In 2013, I started running. With 88 days to learn to run - with zero running ability behind me - I then completed the London Marathon and donated over £11,000 to Breast Cancer Care.
Now, ten months in to this 12 marathons in 12 months challenge, we have raised over £19,000. Taking our grand total donated so far to over £31,000. Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible, every donation £1 to £100 is helping me achieve goals that, just a few months ago, I could never have even dreamed of.
Marathon number 9 of 12 was the best yet. Not because of the course, the time or how we felt but because I had Meg by my side. Here's my account of the Bournemouth Marathon 2014.
There's something In My Eye...
Meg and I are notoriously close. She is by far the best friend I have and unlike most sisters we just don't really argue (unless I've 'borrowed' something from her wardrobe for more than six weeks...).
I've been lucky enough to run her first mile, first 5km, first 10km and first half marathon with her. I was actually disappointed to not be part of her longest training run. Seeing her suffering from pre-race nerves added to the excitement for what the following day had in store for us. We've been through some great things and some really heartbreaking things as a family but we've always had one consistent - each other.
Erm, someone should tell Buzz Lightyear that his wings are upside down...
Standing hand in hand by the start line, I could tell Meg's nerves weren't subsiding. She'd made it this far, I knew she'd make it through the 26.2 mile course. With final hugs, we started to walk towards the start line.
It only took 3 miles for Meg to get in to her stride, we were pointing at cute home decor shops as we ran through the high street, giving high-5s to kids who lined the streets. As always, I had one headphone in. Music really is my savior with running and I can spend hours pouring over playlists that work well to keep me moving. 'Let it Go' by Frozen came on, I unplugged my headphones so Meg could hear the music. Two girls behind us laughed, 'You kind of look like the Frozen Sisters'. I don't think they quite expected us to burst in to full sing-a-long but we did.
We were approaching the fifth mile when runners on the 9th mile started coming back towards us. Not a good sign for a marathon course. I was distracted by the thought of spotting Brian in his union jack shorts. It was odd to know he was running but not with me after supporting me in three races this year. Brian was chasing a sub 3:30 time; I was scanning the crowds trying to spot him. Out of no where a flurry of British Flag and waving arms appeared. We cheered him and he called out to check we were okay.
After spotting Brian I really wanted to see Mum and Dan. I hoped that a quick cuddle would boost Meg to keep up the perfect pacing we'd managed so far. My eye sight is pretty abysmal at the best of times, particularly over a long distance but it seems I have a radar for spotting everyone in a crowd. About 400 yards ahead of us, I thought I could see someone with the Team Run 12 logo on their t-shirt. "Is that Dan?" I asked Meg, "I don't think so," she replied. Then he started pointing and waving. It was him!
Your pace instantly picks up when you know you're close to a familiar face. We stopped for a quick cuddle and reassured the team that we were okay, we were soon back on our way towards double figure mileage!
I've Just been overtaken by a bloody jigsaw...
I was starting to be bothered by a blister in the arch of my foot - something I've suffered with for the last ten months. We were approaching the half way point when Dan called to see where we were, before he could get a word in I was begging him to get me some vaseline. Slightly disgusted he hung up with promises that we'd see everyone again in 3-4 miles time.
There's STILL Something In My Eye...
Meg was getting stressed around the 19th mile. The course seemed to go on forever along the sea front, runners were looping back and coming up to the 25th mile, so they were looking pretty smug with themselves. 'We'll be there soon' I kept reminding her.
As we approached what we thought was the end of the road, my Garmin lost signal, I had no idea what mile we were at so was gutted to see that the end of the road was actually just a turn on to an even longer loop. "How long till we turn around?" I asked a runner coming the other way, "about a mile" the woman replied. Meg gave her a death stare, a marshal then told us we only had about 500 metres to the end of the road. The marshal had no concept of distance at all as we ran over a mile until we finally approached the turn. I started singing to Meg again to try and boost her spirits - Spice Girls, Frozen, Backstreet Boys... People were staring as I pranced along the seafront.
We've made it...
Holding Meg's hand she raised her arms above her head and we fell in to a hug as we stopped under the finish arch. I've never felt pride like I felt as I cuddled her close to me.
All year round I've not understood why everyone makes such a fuss of me completing the marathons. I've never understood the 'I'm so proud of you' comments that Meg and Mum make, but now I understood. My little sister had completed a full marathon. 26.2 miles. My little sister is a marathon runner.
Our eyes welled up and we held hands as we approached the medal collection point. Watching Meg have her medal hung around her neck filled me with emotion again. This year has been such a blessing to us, it's made us appreciate so much and we've made so many incredible memories along the way.
Meg, you have no idea how proud I am of what you've achieved this year. The fundraising, the training and the support you've given me have been second to none. You are the best friend I could ever ask for and I am so grateful that you've supported me from day one with what was just a crazy idea. I've said it before and I'll say it over and over again, no matter what life throws at us, we'll make it together. Love you always. x
And so it goes, nine down, three to go.
I see people in life who hate their jobs, they feel they've taken the wrong career path. I see people who are so wrapped up in making their lives seem glamorous online, that they are missing out on making real memories. I go to gigs and see others film the act through their phones, rather than absorbing the moment they're in. I see people pretending that they're happy when really all they want is to laugh more, to travel more and to enjoy life.
So ask yourself, what is it that you enjoy doing? Who do you like being around? Now forget everything else. Do more of what you love. Spend more time with the people who matter most to you. Tell them you love them. Hug them. Seize the day and stop trying to impress everyone else. You get one life, now is the day to live it. Stop waiting until Monday to start a diet. Stop putting off saving for the new car, holiday or your first home. Start living now because you've already wasted so much precious time.
I'm guilty of not doing the above and will be making an effort to do this more - to put my phone down and pay attention to the conversations I'm having, to take more photos but print them rather than putting them on Facebook, to thank people more for helping me, and most importantly to tell the people I care about the most how much they mean to me.
If you've contributed to this year in any way, thank you. You've helped me reinvent myself, you've given me more confidence, you've made me believe that I can, you've shown me that when people work together and really want to make something happen, it will.
Just three marathons to go, I've got this.
Please donate anything you can to Team Run 12, help us to achieve our £25,000 target by clicking here.