16. A marathon journey.

Last night I went out for a run with Philippa and Neil. It is perhaps testament to the discomfort that he is experiencing that I was able to keep up with him.

The London Marathon is an incredible event – the coverage on the television simply doesn’t do it justice. So many runners, so many spectators, so many crazy fancy dress outfits.

As Neil’s dedicated cheering squad and marathon groupies, Philippa and I were lucky enough to spot him at three points along the route.

At 9 miles he cheerfully jogged past us, barely breaking a sweat. At 15 miles he plodded past and looked like he was feeling every step. And at 20 miles he gave us a big thumbs down sign as he painfully struggled on …

As we battled though the crowds on the underground and endured a rather uncomfortable journey to the Westminster meeting points at the finish line, we were nervous. Nervous of whether we would find Neil at all. Nervous of what state he would be in physically. And nervous as to how he would feel emotionally as things had obviously not gone as he had planned.

We found him under a tree, munching an apple, with his medal proudly hung around his neck. His complexion was a rather peculiar colour and his stance awkward and obviously uncomfortable, but other than that he was ok and clearly chuffed to bits. And rightly so.

The majority of people who run the marathon do so for charity. The big well known charities were well represented by runners and there were many smaller charities most of which I wasn’t aware of. In all they raise around 50 million pounds for numerous good causes – including the MS Society.

I have to say that I was surprised at the number of runners I saw sporting the distinctive orange vest of the MS Society. Philippa and I gave them an extra loud cheer, as though they were part of our ‘team’. After all why had they decided to run for MS – they must have a connection? A friend or relative who is affected? Or maybe themselves? I felt like I wanted to ask them … but obviously the timing was a bit lousy.

It was all rather odd. You see I like to think of myself as being someone who tries to help others, both on a day to day level and in the charitable sense. In the last couple of years I have become increasingly involved in a small Manchester charity called the Birdhouse Fund and was, infact, running the 10k for them when the whole weird leg situation began.

I consider myself as being pretty independent. I stand on my own two feet (apart from when falling over ūüėČ and don’t like to rely on others. If something needs doing then I go and do it. If something needs getting then I go and get it. I don’t know why I am like this, I just am.

I am used to being on the giving end of charity. And the giving side of life.

And so the thought that I might now be on the receiving end of charity; that people, like Neil, were running for people, like me, was a rather odd concept for me to get my head round. Especially as to look at me no one would know that there was anything wrong – I look fairly healthy, I don’t have any problems with my mobility and I still do everything I did before, albeit with a few minor tweeks here and there. Maybe I need to get better at accepting help instead of always trying to give it. Maybe in the future I’ll need it. And it will simply be another step along this marathon journey that is MS. Because I’m barely past the start line.

And so thank you to everyone who sponsored Neil – especially those of you who did so after reading my ramblings on here!

On Monday Neil sent out a message to all those who sponsored him and so it seems only right that he get to say it on here too:

‘Yesterday I ran, stumbled and hobbled around the 26.2 miles of the
London marathon in 4:39:20. It is an amazing event, for the majority
of the course the crowd are packed in shouting and cheering your name.
There are parts I don’t think I’ll ever forget, from the noise around
Greenwich, to the fancy dress outfits (although being overtaken by a
carrot was a low). The one that sticks out most is very slowly and
painfully jogging past the MS Society cheering point at Canary Wharf
with what seemed like a hundred people screaming my name. When I
speeded up, the place went crazy. I even managed to see my dedicated
cheering squad (Philippa and Nicoletta, they made banners and
everything) three times around the course, which put a spring in step,
although this was partly to get away from the huge racket they were
making!

Thanks to you, your partners and families, along with Pilla baking
cakes and my work donating ¬£500, you’ve all helped to raise ¬£2460.03
so far for the MS Society. That is an incredible amount. I’m proud of
it and it’s all thanks to you – thank you very very much.

My run itself was a bit of a shocker: I managed to pick up a bit of a
cold/some devastating man-flu last week and on the day it just hurt. I
felt ok through to about 12 miles, but the slight incline over tower
bridge (amazing) left me out of breath and it was downhill from there.
I got through to about 14.5 before slowing and as soon as I did I got
some horrible cramp up my legs. That stayed with me for the last 12
miles. Ouch. I’ve never felt anything like it! I’ve done other
marathons in quicker times but I’ve never had to work to hard or hurt
so much to get my medal.

Once again thank you for your donation, it really means a lot to me.

Neil’

A big thank you to Neil too on behalf of all those who are in a similar situation to me. You are great. And I’m sure the bingo dabber enjoyed it’s little jaunt to the capital.

Now only one question remains …. when do I get that holiday to the Maldives we talked about ….. ??

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Guest blog : A word from Neil

