My Biggest Challenge

In 2020 I turn 40. It feels like a big milestone for me, as I’m sure it does for a lot of people. Having discovered fitness only 5 years ago, I decided I want to mark turning 40 with something positive. A big fitness challenge. My initial thoughts were to fill the year with incredible and challenging events, some of which friends would do with me, and thereby I would have shared memories of the year. I started putting a list together of events I’d like to do, and it soon became clear to me that while it would be incredible to fill a year with huge events, it may not actually be physically or financially possible for me to do that. I would therefore need to settle on one, really big event late on in the year, which would automatically require me to take part in some pretty big events as part of the training.

Changing subject slightly (bear with me, it will all come together); this year I applied to the London Marathon ballot, for the fifth year running. While there are many issues I have with how places are given out for London Marathon, including the fact that charities expect such huge amounts to be raised (as if training for a marathon doesn’t take enough of your time), London is still one of my bucket list races and I still tick the box to donate my entry fee to charity if I don’t get in. When it came to the charity section of the ballot application this time I had a scroll through and one particular charity caught my eye, one I never noticed before. That charity is Child Bereavement UK. I completed my entry and immediately felt the need to look into what exactly it is that this charity does. On looking through what it is they do I then also applied for a charity place directly with them.

While some of you will instantly understand why I was drawn to this charity, others will not, and so I will explain. I am the middle sister of three, except I’m not really sure that I am any more, and I never know what to say when asked if I have any siblings. You see, my younger sister, Ellen, was killed in a car accident, just 16 days after her 10th birthday. There is no word to describe the loss of a sibling, neither is there one to describe a parent who has lost a child. This makes it very difficult when getting to know new people and these questions inevitably come up; do I deny her existence to give a straight forward answer, or do I go the other way and go into the realms of over sharing, by explaining the tragic loss I went through as a child. Most of the time I take the easy option (the easy option for the other person that is, not me) and just say I have a sister.

After the accident, while the whole family was trying to figure out how to deal with the grief and loss we were feeling, we were given ‘family counselling’. I don’t remember much about it but suffice to say that my Mum stopped it, and it put me off of considering counselling as a worthy method of helping my mental health until very many years later. There was no other support for us, not specific to helping us deal with our grief; the loss of a sister and best friend, a daughter, a granddaughter, a child. This is exactly why Child Bereavement UK is such an amazing charity.

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Support that I know my parents, grandparents, cousins and myself and sister so desperately needed. It’s coming up to 27 years since we lost Ellen, but the pain is still there, it may not have control of my life as it once did but I really believe the sense of loss will be with me forever. Most who know me, know that I believe strongly that everything in life happens for a reason, we wouldn’t be who we are without going through what we’ve been through in life. While I am able to apply that way of thinking to most things in my life, I really struggle when it comes to losing Ellen. If by supporting this charity I can help families get the support they need; the support I needed that wasn’t there; then it will help me find some light, from the dark times I’ve been through.

There is, of course, no guarantee that I will get a ballot place or even a charity place for London Marathon 2020 (although how amazing would it be to run the 40th London Marathon in the year I also turn 40!). But I want to raise funds for Child Bereavement UK regardless of whether I get a place for London or not, so I have decided that all events I take part in throughout 2020 (and some before) will be to raise funds for this incredible charity.

So, what are the events you’re going to do? I hear you ask. Well, I may be stretching myself a bit far, given that the last (and only) ultra-marathon I specifically trained for was well over a year ago, but I’ve decided I’m going to run a 100 MILE ULTRA-MARATHON!! And because I can never take the easy option, the ultra-marathon I’m hoping to get entry to is the Centurion Running Autumn 100, which is made up of four out and back sections, two being along the Thames path and two being along the ridgeway, meaning 5,000ft of elevation. While I can enter without having done it, I have to have run 50 miles within 15 hours before race day in order to be able to take part. So, I’m going to be running, a lot! And there will be many events along the way as part of my training. This is a huge thing for me mentally, physically and emotionally but I know I will achieve my goal with the support of my family and friends, especially Jason, Jade and Roeland who will all be playing a part in helping me train and/or on the big day itself (and of course Mark Terry who helps me keep my body in working order).

The plan so far is to begin training in June 2019 in readiness for Clarendon Way Marathon in October, a tough trail marathon, which I did as my longest run when training for a 55km ultra-marathon in 2017. I will then have a brief recovery period before beginning training for a 50 mile ultra-marathon which is in April 2020 (this is likely to be the Centurion Running South Downs Way 50, provided I manage to bag an entry when it opens), which will be my qualifier run. While training for this I will need to run a 50km ultra-marathon. Once that is complete there will be another brief recovery period before training begins for the 100 miler, as part of training for which I will need to run a 100km ultra-marathon.

The great news is that Child Bereavement UK has agreed to support my fundraising efforts (this does not mean they’ll give me a place for London 2020). I have set up a Just Giving page for all sponsorship/donations to be made to and I will be thinking up some events to get others involved in my training journey, and some more social type events for those who would rather do something a little less physical.

I’m planning on getting back to writing a weekly blog once the training begins, with updates on how training is going, fundraising, event planning etc. This means I can write about it properly and saves my Facebook and Instagram friends/followers getting bored of constant running posts!

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