POST 30: SUPER SARAH!

Now I know I have just posted about the Paris Marathon Mission, however, I truly felt as though this woman deserved a whole post of her own. I simply have to tell you about Sarah Hargreaves…

My Mum used to work with Sarah at York College, a fair few years ago now, but I had never had the pleasure of meeting her myself.

I first came across Sarah shortly after my diagnosis. She contacted me asking if she could run the London Marathon 2015 in aid of BTRC; I, of course, snapped her hand off, and was left dumbfounded how someone who I hadn’t even met would want to do something so kind. I quickly learnt of Sarah’s generous, caring and loving character. In her own words:

I know some amazing people who are brilliant runners.  Some can run a marathon in less than 3 hours; some can run three marathons in three days; some can do an ironman.  Me….well, I’m just a bit of an old bird who happens to like running.  It doesn’t come easy to me.  I have to work very, very hard at it.

When I was at school, I hated cross country but was OK at athletics…but then I discovered smoking, drinking and boys (not necessarily in that order) and any chance of taking up running was long gone.

It took a few more years for me to take it up….and, at the age of 42, I finally kicked the habit (smoking, not men) and was challenged to do the Great North Run by some workmates and raise money for Cancer Research at the same time.

I stopped smoking and started running the same day.

It was a truly awful day.

I managed around half a mile, running behind my friends, calling them as many bad names as I could think of.  When I stopped I was purple.  I felt wretched…but I stuck at it.  I built up my mileage gradually and, a few months later I completed the Great North Run in 2:10 in memory of my brother Simon, who died of cancer in 1999. I was very, very proud.

I came to absolutely love running and from there, built up my mileage to do marathons, of which I’ve now done seven (I think).  It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s bloody hard work.  I have to train hard; very hard.  But I love doing them and continue to fundraise in memory of my lovely brother.

Then, one day last year, when I was at work, I heard about some people fundraising for the Brain Tumour Research Campaign for a woman called Anna…the daughter of a friend, Linda Swabey, who worked at York College a few years before.  I found out that Anna, at the age of 23, had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour and, for whatever reason, her story just grabbed me.  It grabbed me so much that I found out more about her charity…and discovered that brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers of people under the age of 40, but receive less than 1% of cancer research spending in the UK. So I decided that I wanted to do my bit to raise more funds for the BTRC and their amazing work in trying to combat this terrible killer.”

 

So yes, this amazing woman contacted me and ran the London Marathon in aid of BTRC after hearing of my story; how kind! Not only that, but she raised a hell of a lot of money in the process also.

Sarah London

We kept in touch and Mum and I kept saying how we would love to head down to York and visit her and many other of my Mum’s former colleagues, however, operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy seemed to take over our lives.

I was then very cheeky and contacted Sarah about running the Paris Marathon with me, and explained how I was keen to get a whole team together, and she jumped at the chance! Still never having met this lady, I, again was left shocked and very humbled.

This is where I began to learn that Sarah is not just caring, generous and loving, SHE IS AN ABSOLUTE NUTTER!

She contacted me to tell me that she knew she could run a marathon, and really wanted to challenge herself. Her crazy plans then began to fall into place:

April 3rd – Run the Paris Marathon

April 4th – Hop on a bike and begin the 277 mile cycle to Rotterdam

April 10th – Run the Rotterdam Marathon

 

As Sarah has called it “Two marathons and a bit of a bike ride” , or, alternatively, “ 3 Countries, 2 Marathons, 1 Old Bird”!!!!

I couldn’t believe what she was proposing! All I knew is that when I met her, I was going to give her the biggest hug humanly possible! I couldn’t wait!

When that moment came emotion consumed me, I had tears in my eyes and felt so happy to finally meet and talk in person. I don’t think any member of the team could quite get our heads around the challenge that lay ahead of Sarah and we were all in awe of her commitment to fundraising, in memory of Simon (pictured below), and for me and BTRC.

Simon

 

Paris Marathon completed in a very respectable time of 4hours 50mins, we met afterwards to celebrate the first success of her long journey. We hugged/cried goodbye and we all wished her well for her remaining two legs of her challenge. The morning after running 26.2 miles, Sarah, joined by her brother Andy, hopped on their bikes, and the support car driven by husband Chris. They casually cycled 70 miles!!!!!!

