Chasing Rainbows

To commit to marathon training you either need to be addicted to running or have a bloody good reason to ramp up the training. I’m not addicted to running. Here is my bloody good reason.

Three years ago, pretty much to the day, I lost my best friend Paul.

Over a number of years Paul and I had become close friends as our lives came together and intersected through our work, our hobbies and our families.  We met working in India but were originally no more than friendly acquaintances.  I can’t remember how it happened, but when we were back in the UK we began playing golf together and pretty soon spent every other weekend at a golf course.

By this time our work life was following a similar path.  Both of us were selected for a management development programme as our careers moved steadily forward and we graduated together with our Mum’s looking proudly on. Throughout this time, we were both cultivating great relationships for ourselves so Paul and his fiancee Sarah came to our wedding about a year before we went to theirs.  Within the next 12 months we’d both had fantastic baby daughters.  I can remember playing golf with Paul at Oadby in Leicester where he told me they were expecting a baby.  We were on the 7th tee. We celebrated with a couple of pints when we finished and he told me of his impending redundancy.

It was at the same golf course that I planned to break the news about our second pregnancy a few years later.  I’d intended to tell him on the 7th tee and he was to be the first person I had confided in outside of my family.  Anyway, he pipped me to it when, on the 2nd tee, he told me that they were expecting their second baby too.  We were delighted for each other and stood hugging in celebration.

That was just one of many fantastic memories I have of sharing time with Paul.  His stag weekend in Newquay was easily the best one I have been on and we often shared stories of mine in Edinburgh.

After leaving our company Paul worked hard to make a go of things in the Financial Services sector and seemed to be getting along well.  But there must have been something else going on in Paul’s mind.   Three weeks after our last round of golf, two weeks after coming round to our house with his family to enjoy dinner together, three days after we popped round to ease the quarantine induced cabin fever of their daughter having chicken pox, Paul committed suicide.

None of us saw it coming.  And to be honest, I have never understood or really got my head around what happened.  It felt like our worlds had been turned upside down and I cannot begin to imagine how Sarah, who was still pregnant at the time, coped with losing him and looking after their daughter.

In my world, I had hoped that Paul and Sarah would be our “friends for life”.  The ones with whom our lives just easily intertwined.  And so, selfishly, Pauls death hit me hard.  And it scared me.  Because Paul was like me, he was my buddy and I can’t understand what happened that made him need to end his life.  Running this marathon for Mind is both charitable and therapeutic in equal part.  I still don’t understand and I still can’t change what happened but maybe I can raise a bit of money to prevent it happening to another family.

Throughout everything, Sarah has been a rock and is truly my most inspiring friend. I’m sure she has had dark days and I hope that we have been the friends she has needed us to be.  Our youngest daughters were born just a day apart less than three months after Paul died, and if ever a person should be celebrated as an amazing mother it is Sarah…. but she’d hate that!

To help their daughter come to terms with things, Sarah asked her to remember her Daddy every time she saw a rainbow. I hold on that as a reminder Sarah’s strength and of the glorious responsibilities and privileges we enjoy as parents.JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Every rainbow I see makes me smile. It makes me cry. And it makes me remember Paul.

I’m running the Brighton Marathon for Mind because there are enough rainbows in the sky.

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Trail Running Adventure

When the weather closes in this winter, a wet Saturday will mean only one thing for me …. trail time.

Slipping on my new trail running trainers I headed out across the local footpaths to get muddied up and enjoy all the lumps BYnXNwaIIAAKl1I.jpg-largeand bumps this part of Leicestershire has to offer.  Skirting around Stanton Lakes I soon found the first land mark of my run as I crossed a lovely little bridge that we know as Sophies Bridge.  Nestled half a mile or so in from the main road in the land covered by Sopers Farm is a little steel and concrete bridge over the Soar.

Don’t get carried away, the river is less than 5 meters wide at this point and generally shallow enough for kids to paddle in so it’s no raging torrent like previous adventures in the Peak District.  But it is a lovely, peaceful and lush spot to run through.  In summer months it’s worth heading down with a picnic and bottle of fizz that you can keep cool in the river.  We did that a couple of years ago with the kids for our wedding anniversary and it was a day that we’ll always remember.

But it’s slightly less serene when being run through in November.  So following the footpath I emerged to the village of Croft and headed off towards landmark number 2: Croft Hill.

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There is a sheltered woodland path along the bottom of the approach to this man made hill so keeping an eye for protruding roots I paced myself up to a style to start the climb.  The hill is the result of years of quarrying in Croft and the steep climb is now covered in 734428_10151694221007056_811947761_ngrass and rabbit droppings!  Having walked up the hill pulling a sledge and a child earlier in the year, I knew how hard the gradient could be to scale.  But running up was a different experience and by the time I was half-way up my lungs and legs were burning.

