Having returned from America last week, and having solemnly and proudly spending Monday watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth (wearing a dark suit and black tie in respectful honour of my Monarch), it was time to turn my attentions to the two projects coming up in October.
The first is a performance of Mr Dickens is Coming and Doctor Marigold in my home town of Abingdon, to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research. My fundraising efforts began in April when Liz’s sister Sheila died from the condition and I decided to turn my hand to working on behalf of the charity. The main push to my efforts was entering the Oxford Half Marathon on October 16th, and much of my year has been spent pounding the Oxfordshire roads trying to get myself into shape to complete 13 miles. However I also decided to stage a benefit performance (which will require rather less effort than the Half), and that is due to be performed on 7th October, so my initial work was to put in place publicity for the show. I designed posters and had them printed and started sending press releases out to all and sundry. Ticket sales are looked after by Eventbrite and it was with a smile that the first email confirmations of bookings came into my inbox.
With publicity rolling, I also needed to get back to training. I had run a couple of times in America, but not with any great intensity, so I went out one afternoon to run the 6 mile ring road which surrounds Abingdon. Everything was going well and my breathing was good and the legs felt powerful….until the 3 mile mark when suddenly a searing pain came from my right calf. I immediately stopped (I had promised myself, and Liz, that if anything felt untoward I wouldn’t push on thereby risking further damage), and limped home. What I hoped might be a cramp lingered annoyingly into the evening and through the night, so I feared that I may have suffered my first running injury just as I should be in my final stages of preparations. The next day I called a sports physiotherapist, but he was unavailable, so I just went about my ordinary business without putting too much strain on my leg. The next day it felt better, and I tried a few little runs, just a few hundred yards at a time, and felt no adverse effects, so I was confident that I could get out for a proper training run again.
Today, 23 September, I dropped our children to school and then set off to do two laps of the ring road, which would mean a 12 mile run – the little loop back to home would mean that I would be completing around 13 miles, the very distance that I will need to achieve to complete the event in October. I knew that I had to prove to myself that I could complete 13 miles before arriving in Oxford, and it needed to be done sooner than later, for if I were still pounding out long distances in the week of the event I wouldn’t have any energy for the race itself, so today was the day (leg muscles allowing)
At 8.50 I started to run, and it felt good. I kept a steady pace, not wanting to go off too quickly, and soon was in the centre of the town. I passed the spot where my calf had gone a few days before and still everything was OK. On I ran, past the fire station and later the police station, then turning right opposite McDonalds and climbed gradually towards the point I’d started from.
For much of my training I have been listening to audiobooks to accompany me, but a good friend and keen runner had told me that actually he runs better with nothing playing in his ears, so today I tried this and it seemed to work. My mind, rather than concentrating on the unfolding story, just ambled around. I thought of my forthcoming show, I thought of the performances in the USA, I admired a motorcyclist’s crash helmet livery which was charmingly old fashioned, rather than the multi-coloured ones that are usually so popular. I listened to birds, looked at trees, read the names of haulage companies on the cabs of lorries, and the miles just slipped away under the soles of my feet
I still felt strong, so set off for a second 6 mile lap. I had a choice to make at this point, did I turn round and complete lap two in the reverse direction, which in hindsight would have been the sensible thing to do, or just plough on through familiar scenery? I decided to carry on. Of course it was getting harder, but I was soon in town again (where my 10 year old’s class was gathering to sing Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ in the market square for reasons I am not sure of), and on towards McDonalds again, which would be the ten mile mark. At this stage, I admit, I began to find the going tough and I slowed to a walk a few times during those final 3 miles, but I never stopped, I was moving forward the whole time, and when I reached home I checked my Strava app and saw that I had clocked up exactly 13 miles. I had done it! When I had thought about this run I reckoned I could do it in around 2 hours, 10 minutes (I run at an average pace of 9.30 minute miles, but I knew I wouldn’t keep that up over thirteen and had estimated an average of 10 minute miles), and my final time was 2 hours 9 minutes, despite the walking: I was very very proud of that!
