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!