There are many reasons why I feel indebted to firefighters. I was struck by recent national events and was really moved to see how individual firefighters and their leaders took such massive risks with their own lives to help others. So I just feel driven to give something back to support firefighters when they need support themselves.
Next year I will be running the Virgin Money London Marathon, carrying a bicycle as a sign of respect for the resilience of UK firefighters and the burdens that they and their families bear.
The marathon for me is a significant challenge, I have never been a runner before and my objective is to run the famous course carrying an awkward burden – which for me is a bicycle. I am sure it will look really silly, but I am hoping it will be a meaningful spectacle that will help the fundraising objectives of the Charity.
In preparation for this challenge, I have been training hard to run carrying my bike. So far this year I have completed the Blenheim 10km run, the Oxford Half-Marathon and more recently the 10-mile Great South Run in Portsmouth, all while carrying a 14kg (30 lb) steel-frame bicycle.
I have never run this far before, but I will do my best to finish. I am confident that, with everyone’s encouragement and support, I shall be able to carry my bike the full marathon distance by April 2018.
Here is how I got on at the Great South Run.
8am: My bike is secured near the start-line and I’m off for a walkabout and a warmup along the promenade. Beautiful clear skies, crisp wind after yesterday’s storm, I must keep moving or I’ll get cold! I walked a short distance this morning from my car parked at Southsea Fire Station, and intend to stop there on the route, hoping to meet Andrew Impey (a young lad who has done some fantastic fundraising for The Fire Fighters Charity) and the crew there. Quick coffee and breakfast now, then a short gentle warm-up run along the promenade.
10am: I’m all set, spare kit is stowed away and I’ve warmed up well, going to fetch my bike now and then head for my start pen. I’ve just watched Claire Lomas MBE set off on her incredible 24-hour walk in a robotic suit, what an inspiration! Kudos to her and her team, such admirable determination.
1045am: My group is shuffling towards the start-line; I’m treading carefully so as not to trip over or bump anyone, glad my wheels and pedals are all padded well. My lights are on, front and back, and my bell works, though it sounds a little sad. It is windy but sunny and clear, I’m feeling optimistic for a nice run! The bike feels heavy but familiar. I’ve adjusted the waist-belt to take more weight than the shoulder straps, but when I start running I must hold the frame with my right hand constantly, or it bounces me off balance. We’re off!
1pm: I have finished, in reasonable time! The crowds were amazing, cheering all the way! The headwind was daunting at first, the poster on my top bike-wheel (the rear wheel, above my head) was acting like a very large sail, but I just had to lean into it and it was ok! I started slowly, being very gentle with my left calf after a mild muscle strain a couple of weeks ago, and after the first few miles had settled into an easy pace. I didn’t mind being overtaken by everyone, especially as so many had kind words of encouragement! I got to meet Andrew, stopped for some sweets and a chat, and greeted the crew at Southsea Fire Station. The last few miles were hard, into the wind again but such a buoyant crowd! I finished this run feeling like I could have carried on further, which gave me confidence and I’m looking forward to my next long run!