So I am in a good place, I know that I can do it, and now can rein back the distances a little to leave me with plenty of energy for the big day – I even have a PB to aim for now, I would like to get to around 2 hours if I could on the day.
So, I think that deserves some more sponsorship donations! Thank you so much to all of those who have already contributed so generously, taking the fund up to nearly £1,000, but we need more! So please do check out the link and come with me on my 13 mile journey.
As summer turns to autumn my thoughts turn to a series of trips to America, but before I fly to Jacksonville on Thursday, I had one performance in Britain. I was returning to The Word, the magnificent National Centre for the Written Word in the north eastern city of South Shields.
In a remarkable attempt at efficiency I had decided to load the car the day before and had even created a spreadsheet with all of the props and costume pieces that I would need listed and a little check box waiting to be ticked next to each. I was due to perform Great Expectations and of all my major shows this one probably has the smallest set, meaning that packing the car is a relatively quick process, albeit one that always leaves me with the feeling that I have forgotten something. But, I had checked all of the boxes on my list, so it was all OK.
South Shields is tucked away in the far North Eastern corner of England, not far from the Scottish border, indeed just over the River Tyne is the town of Wallsend which marks the end (and also, presumably, the beginning) of Hadrian’s Wall. The drive from Oxford is around 4 1/2 hours, and allowing for a couple of stops for lunch and leg stretching I needed to get on the road at about 10.am.
Last time I drove to The Word I suffered a puncture within 20 minutes of starting and had to carry out a tyre change in the darkness and rain, so I was relieved that this year the journey was smooth and adventure-free. I listened to some podcasts and coverage of the morning practice sessions from the latest Grand Prix weekend, and in between took the time to run the lines of Great Ex. which still resolutely refuse to permanently in the way that the words of A Christmas Carol and Mr Dickens is Coming! do.
I stopped for lunch at a motorway service station and as I returned to the car I thought I would just check my costumes, which were hanging over the passenger seat, and to my horror I realised that I had failed to include a fancy waistcoat, despite ticking the relevant box. The costumes of Great Expectations lead from ragged at the opening (representing the convict Abel Magwitch and the Spartan life of the Gargery family in their tiny forge,) to a slightly old fashioned tail coat in which young Pip is sent to meet the intimidating Miss Havisham. At the end of the first act Pip is informed that he is to receive a huge income and be raised a gentleman by the largesse of an unknown benefactor (assumed to be Miss Havisham, of course) and at that point he changes into expensive and extravagant clothing.
As I drove on I debated as to how I could sort this problem out and decided I couldn’t really get away with wearing the very drab and plain waistcoat from the first act, so began looking for a shopping centre along the route where I could maybe find a store where I could purchase a fancy waistcoat – a wedding supplier would be perfect. In the end I found an outlet village in the Yorkshire town of Castleford and made my way in.
There used to be a television in the early 90’s programme called ‘Challenge Anneka’ in which the host, Anneka Rice, would leap out of a helicopter and try to find some equipment or products to complete the week’s challenge (usually refurbishing a community centre or school). She would run around shouting to anyone who happened to be present, ‘where can I find a timber merchant? Hello! can you help, I need a supply of timber, can you tell me where I need to go?’ and off she would run with camera crew in tow. Well, I felt a little in the same boat as I arrived at the crowded mall and I wanted to grab passers by and shout ‘Waistcoats, I need colourful waistcoats, help me, where is a waistcoat shop, can anyone help?’ Fortunately for the residents of Castleford the very first shop I saw was a men’s outfitters called Eden, and I thought I’d make a start there. At the very back of the shop I found a very smart double breasted waistcoat in a midnight blue with a pale check across it. Although not garish and bright, it exuded a sense of style and actually reminded me of one of the waistcoats that Dickens himself wore, and which was highlighted in the recent exhibition at The Charles Dickens Museum ‘Technicolour Dickens’.
Fortunately they had my size and, being an outlet centre, the price was very reasonable, so I bought it on the spot and resumed my journey north with a sense of relief.
I was due to stay in a hotel at Gateshead, on the banks of the Tyne, and just had time to check in , before continuing my journey along the river to arrive at the magnificent cylindrical building that houses The Word. I have performed at The Word on three previous occasions, so I know the form, which is to ignore all accepted traffic laws and drive up onto the pavement and park outside an anonymous looking door, through which my props can be easily carried to a lift. I was greeted by Pauline Martin and together we emptied the car before I could go and park a short distance away.
When I returned, Pauline had kindly loaded the lift and got everything to the top floor and all I had to do was to set the set, which involves draping and dressing a white hat stand to represent the figure of Miss Havisham and placing a few bits of furniture, as well as carefully leaving some items of costume on stage that are required during the first act (including my new waistcoat which was due to make its debut without rehearsal…).
It was an early start, 6.pm, and at 5.30 Pauline asked if she could let the public in and I retired to my little backstage store room to change and prepare for the show. From what I could hear there was a goodly-sized audience gathering and I was keen to begin. The problem with the room at The Word is that it is not a particularly theatrical space, especially as regards to lighting. Pauline had told me that when the building was built they had been promised spot lights, but that they have never materialised, meaning that the choice is strip lighting on, meaning my face is illuminated but so is the rest of the room, or strip lighting off, meaning that my face and figure is in shadow. We went for lights on.
At 6 o’clock I hid myself behind the stage and waited for the voiceover taken from the opening passages of the book to finish and then bounded onto the stage in the guise of Abel Magwitch: ‘Hold your noise, or I’ll slit your throat!’
Great Expectations takes quite a bit of concentration from the audience, and I am always a little concerned that it may not work, but the crowd in The Word followed every scene intently, meaning that I could tell the story without further worry. As I came towards the end of the first act I arrived at the moment when Pip has to change into his new smart London clothes, and so I picked up the new waistcoat. There was one problem in that whilst the fabric of the garment itself is suitably traditional, the lining is VERY garish and modern. This wouldn’t normally be a issue, but as I had to actually put the thing on, I couldn’t help the audience getting a glimpse of modernity. Maybe in the future I will get somebody to make a plain lining, but for now it did a good job and I was proud of its debut.
The end of the act arrived and the applause was long, loud and greatly appreciated. During the interval I changed properly (the ‘posh’ clothes are simply put on over the rough costume in the final scene of the act) and then snuck back to the stage as surreptitiously as I could, to remove a few props and discarded pieces of costume, before waiting for Pauline to give me the nod that Act 2 could begin.
The second half was as successful as the first and when I left the stage as Pip holding hands with Estella (my ending is based on Dickens’s second version, rather than on his terribly downbeat first attempt), the applause was once again very generous in both volume and longevity, and Great Expectations had hit the mark.
I took my bows and then changed and started to pack up my props and costumes. By the time I re-emerged onto the stage most of the audience had departed, but a few folk were still in the room and came up to chat, congratulate and pose for selfies before they headed down in the lift.
Various staff members at The Word helped me to get all of my stuff downstairs while I fetched the car and drove it up onto the pavement once more. I said my goodbyes (hopefully I will be back next year, possibly in March to celebrate World Book Day), and drove back to Jury’s Hotel in Gateshead.
The great thing about starting a show at 6pm was that the hotel restaurant was still serving food when I returned, and I was able to sit in the bar and have a piece of chicken roasted with lemon and thyme and wind down slowly.
I didn’t sleep terribly well through the night: fitful describes it, but towards morning I was beginning to doze off when suddenly the fire alarm went off screeching loudly in my room and flashing a red light, meaning I had to vacate the room, follow the green emergency exit signs and make my way down to the street with all of the other guests, where we waited for about half an hour as two fire engines arrived and investigated.
Fortunately there was no inferno, or even a smoulder, and we were allowed back to our rooms to catch a few more winks until the breakfast service began.
I treated myself to a ‘full English’ (ignoring mushrooms and black pudding) from the buffet and sat at a window seat looking over the Tyne towards the city of Newcastle on the opposite bank.
My fast suitably broken I packed up my bags and began the drive home, making sure I drove past Anthony Gormley’s amazing Angel of the North sculpture that towers over the A1 road. It is always a lovely experience to be in the North East and I shall be back in Newcastle in November to perform A Christmas Carol at The Literary and Philosophical Society.
And now thoughts turn to two important projects, the first being my trip to America during which I will mainly be performing the double bill of The Signalman and Doctor Marigold at a variety of venues. At my very last stop, however, I am due to perform A Child’s Journey With Dickens, and was able to ask the venue if I may share the stage with actor Jennifer Emerson. Jennifer and I gave a Zoom performance of the piece last year, during which she took the role of Kate Douglas Wiggin whilst I played Dickens, so I was especially keen to reprise our performance whilst actually being in the same room, city, state, country and continent!
The other event which is looming ever larger is the Oxford Half Marathon which is to be run on 16 October. I have been in training for a few months now, and need to make sure that my efforts don’t flag, even though I am travelling and performing. When our daughters go back to school next week I shall make sure I get a few runs in, and hopefully a few in America too, even if that means availing myself of treadmills in various hotel gyms.
You will remember that I am running the race to raise much needed funds for Brain Tumour Research, and as an extra event I have scheduled a performance of Mr Dickens is Coming on 7 October in my home town of Abingdon with all profits going to my JustGiving page.
Please do support me in my efforts, you can donate to the fund by following the link at the end of this post. I am so grateful to all of those who have donated already and am keen to raise as much as I can for a cause that has had such a big impact on the life of Liz and me this year.
I shall let you know how the training is going in another post soon.
Now that my intense period of touring is at an end I can get back to my running, and resume training for The Oxford Half Marathon in October.
To remind you of the story so far, on April 16th this year my sister in law Sheila died after suffering from the effects of a brain tumour for 18 months. During her illness her husband, Martin, had undertaken a charity bike ride to raise funds and awareness for The Brain Tumour Research charity, and I thought that I would like to make some kind of effort to do the same to help continuing research into this most awful scourge that continues to indiscriminately rip so many families apart.
During the various periods of lockdown I had taken up running in a very minor way, originally setting myself the modest target of being able to run 5km. Of course I started looking to purchase various pieces of equipment: shoes, shorts, shirts, a thing to hold my phone so that I could track my progress, and that meant that those little creatures deep inside the internet began to send me links to all sorts of running-associated sites, one of which asked me to run 50 miles in January to raise money for a local cancer charity. The challenge was exhilarating and I actually began to enjoy the whole process of pushing myself a little harder, a little further. I found that actually I could run 3 miles all at once, without stopping, and then 5, 8 and even 10
Having run 50 miles in 2 successive Januarys I wanted to look for another challenge, and those little internet mites went to work once more and slipped into my inbox details of a ballot to enter the 2022 Oxford Half Marathon. Well, a half marathon is of course for real runners and there was no way that I would be selected, but I filled out the form anyway and submitted it (thereby guaranteeing the short term careers of the Google Gremlins for a few more months to come). It was with a sense of shock, and some alarm, that a couple of months ago I received a notification to tell me that my entry had been accepted and that I would be expected on the start line surrounded by the dreaming spires, a week after my 59th birthday. It was at this stage that I contacted Brain Tumour Research and offered to use the opportunity to raise finds for them. Not only did they accept my offer with open arms, but they even sent me a branded running vest to train and race in.
I launched a fundraising campaign and, even though I hadn’t achieved anything yet, a most generous group of people donated straight away, giving me the responsibility to see this project through to the end.
So, back to training it was. I had rather let my running lapse over the previous weeks, and I miserably discovered that I was right back at a stage when I couldn’t manage 4 miles without stopping to recover along the way, which was annoying. Occasionally I did a 5 mile run, but it certainly didn’t feel easy, for the muscle/mass coefficient was literally heavily weighted towards the latter. My progress wasn’t helped by the many shows I have had, for I didn’t like to run on the morning of a performance, preserving my energy for the evening’s events, and I was never in a condition to run on the morning after a show, so the regularity of training runs was disrupted and there I stayed, mired at the 5 mile mark.
At the end of June, however, things began to calm down professionally and I was able to get out onto the Oxfordshire roads more often, and during the week commencing 27 June I found myself able to complete three runs of over 7 miles each, which was an important number, for it is over half the eventual race distance. The following week I was able to hit 9 miles, and things seemed to be going well.
From a pace point of view I was a little disappointed, as I was continually coming in at an average of 10 minute miles, whereas a year or so ago I was getting down to 9.5, but I am sure that will come and actually it is of no importance at all – whatever pace I run at in October I will achieve my PB in a Half Marathon!
I have various routes for my training runs, one of which takes me out of Abingdon to the village of Culham, where I then run on the River Thames tow-path back into town. At this time of year the river is alive with swans, gulls, moorhens, ducks and other wildfowl, whilst boats make their way through the various locks and downstream towards London, or upstream to the source. The sound of the narrow boats, especially, is wonderful, a very slow throb throb throb, as they cleave the water at 4 mph. Typically the skipper at the stern will offer a cheery wave and we will exchange a mutually inaudible morning greeting.
Another route takes me into farmland on the other side of town and on that run I cross fields of growing wheat, which is ripening now and the smell is so fresh and healthy that it seems to put an extra spring into my steps.
If you would like to encourage me and follow my training then why not add me on the Strava app and send me a few motivational messages to see me over that 13 mile target?
For company I like to listen to audio books that reflect my surroundings and mood: last year I worked my way through all of the James Herriot stories, whilst during this recent training I have listened to Three Men in a Boat and currently am relishing the beautiful Cotswold accent of Laurie Lee in his own recording of Cider With Rosie. I studied the book at school, and now I see why, for the imagery throughout is stunning. I particularly loved Lee’s childhood memory of fresh spring water being drawn from a pipe in the garden, he said it ‘was like liquid sky’ I smiled as I ran when I heard that.
I am not a fan of music when running, as it seems to dictate a rhythm or pace which I may or may not want to achieve on any given morning, I much prefer the spoken word.
Besides challenging myself, the real reason for all of this is to raise money, and over the next few weeks I will be bombarding you with requests for support, so maybe its best to get it done now, so that you can forget all about it! I have set a target of £3,000, but of course I would like to raise more – double it, treble it, I, or Brain Tumour Research, wont mind. As an extra fundraising event I am also going to stage a show in Abingdon during the week before the race, and all profits from the ticket sales will go into the pot, so if you are local then watch this space for further announcements soon.
I am posting this blog on 16th July which marks the exact halfway mark between Sheila’s death on 16th April and the race itself which takes place on the 16th October.
What’s that? How can you donate? Ah, a very good question. Follow the link to my Just Giving Page and all will become clear!
It is the 15th January and Britain is in the depths of an ever-deepening lockdown which sees us permitted to one session of exercise outside the home per day. Fortunately for me I decided to undertake the ’50 Miles in January’ charity run to raise funds for Maggie’s Centres Cancer charity, and so have motivation to use that daily exercise effectively.
Those of you who read last week’s blog post will know that I came to this project not only as a means of raising money and spreading awareness of an amazing charity, but also to give me a target to aim for to get me back out on the streets. When I signed up with Maggie’s I had no idea if I could achieve the 50 miles or not, but I have been inspired and encouraged by the large community of runners, cyclists and walkers who are attempting the same feat.
So, half way through the month, how is it all going? Well! very well, actually. The weather has warmed up a little since last week and replacing the icy fog is damp mist which is quite refreshing to run through. During week one I was running and walking for about 4 miles per session but us the regularity of the runs has started to have an effect so I have found myself able to run for longer without feeling the need to slow down for a breather. This week my runs have seen me complete 4.16 miles on Monday, 5.02 on Tuesday, 5.05 on Thursday and a painful 5.65 on Friday all without walking.
A few months ago during those balmy Summer days we were all out for a walk when we bumped into a friend who was completing a run of her own. ‘How far have you been?’ we asked, ‘6 miles’ she replied. We looked at her in disbelief, it seemed such a huge distance for someone to cover, especially as I was struggling to achieve 5 k (3 miles) at that time. But now I am approaching that very landmark and feeling fairly good about it. On each run I have tried to imagine a finishing line over which I could collapse in glorious triumph as I have seen the athletes do at the London Marathon. Usually I use a red post box or a particular road junction as my line but on one occasion this week I decided to make my final sprint past the statue of Queen Victoria standing with an imperious air in Abbey Gardens, Abingdon. The Queen has always been a source of amusement to us as a family, our daughters love to run up to her and ask ‘what knickers are you wearing today?’ (this is inspired by a brilliantly irreverent children’s book called The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan, in which we are granted a glimpse of the Queen’s collection of ceremonial undergarments!)
In the context of the Maggie’s project I have now ticked off over 40 miles leaving me less than ten to complete the challenge, although I will go on running to the 31st to see how high I can raise the bar.
When I am out on the road I am very aware that I am running in the midst of Covid. In one sense the invisible fog of the coronavirus makes being outside more pleasurable in that there is little traffic on the road, but I have to be aware that other pedestrians taking their own exercise may well be nervous so I try to make every effort to keep as far away from anyone else as I can, switching my path early so as to signal my intentions, maybe actually running in the road itself if all is clear. When others afford me the same courtesy I make sure I show them my thanks with a wave of the hand, rather than actually saying ‘thank you’, having noticed that some folk wince as they imagine that they are being engulfed by a miasma of disease.
As an incentive to aspiring runners and fundraisers Maggie’s promised to send every participant a bright orange running vest. The uptake was so big that there has been a bit of delay in dispatching them all (leading to a degree of rather unreasonable grumbling on the Maggie’s 50 group on Facebook.) My own vest arrived yesterday meaning that my last run of the week was the first in which I proudly sported the garish colours, which clash horribly with my red face – but which hopefully diverts attention from my ponderous running style to the real purpose of the run: cash.
I have been so fortunate to have been supported by many very generous friends and family and the pledged amounts are way over my initial targets of £150 (as suggested by Maggie’s), but like any charity the more that is raised the better the work Maggie’s can do and in these current days of overflowing hospitals, the spacious calming centres where cancer sufferers and their families can stay become even more vital.
I have never met Maggie. I have met some Maggies, indeed one of my sister in laws is called Maggie, but I have never met THIS Maggie because she died in 1995. But Maggie is shaping the first days of 2021 for me. Let me explain:
As regular readers may remember during the first UK lockdown I began to run, following an app called ‘Couch to 5K’ which encouraged novice runners to gently build a regime that would eventually see them conquering the apparently mythical 5 kilometre barrier. After a slow start with much wheezing and panting, I eventually managed to reach the end of the programme which gave me a ridiculous sense of pride and achievement. However as the year went on and I became more involved in making my film of A Christmas Carol and trying to salvage some sort of ‘tour’ from the ashes of 2020, my runs became more and more infrequent until they petered out again, becoming a distant memory of an extraordinary Summer.
During the weeks running up to Christmas, and because I wasn’t actually performing, I was able to spend some time in the virtual company of audiences conducting some Q&A sessions. One such event was for my good friends at the Mid Continent Library Service in the Kansas City area and one question from an avid reader of my blog dealt with my running: I was asked if the new fitness regime would help me on stage, perhaps giving me greater stamina and strength. I answered (rather guiltily as I wasn’t currently running) that I wasn’t sure, but probably yes. We moved onto another question, but the seed to resume running had been planted and sat in the back of my brain throughout Christmas.
Now, we all know that Social Media, especially Facebook, is controlled by little witches who scan your innermost thoughts and then bombard you with advertisements relevant to them. True to form no sooner had the possibility of resuming running entered my brain than the adverts become to arrive. New trainers! New shorts! New leggings! All were sent to tempt me, but alongside the rigorous commercialism of the sport so a few charities began to appear asking me to ‘Run For….(film in name as applicable)’, one of which was Maggies.
The reason that the Maggies programme appealed to me was that it would be a challenge, a target, but I reckoned which was achievable to one of my abilities: the idea was to run 50 miles during the month of January and if you raised over a certain amount of cash you would be awarded a medal! I have never received a prize for running, indeed for any sporting activity before, so the idea of getting a medal certainly appealed. I signed up.
You may suppose, having read this far, that I had chosen this particular charitable exercise purely for selfish reasons, just to get a medal, but The Maggies Charity is a very special one and Id like to tell you a little a bit about what they do.
Maggie Keswick Jencks was a writer, gardener and designer, highly successful in her field, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment was initially successful in the short term, but five years after her first diagnosis Maggie was called to hospital to be told that the cancer had returned and that she had maybe three months to live. Maggie and her husband were then given a little time together to digest this bombshell, being ushered to a windowless hospital corridor. No privacy, no comfort, no care.
Maggie was not going to give in easily and signed up for an advanced chemotherapy trial which would prolong her life by eighteen months and that was time she didn’t waste, for working with her medical team she developed an all new approach to cancer care which would see peaceful, comforting surroundings for sufferers to meet and discuss their conditions both with other patients but also with the doctors and consultants who were treating them, so that each individual felt part of their own treatment and future.
Maggie was a positive soul and the day before she died in 1995 she sat in her beloved garden facing the sun and said ‘Aren’t we lucky?’ The first of the Maggie’s Centres was opened the following year and now they are all over the country giving support and comfort to not only the patients themselves but their families too, providing a positive, supportive and uplifting environment.
Cancer has touched everyone’s life, there can be very few of us who do not know someone close to us who has suffered and whilst the big research charities raise vitally needed funds, so an organisation like Maggies which actually makes life better is equally needful and deserving.
The first week of January has been cold and foggy and so has not been conducive to lovely early morning runs, but I was determined to begin on the 1st, knowing that every day I delayed was one less opportunity to chip away at the 50 mile mountain. In launching the ’50 in January’ initiative Maggies created a Facebook group for all those who registered and this is a really motivating place as everyone posts their progress there, as well as encouraging and congratulating other runners on their achievements. We all use running apps (Strava in my case) to log our miles and each day sees a wide variety of stories pop up: ‘I haven’t run for thirty years, just done 2 miles and feel exhausted!’ lots of comments, ‘Wow!’ ‘Keep going, amazing!’ ‘Finding it really difficult, did 1 mile today, I’m not a runner…’ ‘The fact you went running MAKES you a runner! Great job!’ And at the other end of the scale people are pounding the streets for hours on end clocking up 12 miles or so in a single run, making the target achievable within a week (indeed, as I write this on the 7 January a runner has just posted that she has topped 50 already, as well as completing her first week of radiotherapy!)
My achievements are modest but in line with my expectations, in 7 days my total mileage so far is around 21 miles made up from 5 runs. If I keep up this rate I will be able to reach my goal easily, but of course that is all irrelevant if I don’t get sponsorship, so here is the plea: I know that charities are bombarding us in the post Christmas period and I know that many of us have suffered a severe drop in income thanks to the spread of Covid during 2020, but if you are able to pledge a small amount you will be helping to make lives of ordinary folk, possibly like you and me, immeasurably better.
In the meantime I will be pulling on my running leggings, shorts, shirt, jacket, gloves and cap, lacing up my trainers, and heading onto the icy streets of Abingdon. Every now and again I will see another runner in the orange ‘Maggies 50 in January’ running vest and we will exchange a wave and a smile (or grimace, depending on how we are feeling) knowing that we are both running for Maggie, whom we have never met.
To sponsor my efforts go to ‘Gerald’s fundraiser for Maggie’s Centres by Gerald Dickens’ and Thank You