Reaching the top was a relief and provided a welcome rest as well as stunning views.  The contrast in scenery between the dramatic drop in to the working quarry and the expansive Leicestershire countryside was breathtaking but I couldn’t afford to be distracted when I started my descent.  The winding path was slippery underfoot so required more mental strength than physical exertion until passing through the final gate and heading off to some flatter ground.

The unfamiliar paths were sodden after days of rain and pretty quickly my feet were saturated picking my way through the footpaths.  That was until the footpath seemingly disappeared and the terrain changed from grass to ploughed field.  It gets to be hard work when each foot is carrying a couple of pounds of mud, so the bright yellow sign pointing to another footpath was more than welcome.

Without stopping to think, I headed down the next footpath, following the trails until I emerged out of the farmland and on to a country lane.  The road looked familiar, but worryingly I was a long way from where I had planned to be!  Jogging down the road I kept looking out for another footpath or bridleway on which to make a shortcut home, yet it wasn’t long before I realised that an hour in to my run I still had 3 or 4 miles to go.1468574_10151694220787056_790507799_n

Just as I began considering calling Mrs G to come and collect me I rounded a corner to see a car stranded in a ford we know as Watery Gates.  Not being one to miss an opportunity to snap such a scene I whipped out my phone and took a couple of pictures before noticing a family looking at me.  It turns out that the daughter drove in to the ford last night while the water was running at 1.5 meters deep!

Checking my Strava feed I saw that I’d covered over 7 miles. So I called in some support before running another mile and being ushered on to an already muddy blanket for the couple of miles of my lift home!

The Big E.ON Run, for the NSPCC

It’s not often that your big corporate employer does something that you and you’re family can get involved in.  So this weekends Big E.ON Run for the NSPCC was a good thing for them to do.imaging.ashx

The event was held at Holme Pierrepont, the National Watersports Centre near Nottingham, and consisted of a 10k race, a 5k race and a 5k family walk.  The NSPCC is E.ON’s Charity of the Year so all fundraising went to help the cause that all parents can relate to.

Holme Pierrepont consists of multiple watersports facilities, but the run took in two circuits of the 2000m long rowing lake.  This meant the route was flat but exposed.  It makes me wonder if I’d exchange undulation for wind?

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Having given an estimated time of 45 minutes on my entry form, for the first time ever, I was classed as “elite” amongst the 500 strong field of runners and walkers.  Mrs G and the girls took their place amongst the friends and walkers whilst I stood 3 people back from the front.  

The start was quick (my legs and lungs told me that) and it was difficult to gauge the right pace.  

One of the things I try to do on race days is to stick close to somebody with a Garmin and a club vest to make sure that I’m with a person who appears to know what they’re doing!  My hope is that I run along with an athlete looking for an even paced race and then avoid any “boom and bust” mistakes.  So the fella with a Garmin and a club vest was an ideal companion for the first 2k with the wind behind us.

He was an even more welcome companion to follow when we turned on to the other shore and began running back in to the wind.  It was really blustery and when the rain started at about 3k it was heavy and stinging in nature. Fortunately, my recent memories of running in the same conditions whilst in the Peak District strengthened my resolve and actually encouraged me to push on.

After one lap, I’d passed under the finish line in about 21 minutes and pondered the prospect of having set off too fast after-all! The rain had stopped and the wind had eased (which was not good news because it was now blowing in to my back) so I settled in to a steady tempo, eagerly keeping my eyes open to see how well Mrs G and the girls were getting on.

It wasn’t long before I could see them in front of me.  They’d not even covered 2k when I “lapped them” and my suspicions of the impact of the weather were confirmed when Mrs G called out “I’m soaked and I’m moaning … A LOT” as I ran passed clapping and cheering them on!  The quick high-five with both girls and seeing family and friends was a little boost that ensured I carried on the same pace for another kilometre or so.

Turning back in to the wind, tucking in behind Mr Garmin again, the end of the lake looked miles away.  As my legs grew heavy, the concept of tempo running reverted to plodding and I just about managed to stay in contact with my little group before rounding the final turns on to the finish straight.

Normally I’ve got a bit of a kick in me for the final 100 yards, but I was shattered and a minor increase of pace was the best I could muster.  Crossing the line in 42:15 I was surprised to see a PB (by 1:15) on my watch before congratulating Mr Garmin who immediately declared the course too short, showing me the 6.06miles registered on his watch.

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After dodging my friend Suzanne who was threatening a video camera and microphone, I quickly reclaimed my bag and got some warm kit on to wait the girls finishing.  They must have been so cold as they started running with 100m to go after about an hour’s walking! I nearly clattered into a couple of people having a sprint for the line.

Anyway, we all got medals, we all got hot drinks and eventually we all got hot dogs before driving home.sprint finish as I crossed the course to run the last 50m alongside them – it makes me so proud to see the kids joining in with things like this that I got a bit of tunnel vision!!

It was good to catch up with friends and colleagues at the event.  I hope they do it next year and I hope we’ve helped some less fortunate kids get slightly better lives.