Monday, 23 November 2009

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

After two years of preparation, 59 blogs, over 5,000 miles in training, 176 miles in races, 5 marathons, 3 half marathons, and one 10k, here it is, my final blog for fivemarathons. I’m glad to have made it in one piece. When you’re trying to stay healthy, and ready to race, for such a long period, you become paranoid about even the slightest sniffle. I heard about one chap who died following a single sneeze. On closer investigation, it turned out he was hiding in his neighbour’s bedroom wardrobe at the time.

Attention is already turning to next season and races for 2010. After New York, my friend Helen emailed me to explain that fivemarathons had inspired her to run her first marathon and she has signed up for Edinburgh on 23 May 2010. As I mentioned in a previous blog, TEAM fivemarathons’ Lucy will also run her first marathon in 2010 and this week, Lucy and Amanda signed up for Edinburgh. This is a great show of support from Amanda, who had sworn that she would never run another marathon. When they asked me to run with them, I soon realised that it was only three weeks after Vancouver. That may seem like awkward timing, but it actually works reasonably well – although I’ll inevitably have to be shuffling around at the back, it won’t interrupt my six months’ of preparation for Auckland on 31 October 2010. In any event, after all of the races that Lucy and Amanda have kindly run with me this year (Coniston 14, Great Manchester Run, Congleton Half Marathon), I’m really keen to return the favour. At our recent meal to celebrate the successful completion of the fivemarathons, Lucy chatted with Laith about possible marathons for 2010. I think Laith was absolutely right when he said that London and Edinburgh are the real contenders for UK marathons. All of the others are a little too small, especially if, as Lucy maintains, it will be the only marathon she ever runs. I’d be confident that, once she has the medal around her neck, she’ll be itching to race again. Anyway, you already know my feelings about the London Marathon (see Every Day Is A Winding Road, 2 May 2009), so Edinburgh could be the perfect choice.

Fresh from successfully taming the New York City Marathon, Amy is now looking for a new challenge and is strongly considering Edinburgh. She is now signed up with Laith ( and Alan ( for 2010, so she couldn’t have a better support team. This week, at her first session with Alan, he diagnosed that she had run New York with a dislocated bone in her foot. Amy mentioned that she’d been in pain from 8 miles onwards, but it must have been absolute agony. What an amazing achievement to close out the race. As TEAM fivemarathons’ Martin explained during our high altitude mountaineering trip to the Swiss Alps (see High Fidelity, 6 July 2009 and The Devil Wears Puma, 12 July 2009), we achieve because we just don’t know when we’re beaten. To some extent, pain is an inevitable part of marathon running and dealing with it is something you can learn. As Haruki Murakami said, in his bestselling book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. Amy’s pain management in New York is nothing short of heroic. I wish her a successful, and pain free, season in 2010.

In this final blog, I want to say some important thank-yous and to explain a little about what the fivemarathons have meant to me. I can confirm that, with money still coming in, we’ve already raised over £12,000, which is amazing and is thanks to all of your generous support. This week, I met with Becky Bainton, Macmillan’s fundraising coordinator, who confirmed that £12,000 would pay for 48 families affected by cancer to have days out and short breaks together. Amongst the anguish of watching your loved one fighting cancer, you can imagine how much this time together must mean. Spending time with my Auntie Moll is what I have missed every day for the last 24 years and I couldn’t put a value on just one day with her now. That’s exactly what your donations have provided for each of those families and I can’t thank you enough.

My Auntie Moll, my brother Phil and my Gran Daisy, who died of cancer not long after this photo was taken

Since New York, and throughout the fivemarathons, I’ve been lucky to receive countless messages of support and congratulation. The truth is, I couldn’t have done it without the constant help and encouragement of my family and friends. In acknowledging his successes, Sir Isaac Newton once explained that “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". To thank everyone who has made the fivemarathons possible would require several additional blogs, but I do want to take the opportunity here to give some heartfelt thanks to the giants upon whose shoulders the fivemarathons were built.

In no particular order, I’d like to thank Alan, my physio, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to run; my coach and great friend Laith, who took a 15.5 stone slowcoach, removed four stones off his waistline, 1 hour 9 minutes off his marathon PB and countless years off his life expectancy – 32 years on and still masterminding victories; my Mum and Dad, who bought my first running shoes and criss-crossed the globe to watch me race and show their love and support (check out the photo of my Mum and Dad in Brooklyn (The French Connection, 9 November 2009), it will tell you everything you need to know); Lucy and Amanda, who ran with me and whose unwavering commitment inspired me to keep going and encouraged others to show their support; Rob, who masterminded fivemarathons’ successful PR campaign and whose blog reminded us all why Christies’ and Macmillan’s work is so vital; Mel, who is the cousin I always wanted and whose support helped me to view the fivemarathons through fresh eyes; Martin who trained with me, even at high altitude, ran with me in Berlin and supported me throughout; my sister Jilly for her love and support; my Godsons Seb and Monty for flying to England to watch me race, even though Monty was only a month old; Jayne for reminding me what was important, when I was about to forget; Jon and Jon, who lit the fire, made soup and wheat-free bread after my long Sunday runs in freezing cold Shap; Claire, who got behind me from the first moment, when fivemarathons was no more than an idea on the back of a postcard, and spoke to me at every race (sometimes during the race) to show her support; my Auntie June for her kind encouragement and for travelling to San Francisco and New York to support me; my Auntie Joan for looking after me during the London Marathon and my Uncle Son for running with a 9 year old and encouraging him to succeed; and, most importantly, my beloved Auntie Moll, the Angel on my shoulder, for everything.

And that is what the fivemarathons have meant to me, an opportunity to honour my Auntie Moll and say a long overdue thank you, which I never had the opportunity to say. I love you with all of my heart.

With sincere thanks for all of your help, support, encouragement and boundless generosity,


23 November 2009



Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009 3 hrs 53 mins


Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)


Vancouver, 2 May 2010
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010
Auckland, 31 October 2010

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

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1 comment:

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004