Hello, my name is Neil – and this week instead of reading Nicoletta’s beautiful prose, you’ll be reading my child-like ramblings. I’m sorry for this. In years to come people might get sponsored to endure reading my blogs!
When I was 8 or 9 my dad decided he was going to run a marathon. He was running pretty regularly, he (badly) ran the line at 1st division football games and was generally pretty fit. He was involved in running clubs at work. I remember cycling with him when he went on one of his long runs and thought ‘wow, this is miiiiiles!!!”. On marathon day I remember sitting in front of the telly, convinced we’d see him (he did it in his referees kit, complete with red card). Obviously we didn’t, but something caught my eye that day – I remember¬†seeing his medal and thinking to myself, one day, somehow, I’m going to get one of those. Then I thought ‘hang on, it’s 26 MILES! That can’t be right!’. He did it twice – 3:45¬†the first time and 3:23¬†the second. I now know that those are some seriously good times.
I started running a few years ago, partly because I was rubbish in our football games at work and figured if I was a bit fitter, I might still be rubbish but at least I could outrun people. I also cheered Pilla on at her first 10km – she raved about it and I wanted in.
I built up to a 10km, then half marathon, then finally applied to the London marathon after some friends did it. I didn’t get in – you have about a 1 in 6 chance through the ballot, so I signed up to the Paris marathon instead. The training was hard but I loved the day; the runners, the wall, drinking wine at 22 miles, loved it, loved it, loved it. But still, I really wanted London. Over the next few years I kept applying but kept missing out. This year I was expecting the same but after 4 attempts I finally got the ‘yes’ letter!
I have been training pretty hard for this; the standard training lasts for 16 weeks. I got up to 13.1 miles in mid January by running a half marathon on a treadmill in Minneapolis at¬†5:30am¬†while on a trip for work.¬†Since then I’ve run at least a half marathon every Saturday¬†morning¬†until now, plus lots of lunchtime runs at work. I’ve plodded through around 320 training miles. I’m think I’m ready.
When you tell people you are running a marathon, they always ask if you are doing it for charity. I never have before – to me it was such an enjoyable experience, I admit to doing it totally for myself. Last year, whilst helping Nic go from never having run to completing a 10km, she had the first symptoms of what we now know was MS. When she told us she had a preliminary diagnosis, I remembering thinking that can’t be right. This was swiftly followed by, well what drugs can fix it? You feel massively helpless as a friend. ¬†Practical things I can help with. If something needs shifting, I can move it. If a floor needs fitting, I can fit it. I’m a good friend for that stuff. If you want an inappropriate remark or sarcasm – you know who to call. You want to help, but you’re not sure how. I’m still not sure how to be honest. ¬†I asked Nic if she would mind me raising money for the MS society. She cried (she thought she was getting a holiday to the Maldives with the money). I cried (I cry at anything, I saw a poorly duck yesterday at lunchtime¬†and shed a tear).
So this year I’m running the London Marathon for the MS Society. ¬†It’s not much, I know but I hope in some small way the money raised helps people going through what Nic is going through. If you’d like to donate you can here:¬†http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson
Oh and if you are watching on the TV, I’m the one in the orange vest!

15. Bingo dabber goes on holiday

I have just returned from a girly mini-break in sunny Malaga … like all the best things it was rather unexpected but popped up at just as I needed it most. Four days of yummy food, pink wine, snoozing and sight seeing works better than any medicine when you are feeling fed up and down in the dumps about everything.

It did, however, present a new challenge and one which I hadn’t expected to encounter quite so early into my relationship with my bingo dabber. After all we’re barely past courting and a foreign holiday together seemed a bit hasty.

Space is at a premium when travelling with hand luggage only on a Ryanair flight and so the addition of the jab kit was somewhat of a hinderance, even in it’s travel-friendly form.

The addition of the mini cool bag (pretty similar to a lunch box), freezer pack to keep it cool during transit, bingo dabber, ‘mini’ yellow sharps bin and the required number of syringes for the trip, did nothing help the situation and prevented me from taking that extra just-in-case pair of heels.

I was a little concerned as to how I would get this lot past security. As anyone who has ever flown will know, they don’t tend to like sharp things in hand luggage. You know, knives, scissors, syringes … that sort of thing. You can’t even sneak a tub of anti-wrinkle cream through unless it is in a container of less than 100ml and who ever did any harm with that?

I was advised that the way around causing a scene and facing at best confiscation and at worst arrest, was to obtain a letter from my MS nurse explaining what the jab kit was and what it was for. The letter helpfully stated that my jab kit ought to be allowed on board as an additional piece of hand luggage however upon seeing the Ryanair-luggage-gestapo I was glad that I had managed to fit the jab kit into my Cath Kidtston holdall.

I arrived at security prepared for awkwardness or at least some sort of enquiry as to what was in my lunch box. Instead they could not have cared less. I attempted to hand the lunch box over with the accompanying letter of explanation whilst describing the contents to the chap behind the counter at the scanners. Maybe it was the fact that it was 4am. Maybe it was the fact that I look very trustworthy. Or maybe it was the fact that he did not give a stuff. Either way my jab kit passed through without so much as a raised eyebrow and the letter of explanation remained unfolded.

By the time we arrived at the hotel the syringes were still cool and so I was able to transfer them into the mini-bar nestled between the over-priced miniatures and the pringles.

On the way home I of course had to bring the mini yellow bucket with me for disposal. This time I didn’t even bother getting it out of my bag and no one even noticed.

I remember passing though security at Dubai when someone was found to have a fork in their bag, presumably that they had nicked from their hotel. The fork was duly confiscated. They don’t mess around in Dubai.

However as a passenger that is arguably more comforting as the thought of a passenger with four syringes of an un-checked drug on board a plane is pretty concerning.

And so the bingo dabber and I have shared our first holiday together – a short break to Malaga. The addition of the bingo dabber proved to be rather uneventful. I had secretly hoped for some sort of controversy or incident, to provide some decent blog material if nothing else.

I hope that my bingo dabber will become increasingly well travelled. In fact I regret not taking a photograph of it by a palm tree, or on the top of the open top sightseeing bus, like people do with teddy bears and the like.

So it seems that this has marked the end of the initial getting-to-know-you period of courtship. Me and the bingo dabber have moved onto something rather more permanent and are seemingly stuck with each other. It’s just a shame that we missed out the ‘honeymoon period’ of our relationship. Cos we haven’t had much fun so far.