Today is the 31st January and 2021 has certainly stumbled into life bringing with it the heavy baggage of uncertainty and misery that we all hauled through 2020. But January has been a positive month for me as I have taken on, and completed, a running challenge to raise funds for an amazing charity.

If you have been reading my previous blog posts you will know that I signed up for the ’50 Miles in January’ fundraising event organised by Maggie’s Centres, an organisation that provides comfort and respite for patients and their families who are facing the battle of cancer together. The idea was to inspire as many athletes as possible to join in, each sporting a bright orange running vest, so that the Maggies message would be vividly seen across the country. In Oxfordshire an active Facebook group was formed and it was soon filled with updates as various peoples’ progress was updated. Most of the participants were at a similar level to me – those more serious athletes seeing a mere 50 miles in a month as too simple – so the motivational messages and words of encouragement that were added every day really meant something. When someone reached a goal the community celebrated together; when someone was struggling we encouraged them; when an individual hinted at an injury words of caution and advice poured in.

When I took on the challenge I was not sure if I would be able to complete it but, as events transpired, I passed the 50 mile mark on 19th January (completing my longest run to date to do so), but I have kept pulling on the shorts and orange vest to push on towards 75 miles for the month, a figure that I passed this morning with a final ceremonial Maggies run of 3miles.

For our fundraising efforts Maggie’s tempted us with medals if we raised over £150. Now call me shallow, but I have often looked enviously at cascades of medals dangling in the houses of friends who have been running for years – bits of metal hanging from a ribbon sporting the logos of various 10k events, half marathons and even the 26.2 mile daddy of them all have filled me with an impressed jealousy, so the opportunity of actually having my own award was too good to miss. I have been so fortunate in the support that I have received and have been astounded by the generosity of those who have been following me which saw me surge past the £150 mark (thereby qualifying me for my medal!) within just a few days of starting. At present I have raised £314 on the Maggie’s Facebook page with another £320 pledged via my JustGiving page, making a running total (excuse the pun) of £634. But of course Maggie’s needs more, much more, for the battle with Cancer is ever increasing, so if you are able to add to the fund please do, even the smallest pledge will be used to help others. Even though the efforts of the many runners, cyclists and walkers who have got out in the rain, wind and snow of January ’21 are coming to an end, the work of Maggie’s Centres is never ending

And so it is time to look for a new challenge to motivate me, to keep my momentum up, and I have found such a scheme: Through the coming weeks I will be running the length of Hadrian’s Wall, with my progress being updated by an app which sends me regular postcards of the views as I make my way from South Shields (not far from the magnificent National Centre for the Written Word where I performed in 2019), to Carlisle. And when I achieve the 90 mile distance I will be sent another medal!

Thank you for your support during January and if you would like to make a donation to Maggie’s centres there is still time. Either visit my fundraising page on Facebook, or follow the link below to my JustGiving page.

Gerald Dickens is fundraising for Maggie’s Centres (justgiving.com)