They arrived in Rotterdam on Friday, after having cycled nearer to 300 miles. This gave Sarah only one full day of rest before the final leg of her challenge!

We have all been following her progress intently on social media, and we were all hoping she would be able to complete the Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday and, more importantly, finish unscathed.

I was over the moon when I received a call from her telling me that SHE DID IT!! And, not only that, she only went and bloomin’ ran the Rotterdam Marathon 30 minutes faster than Paris! 4 hours 21 minutes!

Sarah Rotterdam Marathon

CHALLENGE COMPLETE!

Sarah has raised an absolutely UNBELIEVABLE amount of money for BTRC, and the total is still rising. Her total so far is:

£4,605.80

If you do feel so inclined, Sarah’s fundraising hasn’t stopped yet and it would be so amazing if we could see her personal target hit that £5,000 mark! Her Just Giving page can be found here.

Sarah two medals

 

Additionally, if any of you live in the York area, Sarah is hosting a night of fundraising for varying cancer charities, including BTRC. This event is taking place on Saturday 16th April commencing at 8pm, The Basement, City Screen, York. It is a night of live music and Sarah asks you to join her in celebrating her marathon successes and to raise even more money! Sounds like fun to me, get your dancing shoes on! Tickets can be purchased from the City Screen Box Office –http://www.thebasementyork.co.uk/#!boxsmash/ck1p

Sarah Charity Event.jpg

 

All that is left to be said, is a HUGEEEEE congratulations to Sarah! We are all so proud of you and your achievements! And I am sure Simon is looking down on you filled with even more pride! Cannot wait to see you soon – lunch will definitely be on me!!

POST 29: ALLEZ, ALLEZ ANNA’S ARMY!!!

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.

my banner

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 abroaduni days 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!

IMG_5410 (1)

 

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.

 

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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!

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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.

post marathon celebrations

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.

Davis Family

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….

£16,961.66

…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:

 

 

 

 

POST 25: IS IT TOO LATE NOW TO SAY ‘desolé’ ?!

It is with such a heavy heart that I have to write this post. I have some disappointing news, news of which took a lot of deliberation and, indeed, tears.

Last week my parents held, what I can only describe as, an intervention with regards to my Paris Marathon Mission. We came to an agreement that I could be risking a stay in a French hospital if I attempt to run the marathon myself.

Unfortunately, I simply haven’t had enough energy to do the amount of training required to ensure I will be taking on this challenge in the safest way possible, as advised by my consultant. I was told I should only consider this marathon if I completed steady, progressive training, and truth be told, I get tired even from showering.

I considered walking; but even this option was quickly ruled out. 26.2 miles is hardly a stroll in the park or a walk with Enid!

Dog walking

My parents even highlighted that due to me still being on chemo, thus my immune system is a lot weaker, if I were to get blisters (which would be inevitable) and these got infected, the risk is high for me.

My parents told me the prospect of me powering on through and attempting to do this really scared them; it was hard to take, but the sensible decision really was obvious.

 

I feel as though I am letting so many people down, including myself, and I would like to apologise for agreeing to do it in the first place – I think I am kind of in denial over how tired and, more to the point, how ill I am in terms of the treatments I am having to endure.

Those who know me well will realise it has taken a lot for me to give into this; I hate to be defeated, but at the end of the day my health needs to come first.

The imminence of the marathon and my clear lack of preparation was obviously getting to me more than I realised, in my subconscious perhaps? Once we had reached the decision it literally felt as though a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

 

I informed all of my team separately on the day I made my mind up, and their support and understanding has been incredible. Incredible, just like them! My team are still busy training and getting not only physically but mentally prepared for April 3rd.

I am delighted that I will now be there as chief supporter…banners and all! I cannot express how much it means to me that all these people are putting their bodies through such a feat to help me and my cause!

 

So I extend my apologies (Je suis desolée) out to all of you lovely lot as well, and plead for you to still back the rest of my team! All money goes to the amazing cause of BTRC; all money goes towards finding a cure!

 

ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ!!!

 

P.S Sorry for the Bieber reference in the title of this post too – another thing that is hard to admit is that I think I’m a bit of a Belieber now! AHHHHH!!! monkey