road.

The road meanders up from the Portway underneath the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge up to Bristol Zoo.  It's a 0.5km route which tests almost every part of your body.  I'm running up it 2-3 times every Tuesday through the car fumes, prevailing head wind and, on hot days, sweat fest that it brings.  Mixing in some higher altitude long weekend runs and a faster flat Thursday 7 mile sprint with intervals, I'm hoping this will get me ready to get round the course in a passable time.

Any thoughts of sub 4hrs have gone out of the window.  It's a shame as I don't have another marathon after this until Lithuania in September but I know it's unrealistic for me to post a quick time out there on such a challenging course.

Big hill!

I'm still only 2 years into the challenge and running as a whole really.  So far I've only really had one-speed, I seem incapable of running slower on my long runs and find it difficult to run faster on the short ones.  The answer to this is more of what I'm now doing with intervals and hills (and good diet). I seem to be able to get around 22 miles in 3 hours but fall apart soon after in most races.  So this time around I'm going to find that elusive steady pace to last the full 26.2m, sounds easy doesn't it.  

2018 Rough Plan

I'm always tweaking the plan for future marathons as the dates of the races (and my availability) does change a fair bit.  I've got to be ready to book flights as they get released to keep costs down, in this challenge it definitely pays to be organised!

Only 3 years left!

I've booked flights for Malta as the first one of 2018, actual registration for the race doesn't start until October 1st.  I've never been to Malta and it looks like a fantastic place to run.  Once again I'll be flying back to the UK a couple of hours after the race (eeek) and then driving home to Bristol from London but I'm just grateful I can make the flights work and actually get out there.

So just under 4 weeks to go now until Luxembourg Night Marathon.  I've been training hard with hill and sprint work, hopefully I'll be ready.  It's definitely not a race to run my personal best.  I'll be flying over at 6am on the morning of the race, can't check in to our hotel until 2pm and then the course itself has a 10m incline to finish.  Getting through in one piece is the priority for this one!

If you'd like to sponsor me for what looks like my hardest of the 28 races then please click on the link below! or text 'IIME82' and £1, £3, £5 to 70070

Total Sponsorship Raised: £6425
Social Media Followers: 1516
Miles Covered: 280
Average Temp: 12C
Lessons Learned: Change up the training with hills and sprints

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!