Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another Year, another challenge.

It has been a while since I updated this blog with any regularity. So much has been happening and we have been so busy, in and out of hospital, possible diagnoses, starting schools, statement of educational special needs... I promise, I will catch up on all the news over the next few days, and show you some lovely pictures. For today, I want to tell you all about Sunday.

During July 2006, Paul was run over and spent a month in hospital with a horrific leg injury (He has only just been able to put two shoes on again in the last few weeks and finally has a leg that is not held up with mechano see http://www.blegspot.blogspot.com). William's physical disabilities were becoming apparent and, I have to confess, I was struggling. A good friend of mine, Emily, was struggling even more. She was in the end stages of cystic fibrosis and her lungs were barely managing to stay inflated for a few weeks at a time while she waited for a call to say her turn had come to get new ones. One day, I received an email inviting me to join "Emily's Angels" in doing the Hydro Active. Emily was planning to be pushed around in her wheelchair, attached to the oxygen that was keeping her alive 24 hours a day. Not only that, she was going to turn up the oxygen and walk the last 500 metres. To you or I, that would be an ultra! I took up the challenge and decided to raise money for CHASE, who were keeping me sane at the time with support at the hospice and in the community whilst I juggled looking after William and visiting Paul (the girls were at Grandma and Grandads). I planned to walk with Emily and her angels but felt shamed by her 500 metre walk and William's courage as he totters about, falls and gets back up again. If they can do that, I can run 5K, I thought. So, I dusted off a pair of trainers that had not seen a pair of feet for over 10 years and went out for a run in the park. Meanwhile, Emily was in and out of intensive care with her ever deflating lungs and many of us worried that she may not make it to walk those 500 metres. Emily the biggest fighter I know and escaped from hospital to walk over the finish line. I managed to jog around and finished in 32 minutes.

Yesterday, Emily and I were back at the Hydro Active Women's Challenge. A year is a long time and in the last 12 months Emily has had a double lung transplant. I have spent the last 12 months getting ever more addicted to running and more and more serious about my training. So, this year there were 2 major changes. Emily planned to walk the whole 5K, while holding a banner showing herself last year, in her wheelchair on oxygen, and this year, walking and bouncing along. I planned to run a PB and dedicate it to her and William, the inspirations that got me running. It was exciting as well because Hope and Ellie joined in with the Angels. It was also the first time I had put a team together to run for the charity I direct, The Brompton Fountain.

We got t Hyde Park at 9 to get ready to say hello to the team and prepare for a team photo. Granny came to look after William and I left Hope and Ellie with Emily and the other angels before taking my place at the front of the mass start with other club runner capable of a sub 25 minute 5K. We were just behind the elite runners and celebs so got to watch them all be introduced to the crowd. It was really exciting being at the front of such a big event and to set off on the clock. We were away within seconds of the elite runners and could even see the time car becoming more and more distant on the first stretch. I had a clear run and, as usual, set off a bit too fast. However, I managed to keep pretty close to my starting pace and finished the first mile in under 7 minutes I could have kept pushing at that pace if my legs were not a little tired, untapered in the peak of marathon training. I didn't drop too much though and kept my pace below 7:30 most of the time. Just before the final turn, I was counted in by an official letting me know that I was in the top 100 and would receive an official time. As I approached the finish, I could hear the announcer tell the spectators that the runners finishing now are all strong club runners, capable of keeping the pace throughout the course. I finished at 22:18 on my Garmin (which also told me I had run a few metres long). On crossing the line, my number was taken and I was given a bottle of Hydro Active. What a difference from last year when I staggered across the line, red and puffed out in a tutu! It was a strange experience. The area where the goody bags were given out was almost deserted and my photo was taken by 2 official photographers and 2 more asked if I wanted one. Later, when I finished again with Hope and Ellie, we had to queue to get a picture together. I walked past Meseret Defar and Jo Pavey wondering around, waiting for interviews before heading back to find Hope and Ellie. My official time was 22:27 and I came 81st out of more than 15000, many of whom were walking. I am listed, beneath the elite athletes, in the race report on the Hydro Active website (http://www.womenschallenge.co.uk).

I am not known for my great sense of direction so I wandered back to the start and jogged along to find the back of the race. Eventually, I caught sight of Emily's banner and found the girls. We walked the rest of the course together and made a pact that, if the girls can jog it next year, I will do it with them. I did enjoy being up at the front though and would love to make up a bit more ground on the elite runners in front. I WILL go sub 20 in a 5K on tapered legs sometime in the not too distant future. Emily did really well and even managed to run the last 300 metres - amazing! Ellie ran bits of the last mile and ran over the line. (As I walked over the line again, I hoped people would notice that I already had a medal on and was not finishing for the first time).

After the race, we met up with William and Granny again and had a picnic with Emily and some of the Angels. Paul turned up after singing in Church and, by now, it was getting a little cold so we headed off to the Science Museum to see William's beloved engines before setting off for home to catch the highlights. He also had great fun playing with Hope and Ellie with the hands on games in the Launch Pad.

It was a great day that marked for me how far I have come with running this year and that I can feel that there is more to come. Emily was as inspirational as she always is. As a Mum to a child like William, Emily's Mum inspires me at least as much. Her strength and amazing personality has, doubtlessly, contributed so much to what Emily is today and if I can just be part of the Mum she is I will have succeeded so it was great to see her again too. Hope and Ellie had their first taste of a big running event and, I hope, got inspired to work towards running in future. Above all, we had a lovely family day out. Next year, I will develop the charity participation to include a family picnic. It won't be the Hydro Active next year as it becomes the Addidas Women's Challenge. It will remain a special day out for me though. I will always have a soft spot for the race that got me running


Tinypoppet said...

fabulous blog Sarah.....what an awesome day. I cannot believe your time, you must be so chuffed! Massive congrats and I was honoured to have your girls walking by my side! xxx

Shadow said...

Wow! Didn't realise you'd knocked that much off your PB. Well done you!

Lovely to walk with Hope and Ellie, enjoy jogging next year;)
And lovely to finally get to meet William.

Hope the marathon goes well.