12 runners + 32 supporters + 1 city + 1 marathon + 1 charity = ONE AMAZING WEEKEND!
I simply have to fill you all in on our trip to Paris. Well, to be totally frank, it was more than just a trip, it was a mission! 12 incredibly brave (crazy!) people, some of whom I hadn’t even had the pleasure of meeting, some I hadn’t seen in years, chose to run the Paris Marathon in aid of Brain Tumour Research Campaign. Not only did I have the absolute joy and pleasure of the company of these 12 people, but along with them came the support of 32 others!
This marathon mission, as you may have noticed, had been in the planning for a long time. I had initially intended to run it myself, but my poor health and lack of energy, unfortunately, soon put an end to that idea. I immersed myself in rallying the ‘troops’ and made sure I had a loud enough voice and a big enough banner to try and help the remaining runners around the gruelling 26.2 miles course.
I can admit this now, but as the marathon was approaching, I knew I made the right decision about pulling out. I was fully able to embrace all the excitement being reunited with friends and meeting new ones too, without the worry of whether I would actually be able to make it across that finish line without landing myself in a French hospital!
Thursday 31st March, Andy and I boarded our plane to Paris Charles De Gaulle. This in itself caused many a happy memory to come rushing back to me of my university year abroad spent in the city! I felt like Anna of old being reunited with my friends from uni, and was so touched that so many people had made the effort to travel to this beautiful city to support the runners, myself and the amazing cause.
Before we left for Paris, runners were asked for suggestions for slogans to put on banners to encourage them during the marathon. I just wanted to clarify this so nobody reading this blog, or looking at the photos from the weekend think that I am some kind of dictator with her own ‘army’, or starting some kind of cult for that matter!!!! Their response was, “ALLEZ, ALLEZ ANNA’S ARMY!!”; and that was that! Thanks to Steve and those at Office Team a fantastic banner was designed (bar the photo of me! HAHA!) and was held high for all the runners to see!
Ellie and her amazing family support had her own banner, “GO ELLIE!” and boy, did she go! Banners, BTRC t-shirts and jumpers on, it just was missing one thing….the runners HAD to be wearing something special, right?!
Here is where my amazing friends at the Rotary Club of Newton Aycliffe came to our rescue! I was invited to speak to the club back in September 2015, since then the Club has been nothing but overwhelmingly supportive of not only my cause, but of me personally. They made a generous donation to my fundraising mission, made me an Honorary Member (and the youngest!) of their Club, nominated me for a Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Young Citizen of the Year Award (which I went on to win!), and have constantly been there for me as friends. I thought I was pushing my luck and maybe being a bit cheeky when I sent an email around asking if any of the members might know of anyone/ any company that might be able to help make my teams’ running vests, however, yet again, the Club surpassed all my expectations and overwhelmingly told me that they would arrange and sponsor the vests for me! I sent them across the agreed design and that was that; these wonderful team vests were produced!
I really would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the Club for their continued support. I can tell you something, all 12 runners looked amazing in the vests and it made it much easier for the supporters to spot them in the crowds. Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but I really am so grateful, and I know the runners were too! I look forward to coming to see you all very soon to tell you all of this in person!
The night before the marathon approached and we all met up to dish out these vests, to dish out words of encouragements, and most importantly of all, to dish out food!!! It was such an amazing feeling knowing that all these people were here to run for me and BTRC. It was lovely to see everybody mingling and getting to know one another; it was simply great fun! Everyone was conscious of the early start that awaited everyone in the morning, and the teeny weeny matter of the little jog 12 people were attempting to complete as well! With that in mind, we went our separate ways and hit the hay! Goodness knows how the runners felt, I felt sick with nerves for them and was just hoping that each one of them completed the run without any injuries; my conscience was playing havoc with me!
‘M Day’ arrived and we all met on the Champs Elysées ready for team photos. Amongst all of the tens of thousands of people this was hard to organise as you can imagine. Unfortunately, Tas and Lola didn’t make the photo call, but here is a selection for you to see.
The majority of us supporters then made our way to La Place de la Bastille, here we could cheer the runners on at mile 3 and then they would loop on the other side at mile 14. Banners held high and voices ready we saw the runners one by one pass each point. Although, we only managed to see Andy Davis at mile 14 as this superman was in the earlier start group. I couldn’t believe how easy they were all making it look, or, at least, I couldn’t believe what great actors/actresses they were!
Mile 14 was tough for some, and emotions were rife, but once we had seen the last of the 12 pass that mark, we headed for a spot near the finish. Supporters were able to bask in the glorious sunshine that shone over Paris that day, whether these were the perfect conditions for our runners however was a different question!
Some other groups of supporters dotted themselves around the course which was great as the runners were able to spot the banners, see the colours and hear the support all the way through.
We camped out just past the 26 mile marker. The end was in sight, they were almost there, they had almost run a marathon! As the Paris Marathon didn’t seem so strict as others I had watched previously, we were actually able to get the other side of the barriers; every time a member of ‘Anna’s Army’ headed towards us we were able to run along with them, some supporters even grabbing their hands and crossing the finish line together! The atmosphere was electric; emotions were still rife. I could not have been prouder of every single one of the team. The physical and mental strength that day must have taken…hats off, or in my case let’s say “WIGS OFF” to you guys!
(Speaking of ‘wigs off’, please keep an eye out in the video at the end of this post that includes photos of the men all trying on my wig – including the French barman!)
I am delighted to say that all 12 crossed that finish line, some more battered than others. They all can say they completed the Paris Marathon 2016, and can wear their medal with pride!
Celebrations soon kicked into full swing and to a bar we headed! Never has a drink been more deserved for the 12 runners, or more needed for all the supporters who had been shouting at the top of their lungs all day! I looked around our huge group and felt so emotional and so honoured to know such amazingly selfless people, who would put their bodies on the line and take time out of their lives to support me and this cause.
I cannot thank each and every one of you enough, including every single supporter. You have all given me so many great memories that I will cherish, and made me appreciate, even more, the life that I am lucky enough to lead at this moment in time.
Another particular thank you I must make in particular is to Andy Davis for taking the reins and being the mastermind behind this marathon mission. None of this would have happened without you, Andy, and, I know I say it a lot, but your support, and the support of your entire family, throughout these 15 months still leaves me in awe. I love you all very much.
A final thank you HAS to go to every single person who donated to any of the Just Giving Pages or Sponsorship forms of my runners. Without you this weekend would have been for nothing. Instead, I am MORE than delighted to announce, that, to date (Just Giving pages are still open…) this Paris Marathon Mission alone, has raised a WHOPPING….
…which sounds a lot like £17,000 to me!
The difference this money will make to BTRC is so exciting.
I am now calling my team ‘ANNA’S ANGELS’ – YOU ARE ALL INCREDIBLE
Andy, Bex, Sam, Edd, Nick, Sarah, Ellie, Polly, Kayleigh, Tessa, Lola and Tas, please take a bow!
Now, please take me back to Paris, I have been on a wedding dress diet since my return and really could do with some more crepes, croissants, pain au chocolats……..
I will leave you with this video that left me in floods of tears the other night, Andy Davis is proving to be a dab hand at these now: