Friday 3 June 2016

Brothers in arms unite for Prostate Cancer UK - By Guest Blogger Clare Biddle #JeffsMarch #MenUnited

Race for Life with Cancer Research UK excludes men. When I asked Cancer Research UK in the past they said it's because women are more likely to donate money and feel more comfortable with just women. As a woman myself even if it's true, more money is made through women only charity walks, I feel men still need somewhere they can come together and support each other while still raising money for cancer research. A good example where this is done is Movember and #MenUnited where they also allow women on their cancer fundraising walks.
Below guest blogger Clare Biddle tells us about her experience on the charity walk for #JeffsMarch for Prostate Cancer UK

I am not usually one for writing blogs. I fear that no one will read them and then I've wasted my time!
But when Becki asked me to write about my experience on the march and 'my story' I thought why the hell not?! So here it goes...
A local running club here in Nottingham posted about Jeff Stelling was walking 10 marathons in 10 days. As soon as I saw this I immediately enquired about doing this. I thought 'well I run half marathons and I'm pretty fit, this is going to be a walk in the park!' (No pun intended).

Why I signed up...

I have a friend in his early 30s who was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. He's ok now and has been given the all clear, but it just shows that you can be any age suffering with this awful disease. I also lost my mum to Gall Bladder cancer in December 2014- it was a shock to the system and everything happened so quickly I really didn't process it. I still don't think I've come to terms with it all now and I still have some dark days. I now feel I protect my dad and urge him to get checked with everything as I know he has a few underlying problems...I don't know what I'd do if I lost him too. So I also partly signed up for him too.
Training had been going well - 2 weeks prior to the march I had my first half marathon of the year, so I was getting a few runs in, I go to Bootcamp 2-3 times a week and I also teach 3 spin classes a week....busy bee! I felt strong and prepared. I also recently signed up to do the 'Fan Dance' in June. It's what the Special Forces do as part of their selection. I signed up to do this with 35lbs of weight...writing this down now I see why people think I'm crazy! To my training plan I started adding short, weighted runs with a Bergen on.

Thanks to my boot-camp instructor - he has lent me a bag, which I've christened Barry.

I think then I had an idea from then. I thought 'I don't feel like I'm challenging myself enough with this walk...I want to push myself...I know, why don't you add weight to your walk?! I'm walking 26 miles, why don't I add 26lbs of weight while I do it?! That will challenge me and it'll be good training'. I asked the organisers of the event and said I could so that was that. 26 miles with 26lbs of weight to carry...

At the end of last year I did a course called Break-Point with Foxy and Ollie off the show SAS: Who Dares Wins. It was a 2 day course which pushed myself both mentally and physically. I absolutely loved the course and recommend it to anyone who wants to push themselves beyond. The course changed me completely. The way I think, the way I act. It also helped me with my dark times. I know want to test and push my limits to the max! So I guess they're partly to blame for my added challenge. I also want to prove to myself I can do these things and I want to show that I am strong and not weak.

Flu knocked me down, but not out!

Good 9 mile run on the Saturday, a week before in preparation for Sundays half marathon at Silverstone. A gentle Bergen run to the rugby club to treat a player and run home. This was Tuesday and an easy week of training so I had fresh legs for Sunday. Wednesday morning- my whole body was aching, I could feel my lymph nodes raised and I had no energy...shit. I was poorly and I knew it wasn't just a cold. This was the start of the flu. I forced myself to Morrisons to get all the drugs and lucozade I could get. I had to cancel my spin classes this week as there was no way I could hold a class together. I forced myself to work on Saturday to prove that I could potentially still run on Sunday. I felt awful, but I had been looking forward to this half for a while and I really wanted to do it...even just to complete it. Sunday came and I still felt so bad. I decided to give it a go and if I needed to, I'd drop out...if you know me you know that I'm stubborn and wouldn't drop out, someone would have to physically stop me!

 Race started at midday and I was off- 1st mile down, not bad. 2nd mile....WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF?!?! I couldn't breathe, everything ached, I had pins and needles in my hands and legs. I was shivering. This was going to be tough. An agonising 11 miles and a disappointing 2 hours 35 mins finishing time later I was done. I burst into tears- a sign of being in so much pain and relief it was over. A wave of emotion all rolled into one. I am never running feeling like this again. Stupid idea.

I had 12 days until Jeff's March. A minor setback with the flu. It will of left my body by then?! It has to. I'm doing this for charity and need to be ok. I need to rest and look after myself. No bootcamp, no running. Minimal work- as minimal as you can being self employed. Spin classes were being taught again, but it was such an effort and I couldn't really say I was spinning to what I usually do. This is horrible. The Monday before the march I felt a little better. I went to bootcamp for the first time. I still felt weak and a chest infection has taken over. Not a good session and my confidence was starting to decline even more. I want to walk this 26 miles with the weight on my back. I've told everyone what I'm doing. People have sponsored me to do this. I know I'd added on the extra challenge myself, but I feel like I was letting people down. Letting myself down. Why can I not feel better? I picked up Barry. It felt like it weighed a tonne...not looking good.

Thursday, the day before the march. I could actually feel myself feeling stronger. I was doing little exercises again in my lounge. I lifted up Barry and put him on my back. It actually felt ok and I started jogging on the spot...don't get carried away Clare. Today was the day I actually thought I could do this with the weight. I taught spin that evening and I was actually going for it. I had the energy to sprint and to add on the resistance. I decided then and there that walking with weights was back ON and that I could do this. Early night ready for the early start.

Today is the day!

Excitement, nervousness, the thought of what I'm about to put my body through washes over my mind. Awake at 5:30 to get to Derby for 7 for registration. The iPro stadium. I came to this ground years ago as Pride Park to watch an England U21s game. As a Notts County supporter, we don't get to go to stadiums like this so it was quite overwhelming.

Going into the stadium waiting for Jeff and Russ- who have already walked 4 marathons since Monday. And Paul Merson was also walking today. It was all starting to feel real. There was about 60 walkers today, but half of them were stopping when we arrived at Burton Albion's ground. The Pirelli stadium.

I always wonder what it's like when you meet someone off the TV. I've watched Jeff and Merse on Soccer Saturday for years. I've always wanted to meet Jeff, to talk to him and I've pictured him to be a really nice bloke. I saw Jeff arrive, not moving too quickly which was understandable. We were all gathered in the stand. He came and spoke to us all. He has such great charisma.

We gathered and had a group photo and we were all ready to go...after a few selfies!

Just after 8am we set off. Merse and Russ- Hartlepool's chief executive set off ahead. The fastest anyone had seen Paul Merson move!! In our briefing we got told not to overtake Jeff and to stay behind him...not many people paid attention to detail and half of the walkers seemed to shoot off with the front pack. It didn't bother me- I was carrying nearly 2 stone of excess weight on my back!! I started talking to some people, finding out their backgrounds, why they're doing the march, football clubs etc. Most people I spoke to were Burton or Derby fans and a lot were just walking the morning. I can honestly say I think I was the only Notts County fan doing the march...not that there's many of us to begin with!!
The pace seemed to be 18-20 minute miles. Around 5k an hour. That's over 8 hours of walking at this pace! The first 2 hours seemed to fly by. 10k down, not too bad and feeling ok. Shoulders were starting to get sore, but that's understandable.

Wearing a Bergen, I stood out! People were asking me what I was doing? What is in my bag? How much does it weigh? Are you mad?! The local newspaper from Nottingham also called and interviewed me. Luckily today, the weather was good (warmer than I thought!) and we were walking mostly along canals/river paths which meant the route was flat. About half an hour later I was suddenly right by the main man Jeff Stelling...from the TV! He queried about the big bag on my back asking all the questions as stated above and then we got talking about football. We have a common factor- both of our teams are struggling down the bottom end of league 2. Talking to him and him actually being genuinely interested in what you had to say- I can honestly say he was already nicer than I imagined. Our conversation got cut short due to he had to do some filming. I carried on walking. Our first break was coming up and was ready to get the bag off for a few minutes.

Relief! My back felt so good taking off Barry and went and got myself a coffee and a banana. I was hungry and opened up my Jelly Babies too. I didn't want to sit down as I didn't want to seize up. Tried to keep the legs moving. Jeff was taking pictures, signing autographs, recording messages for people. He didn't say no to anybody. Bless him, I don't think he gets a break! The troops got rounded up and one of the leaders shouted "not long now, another 5k to Burton". So that's 1 hour of walking until lunch...5k my arse!!! We walked for at least another 90 mins- I forgot to start my Garmin again. It was more like 5 miles! I stuck with 2 women who were only doing half a day so their end was in sight. Every light I saw I mistook for flood lights!! Surely thats the ground up there. Every corner I turned I thought it had to be just around there...nope! The miles crept up, over 13.1 miles. Half marathon done! Still walking. This little section was harder than the 3 hours I'd already done! Finally, we saw the ground, saw more and more people, cheering. The Pirelli stadium was there and I started to jog in...sprint finish and all that! The morning was done. We had a packed lunch for us and sat upstairs in a suite. Looking at the Garmin we were on 14.72 miles, but as I forgot to start it straight away I'm pretty sure it would be 15 miles. 11 to do this afternoon.

We drove to Trent Lock which made it to the point where when we get to Meadow Lane, it'll be a full marathon completed. Jeff was talking to Sky Sports, so I took this opportunity to talk to Merse...before he shoots off again! Paul looked at me funny and asked what was on my back. I took it off for him to feel how heavy it was and he said a naughty word! Too rude for the blog! We spoke for a little bit-small talk and then it was time to blast out the last 11 miles.

I spotted a Notts County top, he wasn't here this morning! It was Mick Halsall, the academy manager. I went over to him as we have common ground with me being a county fan. It was lovely, we spoke for over an hour and her got me through the first 3 miles of the last leg. We were on the canal path and as it was such a lovely day we were bombarded with cyclists and pedestrians so we had to keep moving into a single file. The pains were starting to kick in again. My legs were feeling heavy and every step I took I could feel it getting harder and harder. I decided to jog, get on the balls of my feet and to use different muscles. It was was easier to jog. I kept going past people- they must've thought I was a mad woman!!

I caught up to Jeff again and I slowed down to a walking pace, but still on my toes. I got another chance to speak to Jeff again. He also did a video for me for Team Essence- who are now world record holders by the way!! He would do anything for anyone! I asked him the football scores as it was half time and his team Hartlepool were winning. I asked about Notts County and he said last time he checked it was 0-0, but he checked again and told me 'no, it's 1-0 to Portsmouth, 44th minute'. Just like he does on the TV!!! But it was just for me! Even though it wasn't a score I wanted to hear, I smiled and loved that he told me. God know what would've happened if Notts were winning?!?! We spoke some more and I walked in with Jeff to our next drinks break- he made a little comment about there's more people here cheering us in than there is at a Notts County game- cheeky!!!

I was really thirsty at this point and downed a pint of water. This was the last break before we reached the end. Let's do this! Final push! At this stage I wasn't talking much to people, a couple of the event leaders gave some small chat and the photographer spoke to me for a while, but for the next hour it was pretty much me, myself and I. It was starting to get really tough. Barry was feeling a lot heavier on my back and was really starting to get uncomfortable. I saw a sign to West Bridgford- where Forest, the next football ground is located. 5 miles. Things started to look familiar. I could see Nottingham! I could actually see the city centre! It was close, but still so far away. I was starting to really struggle and had mentally hit a wall...I needed someone to talk to, anyone just to take my mind away from myself.

I then started talking to 2 guys from Derby. I'd spoken to them earlier in the day and I think they made the next hour or so more bearable and thank them for that. We were finally along the river Trent. Not long now. I've ran this on multiple occasions. It's just that this will take me twice as long...things were coming into sight and could now see the City Ground, Trent Bridge and most importantly Meadow Lane on the other side of the river. The end was in sight.

Instead of going under the bridge so we were on the right side of the road, we went up the bank and then stopped traffic all across the bridge! Just 6 lanes of traffic!! Arrived at the City Ground. Jeff, Merse and some Forest players went to have their picture taken. A couple of minutes rest meant a couple of minutes of no Bergen. Just one more final stint and we are there.

We walk down to the next bridge which will lead us to Meadow Lane. I was right by Merse and asked him if he would record a message for Team Essence also after I told him about them. He happily obliged and did a hilarious video!! It took away the pain from the march. By this time we had reached Meadow Lane- the road, not the ground. Jeff was behind me and could tell he was struggling. We all stopped and let Jeff and Russ past so they led us in. We clapped and cheered to give them that buzz they need to complete this! Walking into the oldest football league club in the world right now- my club and it's the finish line!!!! It's Over and I've done it!!!! That buzz you get from actually completing something is amazing and to me it's addictive and like a drug.

We walked out onto the pitch and watched them have their pictures taken. My good friend owns this amazing Donut company in Nottingham that do customised donuts- better than Krispy Kremes!! He kindly donated a box of donuts. Paul, Russ and Jeff also posed for pictures with donuts that they thoroughly deserved and then ate them!

Jeff and Russ went to get their massages and I went upstairs to the suite to meet my dad and sister. There was a pint of beer waiting for me...they know me so well!! All the other walkers were there too. Everyone looked shattered. I sat down which was probably the worst thing to do. Mick came over and spoke to me again and said how well I did, but then my dad started talking about football to him.

That pint tasted wonderful. After I drank it I said bye to the rest of the walkers and slowly but surely made it down this stairs to the car. I don't usually walk like this after running!! Walking is definitely harder than running. My body isn't used to it. Everything is aching now...but then I look back at what I've done.

Why I did it and it's all worth it. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and kept on going. You can do a lot more than you think you can. You just have to push through that mental barrier.

I honestly don't know how Jeff and Russ managed to do the full 10 marathons in 10 days. They did so well and raised over £300,000 for Prostate Cancer UK and most importantly raised awareness for this terrible disease.

Source: Prostate UK

Source: Prostate Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK        Image found at: Quantum International



**Many thanks to Clare for doing this guest blog post and raising awareness of Prostate Cancer!**


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